For as long as I can remember, my mother has fought what is likely seven other Hyde Parkers over a monthly 10-box supply of McVities digestive biscuits at our local grocery. The shelf where the flavorless wafers should lie is constantly bare, and, as demand is clearly existent (even if I wouldn’t say “high”), the stock is never increased. On multiple occasions at different stages of my youth, my mother would come home from the store empty-handed, cursing a faceless neighbor whom she was sure had taken the full stock of biscuit boxes. This is something my mother refused to do: Upon arriving in the cookie aisle and finding a miraculous brimming shelf of her precious oatcakes, mother would leave the majority of boxes behind for her enemies. In the same situation, faced with a full shelf of a certain hard-to-find lady product, I cleaned out the store. With Alex’s help, I even reached the very last box at the back of the top shelf. I marched proudly down to the check-out with him in my wake, hiding his face behind the dozen boxes I had piled into his arms.
If Christmas isn’t the time to reward someone for their unselfishness, I don’t know when is. So, for her gift this year, I made my mom homemade digestive biscuits that she doesn’t have to share with any fellow anglophilic patrons of Treasure Island.
The recipe comes from one of my “favourite” cookbooks, River Cottage Every Day. Knowing of my mother’s passion for what I will facetiously call a delicacy, I flagged the recipe right away, deciding to keep to the lower sugar amount in order to anchor the biscuits on the more savory side. May I note that the “one tablespoon” of milk called for was outrageously low? I ended up at around 10 tablespoons to get the dough wet enough to come together and it was still pretty brittle and crackly.
Though not normally a fan of the digestives, my mind was changed by these tasty tea discs. The combination of molasses and salt make the rounds deeply satisfying, while local wheat flour and oats helped make them nutty and whole.
To house the biscuits, and to provide a more lasting gift, I presented them in a vintage Scottish biscuit tin, putting the “i” in “Christmas” and in “win.” (Probably also in “insufferable.”)
Digestive biscuits from River Cottage Every Day
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup unsalted butter
3 cups quick oats (I used 2 cups quick and 1 cup whole for bite)
1/3 cup brown sugar (I used white sugar with a tablespoon of molasses)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
“1 tablespoon” of milk (plus, like, 9 more)
The process is pretty simple: Cut the butter into the flour until you have a breadcrumby consistency. Mix in the dry ingredients, then the milk a little at a time until the dough comes together. Refrigerate for half an hour then roll out with more flour to help the sticking. It was tricky but manageable, though I think my biscuits were a little thicker than they were supposed to be. I cut mine with a scalloped biscuit cutter (maybe 3 inches, or 2 1/2). Bake for 10 minutes (15 in Muzgaash time) at 375 degrees on a parchment lined baking sheet.