Let's face it, wholemeal flour may be much better for you but baked goods don't often taste so good if you substitute it for white flour. I have found that wholemeal flour can deliver great flavour and taste if you have the right recipe that brings out its unique characteristics - depth and nuttiness. I also advise using the best quality wholemeal flour you can lay your hands on. I know everyone says this but it really does have an effect on the taste of the final product.
Digestive biscuits are one of those baked goods that give white flour a run for its money. They are delicious with and without chocolate coating and have the added bonus of making us feel like we are being healthy too. Do not be fooled, they are not healthy. They are healthier because wholemeal flour and oats give our digestive system a good workout and keep us full longer. (*There is some science about fibre feeding bacteria in our gut that produces satiety and stops overeating but we won't go into that now).
My attempts at making digestive biscuits at home have included trying several recipes before I found the one I could truly commit to. During my search for the perfect digestives recipe I found that adding eggs makes the biscuit soft and lacking in crunch. Other recipes, that use milk instead, produce a more crunchy biscuit for sure but they lack crumbly softness. It was only when I tried the recipe below that I got all the elements coming together to make the perfect melt in your mouth digestive biscuit. The difference is the higher content of butter (compared to other recipes) and the addition of oats. So here goes:
Line baking trays with greaseproof/baking paper (or silicone baking sheets) or just grease them well. Pre-heat oven to 190 C/Gas 5 (depending on your oven, aim for the temperature as gas ovens vary)
150g wholemeal flour
150g medium oatmeal
1 tbs bran
1/4 tsp ground sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
75g muscovado sugar (or caster sugar will do as well)
150g unsalted butter (if salted then just don't add the sea salt) chilled and cubed
4 tbs milk
Using a food processor blend the flour, oatmeal, bran, salt, baking powder and sugar. Add the chilled and cubed butter and run the processor till you get bread crumb textured mixture. Do not over process (this works the gluten in the flour and toughens the final product). Add the milk one tablespoon at a time till the dough starts to form as you pulse the processor. You may still have crumbs but you should be able to see dough lumps forming. Use additional milk if needed, one tablespoon at a time. Empty the contents of the processor on to a smooth surface and using your hands bring the mixture together into a ball. You should have a dough that is quite crumbly - you don't want soggy or sticky. Using two sheets of baking paper roll out the dough to 4mm thick then put it on a tray and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. If you don't have much space in the fridge you can pat the dough down into a disc and cover with clingfilm and chill but it is harder to roll out the chilled dough and it starts to lose its chill as you are rolling. You want to be able to cut out round biscuits that hold their shape.
Arrange the biscuits on trays and bake for 10-12 minutes until they are starting to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them rest on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. Coat with chocolate of your choice or enjoy with cheese. Out of this world.
Recipe courtesy of 'The Great British Bake Off: Big Book of Baking' by Linda Collister (a fantastic author of great recipe books)
*Read 'How not to diet' by Michael Greger for more information on this.
All photos by AnisaM Photography