Hurray! Marks & Spencers have opened a new store in The Netherlands. It is very close to where I live and carries a large section filled with British goodies. Welcome, welcome clotted cream, crumpets, lamb, double cream and -not to be missed-: lots of British cookies. My 2 favorites are the spicy ginger nuts and the classic digestive cookie: extremely addictive whole meal cookies.
When I was a student, I took care of twin babies in the UK for a summer. They were quite fussy and needed a lot of attention. In the morning the family I worked for would break a packet of digestives in two and leave them on the table. When I had finally settled the baby’s down I would plop down in a chair and dunk away a few well deserved cookies. Not only did I become a pro in calming down babies, I also became super efficient in polishing off whole stacks of digestives…
According to my favorite baker of digestives, United Biscuits, 52 digestives per second are being munched away in the UK every day. The cookie was invented around the end of the 19the century by a baker working at McVitie & Price. (other sources claim the cookies were invented even earlier) The cookie was thought to be good for the digestion because of the baking soda and the wholemeal flour.
When I was researching the recipe I found quite a lot of attempts to copy the original. It took me a long weekend and quite a few batches before I was happy with my result. It is so hard to copy a factory baked cookie! I think this cookie can stand up against the store bought ones. It is nice and crisp and has a good wholemeal taste with a subtle hint of Golden Syrup. One of the ingredients I found on the wrapper is palm oil. You don’t have to use it if it is difficult to find, but it does give the cookie a slightly crunchier texture and that special aftertaste. I had never used palm oil and did not know were to look for it but finally found it just around the corner in the organic supermarket. The kind I used has a quite outspoken taste, I guess they use a more refined kind in the factory. Don’t use to much!
Digestive cookies from England
for about 25 cookies
125 grams wholemeal flour
75 grams plain flour
40 grams light brown demarara sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
generous pinch of salt
20 grams Golden Syrup
85 grams unsalted softened butter
15 grams of palm oil (or the same weight in butter)
1-3 tablespoons milk
Mix the wholemeal flour with the plain flour, the demarara sugar, the baking powder and the salt. Add the Golden Syrup, the butter, the palm oil and 1 tablespoon of milk and quickly knead into a ball. Add some more milk if the dough is still crumbly.
Press the dough into a disk and wrap in cling film. Leave to rest in the refrigerator for about 20 min.Preheat the oven to 180 °C (360 °F). Take the dough from the fridge and place it on a sheet of baking paper. Cover with a large piece of clingfilm and roll out to 3 mm.
Use a round cookie cutter with an diameter of 6 cm and cut out the cookies. I made them oval with my hands to create the ‘classic’ digestive shape. Gather the rest of the dough together and repeat.
Put the cookies on a baking sheet covered with baking paper and prick little holes in them with a fork. I had a tin of letter shaped cookie cutters and gently pressed in the form of a D for digestive.Bake for 15-20 minutes in the middle of the oven until the cookies are golden brown. Take them from the oven and let them cool on a rack.
(Dip 1 side of the cookie in melted dark chocolate for chocolate digestives)
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