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Plain Digestives

Don’t worry, lentil fans. This year’s recipe will be along shortly, but in the meantime I wanted to put up this recipe, since I had it ready to go.

In keeping with my custom of not sabotaging my coworker’s New Year’s resolutions no matter how fervently I personally reject the practice, my Sunday baking in January always focuses on whole grains, less sugar, and lower fat than the other 10 months of the year. (I repeat the process in May in case of pre-summer beach dieting.). These digestive biscuits are my first such offering for 2013, but they’re also one of my favorites year-round, thanks to their lovely crunchy-crumbly texture and not-too-sweet full-bodied wheatiness, to say nothing of how hard they ping my lifelong Anglophilia.

Digestive Biscuit Dough

In addition to being perfect both for healthier eating plans and Doctor Who marathons, these are wonderfully low-effort, since the dough comes together beautifully in the food processor and is so easy to work with that the rolling and cutting process is quick and painless. If you want to be a bit more indulgent, you have the option of spreading them with a very thin coating of melted chocolate, but they’re pretty addictive plain with a cup of tea. Since they’re technically a cookie but really fall somewhere between a cookie and a whole wheat cracker, they also work quite well on a cheese plate, if you want to be a bit more sophisticated.

Chocolate Digestives

Digestive Biscuits
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour, The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Dec 1991)
Makes 4-5 dozen cookies

½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature but not soft, in half-tablespoon-sized pieces
¼ cup low-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4-6 ounces milk or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped and melted (optional)

In a food processor, grind the oats until fine but not completely powdered, leaving some small bits of oat. Add the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar, and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the dry ingredients and pulse again until the mixture resembles rough cornmeal, with no large bits of butter visible. Mix the milk and vanilla together and pour through the processor’s feed tube while pulsing again, continuing to process until a homogenous dough forms and starts clumping around the blade.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured silicone mat or piece of parchment and roll to a thickness of approximately 1/8 inch, but no less (thinner cookies will burn too easily). Chill the dough for about 10 minutes to firm it back up before cutting.

Preheat oven to 350F and line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut the rolled dough with 1 ½ to 2 inch round cookie cutters, transferring the rounds to the lined sheets. Re-roll as many times as necessary to use up the dough, chilling the dough again between rollings if the cookies become too soft to pick up easily.

Prick the cookies well with a fork and bake until pale gold all over but not too dark around the edges, 15-20 minutes. Cool completely on racks. If desired, the bottom of the cooled cookies can be spread with a thin layer of melted chocolate and marked decoratively, then left until the chocolate sets back up.

Unfrosted biscuits keep very well in airtight containers for a couple of weeks, while chocolate-covered cookies should be eaten within a few days, before the chocolate blooms.

Notes:

There’s no reason you couldn’t make these vegan with the use of vegan margarine or vegetarian shortening and a non-dairy milk, although in that case you’ll probably need to chill longer and more often, since the dough will be quicker to soften too much.