milk chocolate digestives
Wed, 3 March, 2021
Are digestives really digestive? Even when coated in milk chocolate? Not really, but it’s fun to make at home what we usually know only from a packet.
Tastes like shop bought!
‘Baked like bought’ is an interesting, albeit a bit pointless project aiming to try to reproduce things we normally only know from a packet. It most usually reveals itself in the cake and biscuits department – we don’t try to make Coca-Cola at home, thank heavens.
Biscuits are something of a cult thing in the United Kingdom. Something that the folks over in the United States not only don't quite understand, but their concept of a 'biscuit' is totally different. While here, say 'digestives' and everyone knows it's a house name. Likewise hobnobs or custard creams.
The secret of a biscuit
I made my own replica of Fox’s Crunch Creams before, first without the cream, just crunchy; and subsequently with the filling, disguised as valentine biscuits. The main problem as I found is to hit the right bakedness of the confections.
A biscuit is a biscuit to be honest: the addition of cornflour to plain flour makes it softer. Brown sugar instead of caster makes them chewy. More butter makes for the shorter texture, obviously, and eggs decide that it’s a richer little cake.
But to bake a batch or – even more difficult – several exactly to the required doneness is a trick hard to achieve without industrial ovens equipped with precise thermometers instead of the cook opening the oven every three minutes to ‘see how it’s doing’.
And whenever I do any test baking, I always promise myself to only vary one element at a time. Make a batch – bake it for 10 minutes. Make the second batch – bake exactly as long so you can see what difference varying the ingredients has made. But no – I always try to outsmart myself and not only change the type of sugar but the baking time too.
This time however I was being very disciplined, plus I engaged an expert tester. It was this friend of mine who reminded me of the existence of digestive biscuits, incidentally.
Why are digestives called digestives?
Digestive biscuits sound like an oxymoron – and they are. The ‘digestive’ benefits ascribed to the biccie, invented in Scotland by two medics in late 19th century, were represented by the wholemeal flour content. Indeed, compared to refined cookies, all-white flour and all-white sugar, it is a positively healthy snack. I wouldn’t necessarily rely on it though if I suffered from icky tummy.
My interpretation of a digestive biscuit is pretty authentic, as attested by mentioned expert – he is a dedicated fan of digestive biscuits.
Just like McVities
The key quality of digestives that I sought to reproduce is their texture: like sawdust swept off the flour and packed into a biscuit shape. That is achieved by a mix of wholemeal and plain flours with a handful of porridge oats – to reinforce the sawdust quality – thrown in.
I started off using brown sugar in my biscuits and personally preferred that version but helas! not quite like the real McVity. Icing sugar turns out to serve the authenticity better.
The coating is optional but I can never resist a chance of dipping things in chocolate. If you prefer dark chocolate, use it – it will make the digestives more ‘digestive’.
milk chocolate digestivesServings: makes about 20 biscuitsTime: 30 minutes plus chilling dough
- 100g wholemeal flour
- 30g porridge oats
- 70g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 80g icing sugar
- 60g butter, slightly softened
- 1 tbsp. golden syrup
- 40ml milk
- fine oatmeal, for dusting (optional)
- 160g cooking milk chocolate
1. Place the flours, oats, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl of a standing mixer or an ordinary bowl if making the dough by hand. Dice the butter into the bowl and mix with a paddle attachment or rub in with your fingers until the mix resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
2. Stir in the golden syrup and gradually pour in milk, until the dough comes together. Give it a quick knead by hand even if working with a mixer; it should be quite soft and sticky. Shape into a ball, flatten to a disc and wrap in cling film. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C (fan if available)/350F/gas 4. Line 2 large baking trays with parchment.
4. When the dough has firmed up, roll it out on a work surface dusted with fine oatmeal (or wholemeal flour) to a thickness of about 5mm. Cut biscuits with a 6cm pastry cutter and place on the baking tray (they won’t spread so not spaced much). Prick patterns with a fork.
5. Bake the biscuits in batches for 12 minutes until barely coloured around the edges. Leave on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely. Save the parchment they baked on.
6. While the biscuits cool, break the chocolate into small pieces into a shallow plastic or glass bowl. Temper it in a microwave: set the timer to 3 minutes. Microwave at full power but pause every 20 seconds to stir the chocolate energetically with a spatula. When only small pieces remain solid remove the bowl from the microwave and stir until it’s completely melted and smooth. Continue stirring until the chocolate cools down to room temperature – when used too warm, it goes dull after setting.
7. Dip the biscuits’ bottoms one by one in the chocolate or spread the chocolate on the underside of each biscuit with a palette knife. Place, chocolate side down, on the parchment. Leave to set completely, for about an hour.
8. Store the digestives in a biscuit tin or jar, for up to 2 weeks. They will soften slightly after a couple of days.