Mrs. Graham’s Chocolate Biscuits from Dragonfly in Amber
“Thought you might do with some tea, Mr. Wake — I mean, Roger.” Fiona set down a small tray containing a cup and saucer and a plate of biscuits.
“Oh, thanks.” He was in fact hungry, and gave Fiona a friendly smile that sent the blood rushing into her round, fair cheeks. Seemingly encouraged by this, she didn’t go away, but perched on the corner of the desk, watching him raptly as he went about his job between bites of chocolate biscuit.
Feeling obscurely that he ought to acknowledge her presence in some way, Roger held up a half-eaten biscuit and mumbled, “Good.”
“Are they? I made them, ye know.” Fiona’s flush grew deeper. An attractive little girl, Fiona. Small, rounded, with dark curly hair and wide brown eyes. He found himself wondering suddenly whether Brianna Randall could cook, and shook his head to clear the image.
Apparently taking this as a gesture of disbelief, Fiona leaned closer. “No, really,” she insisted. “A recipe of my gran’s, it is. She always said they were a favorite of the Reverend’s.” The wide brown eyes grew a trifle misty. “She left me all her cookbooks and things. Me being the only granddaughter, ye see.”
“I was sorry about your grandmother,” Roger said sincerely. “Quick, was it?”
Fiona nodded mournfully. “Oh, aye. Right as rain all day, then she said after supper as she felt a bit tired, and went up to her bed.” The girl lifted her shoulders and let them fall. “She went to sleep, and never woke up.”
“A good way to go,” Roger said. “I’m glad of it.” Mrs. Graham had been a fixture in the manse since before Roger himself had come, a frightened, newly orphaned five-year-old. Middle-aged even then, and widowed with grown children, still she had provided an abundant supply of firm, no-nonsense maternal affection during school holidays when Roger came home to the manse. She and the Reverend made an odd pair, and yet between them they had made the old house definitely a home.
Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber, Chapter 2
Mrs. Graham’s Chocolate Biscuit recipe (everyone knows that in this instance biscuit=cookie right? a biscuit can also be a cracker — but it’s not in this case — in this case it’s a cookie) is a homemade version of a UK favourite that goes back to the mid-19th Century. They acquired their somewhat strange name (at least if you’re North American) because the baking soda in the original recipe was thought to have an antacid effect on the body, and thus aid in digestion.
Yeah, right. A butter-rich cookie, even one not covered in chocolate, will help to move things along.
Ignorance is bliss, aye?
Not that digestives are all bad. If you have a look at the recipe, you can see it’s a short list of pretty standard ingredients, most of which you already have in the cupboard.
And while a digestive’s crunchy texture may come mostly from the butter and sugar, the whole-wheat flour lends a distinctive, addictive bite all its own.
It’s hard to feel terrible about cookies made from whole wheat flour — even ones with a healthy coating of chocolate on one side — but if you want to feel extra virtuous, even while you’re sneaking 2 or 3 during a midnight reconnaissance of the kitchen, then leave a few plain.
Who knows? You may even feel better for them in the morning.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
A simple recipe for homemade Digestive Biscuits, using basic, whole-food ingredients. Exactly the type of recipe that gets passed from generation to generation.
Yield: 18 cookies
- Rolled Oats – ¾ Cup
- Stone-Ground Whole-wheat Flour - ⅔ Cup (see notes below)
- Brown Sugar – ½ Cup, lightly packed
- Baking Powder – 1 tsp
- Butter – ½ Cup, cubed
- Milk – 2 Tble
- Chocolate Chips (Milk or Semi-Sweet) – ½ Cup
Read the whole recipe through once before you begin.
Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350° F.
Grind oats in a food processor (or in 2 batches in a coffee grinder) until a fine powder. Mix ground oats, flour, brown sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Add butter and mix with your fingertips until well incorporated and no big lumps of butter remain. Add milk and mix with your hands to form a ball.
Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and chill slightly in the fridge for 15 minutes.
On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough out to an approx 12” diameter circle, ⅛” thick. Use a 2.5” round cutter to cut out 18 cookies, re-rolling the scraps once.
Use a spatula to transfer to a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet, leaving about ½” between cookies. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just golden. Cool 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave or in a double-boiler over simmering water. Brush the tops of the cooled biscuits with chocolate. Cool completely.
Store up to 1 week in a closed container. As if they’ll last that long.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- To clean your coffee/spice grinder, run a ¼ cup rice until a coarse powder. Discard the rice and brush out the grinder and lid. Voila! Now you can grind your oats…
- I used the stone-ground whole-wheat flour I used for Jenny’s Everyday Bread, if you use regular whole-wheat flour, add an extra 1/4 cup to the recipe.
- No round cookie cutters? Try a wine glass – or any other glass with a thinnish rim.