It is certain that the phrase ‘hot biscuits’ triggers completely different images in the minds of folks from different parts of the world. In the USA, if I am not mistaken, it indicates 'hot-from-the-stove' items served with gravy for breakfast – an item which in Britain (and Australia) would be called a scone, and served with jam and cream for afternoon tea. In England, ‘hot biscuits’ would be more likely to indicate 'hot-from-spices', thin, crisp ‘cookies’ such as one would serve with cheese or dips.
I came across a reference recently to ‘cayenne biscuits’ in a context that suggested they were of the British type of ‘hot biscuit’, and thought they would make a fine topic for this blog. It proved surprisingly difficult however, to find a recipe for them. I thought I had succeeded when I came across the following recipe in The Times of March 18, 1940:
Make a paste with equal quantities of margarine, flour and grated cheese. Roll out as thin as possible, cut into rounds or strips, bake in a quick oven until a light brown, and serve hot. This is the perfect cheese biscuit.
I don’t know whether it was the cook or the copy editor who left out the cayenne, leaving us with a fine recipe for cheese crackers! I guess the cayenne needs to be added ‘according to taste.’
A little further sleuthing came across an excellent idea from a professional baker – the author of
The Complete Biscuit and Gingerbread Baker's Assistant (1854). He has an interesting idea to ensure that the heat and flavour is evenly dispersed through the biscuits.
Cayenne Biscuits. These are the same as the former [plain yeast-raised thin crackers], with the addition of cayenne pepper: the way in which it is added is very bad, as it gives some biscuits a greater portion than others, which cannot be avoided when the powder is mixed with the dough or flour. To obviate this, I use an infusion of cayenne in spirits of wine, which I add to the water or milk, when they may be flavoured equally, to any height required. Take the following proportions for it: 1 oz. of cayenne pepper, or capsicum berries, (or if required very strong, 2 oz. should be used,) which steep for fourteen days in 1 pint of spirits of wine or good gin; put the whole into a bottle, and cork it close; use the clear liquor—a few drops will suffice. I never knew any other person adopt this method.
These are sold in boxes, as the others, and are principally eaten with wine, after dinner, as a stimulant to excess.
Now, wouldn’t that cayenne-gin be a good stand-by for your pantry? Or a gift for the spice-lover in your life?
Quotation for the Day
The inventor of soda crackers has a place in hell.
Martin H. Fischer