Stilton and gram flour biscuits
September 25, 2011 § 7 Comments
It has been raining almost every day for the past, oh, month or so here in Maryland. While it’s perfect baking time because I want to stay inside, it does make for a rather gray, dreary view outside the window…and this is coming from someone who actually loves rain! The verdant green of late summer has been overtaken by muddy brown; even my sage plant that loves water is beginning to look a bit soggy.
So instead of eating what should rightfully be the summer’s last produce, I turned to my cookbooks for more autumnal inspiration, finally settling on baking from one that I’ve had for a while but never got round to writing about before: The New English Table by Rose Prince. This wonderful cookbook celebrates all things English, offering both delectable recipes and some brief history of traditional English foodstuffs, including heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables, and British cheeses too. With the weather being as damp as it is, I felt the choice of book to be quite appropriate, as it rains quite frequently in England.
With over two hundred recipes, it was difficult to pick just one to share here, but after reading “Stilton” in the description I knew I had an excellent candidate for baking: my house is filled with both feline and human cheese fiends. Indeed, from the day I purchased the cheese to two days later when I managed to start making the biscuits, one and a half ounces of Stilton had already been eaten (some of which I am sure was shared with the cat). Complementing the Stilton is gram flour, which offers a bit of crumbly crunch and the characteristic nuttiness of roasted chickpeas, plus a light dusting of chopped walnuts adds a slight sweetness. These biscuits would be an excellent last course after dessert, served with port perhaps, Stilton’s traditional accompaniment. Not having any port though, I simply enjoy nibbling them as a nice snack of cheese and cracker in one easy bite.
These biscuits have been slightly modified from their original incarnation in the book; I have made them a bit more American in that they are not flat biscuits (or crackers as we know them here) but more rustic, puffed biscuits, of which we Americans are so fond. Admittedly I like the rough-hewn appearance and the contrast between the crunchy almost-crust of the biscuit exterior and the soft nubbliness of the gram (also known as chickpea or garbanzo) flour interior, but mostly I made them this way because I was too lazy to find both a rolling pin and a biscuit cutter! If you are more of an English-biscuit traditionalist, the rolled-and-cut cracker version is more of a crumbly wafer that has crunch all the way through.
Either way, the biscuits are heavy with the heady scent of blue cheese, so these biscuits are probably best enjoyed by those of us (like my cat, though she isn’t allowed these biscuits…yet!) who adore the magnificent moldy masterpiece that is Stilton.
Stilton and gram flour biscuits
Adapted from The New English Table
Makes about twelve to fifteen biscuits
- 85 grams or three ounces gram (chickpea/garbanzo bean) flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
- 70 grams or two and a half ounces unsalted butter, cubed
- 70 grams or two and a half ounces Stilton (or Stichelton or other blue) cheese, finely cubed or grated (use the good Stilton or Stichelton for this one, it’s definitely worth it)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- A large pinch of freshly-ground pepper
- One tablespoon icy-cold water
- Two tablespoons walnuts, finely chopped
1. Using a fork, mix together the gram flour, cheese, butter, salt, and pepper until well-mixed; the dough should look sandy but still retain some buttery clumps in it, about pea-sized. Add in the water and mix to a cohesive ball of dough. (Alternatively, this step can be done, carefully, in a food processor, processing in bursts so as to not overwork the dough.)
2. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or in a plastic bag and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Chop the walnuts.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (or 190 degrees Celsius). Form biscuit rounds by breaking off sections of dough, if you prefer a more rustic look as shown above, or alternatively scatter some gram flour on a clean surface and roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch (five millimeter) thickness. Then cut rounds of biscuit dough.
4. Transfer biscuits to a parchment-lined baking sheet (I forgot to line my baking sheets, but using parchment paper would make cleanup of the pan a bit easier). Sprinkle over the walnuts, pressing gently to adhere, and bake for fourteen to eighteen minutes, or until the biscuits are tinged a light golden brown on the edges, and have risen a bit (rolled biscuits will bake faster than the round biscuits I made, which baked for sixteen minutes). Let biscuits cool for a few minutes, then move biscuits to a rack to cool completely.
Note: biscuits will keep for about five days if tightly wrapped. If you would like to make these in advance, I recommend freezing after step two, allowing the dough to thaw in the fridge for a few hours before proceeding with the recipe. Alternatively, freeze after making the biscuit rounds, and bake from frozen, allowing for more baking time in step four.
Prince, Rose. “Blue Cheese and Gram Flour Biscuits.” The New English Table. London: Fourth Estate, 2008 (128).