A little extra something for the Christmas or New Year party table! Following the example of the original recipe I made these little cheesy biscuits bite sized using a variety of shapes from my collection of mini cutters. They would be just as good made larger and used as canapes with a selection of toppings. Each of my cheese biscuits – I made six shapes – had a different topping: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, black onion seeds (often known as Nigella or Kalonji, though I am not sure if the English garden Nigella or ‘Love in a Mist’ as an edible variety), cumin seeds, smoked (or ordinary) paprika, pinch of finely grated parmesan. Another recipe for cheese biscuits I found suggested using fennel seeds and if you like heat then you could use cayenne pepper. You could also leave some of the biscuits plain. (Be warned that the high heat of the cooking combined with the high fat content of the biscuits could cause a liquid topping such as tomato or pesto sauce to blacken. Although I have not tried it, I think it would be sensible to add these toppings once the biscuits are cooked, returning them to the oven for 3-5 minutes maximum so the topping can set.) The mixture could, I am sure, also be made into cheese straws. I found rolling the soft pastry between pieces of cling film was very successful, as was using a thoroughly chilled lump of dough and re-chilling the baking trays full of biscuits before cooking. From memory, I think my cutters were original from a children’s cookery set. One warning these biscuits are very rich and contain a large amount of butter as well as cheese, so are not very good for weight watchers. Definitely naughty but nice! My small cutters made around 170 biscuits, so be warned that it is a rather time consuming job, but don’t they all look pretty!
The recipe for Crunchy Cheese Biscuits came from the ASDA instore free magazine, December 2009 issue and was suggested they could be give as an edible Christmas gift: a good idea if you have the time! It is recommended that they will keep for two weeks in the fridge, stored in an airtight container, or alternatively frozen for up to six weeks. The recipe is almost identical to the original with very few alterations.
Crunchy Cheese Biscuits
(Number depends on cutter size. I made about 170 – original says 50!)
200g plain flour
¼ level tsp dry mustard powder
¼ level tsp cayenne
150g butter, cut into cubes
75g extra mature Cheddar, grated
25g Parmesan, grated
1 medium egg, separated
Toppings to decorate – Choose from pinches of: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, black onion seeds, cumin seeds, smoked (or ordinary) paprika, finely grated parmesan, fennel seeds – or anything else that you feel might be suitable.
1. Grease two or three baking trays or line them with baking paper (the trays may have to be reused).
2. Sift the flour, mustard powder, cayenne and a good pinch of salt into a large bowl.
3. Rub in the butter. Stir in the cheeses. Add the egg yolk and 2tsp cold water. Stir until the mixture starts to clump together and then mix it by hand shaping it into a slab about 2cm thick. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
4. Roll out a third of the dough between two sheets of clingfilm until it is 3mm thick (using clingfilm means you do not need flour each time to re-roll the dough. This keeps the biscuits crisp). Remove the top sheet of film and cut the dough into small shapes with a cutter. Place the shapes on a baking tray. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Try to get roughly an equal number of each shape.
5. Preheat the oven to 180oC/160oC Fan/Gas 4. Lightly beat the egg white and brush some on each biscuit. Sprinkle some with the toppings. You may like to leave some plain. (See notes on toppings in the introduction above.) If you have time, re-chill the biscuits in the fridge for 20-30minutes before baking.
6. Bake biscuits for 12-14 minutes, removing them carefully from the baking tray as they are fragile and leave them to cool on a wire rack.
7. If giving as a gift they can be packed into a decorative box with tissue paper and decorated with pretty paper and ribbon. Remember to provide a ‘menu’ (as in a box of chocolates) so the recipient knows which flavour toppings you have used and to give storage instructions if appropriate.