An exclusive recipe from Pen Vogler’s Dinner with Mr Darcy
These savory crackers (biscuits) were devised by William Oliver, an eighteenth-century physician in Bath, after he realized the Bath Buns he had also created were making his fashionable patients even fatter. They are perfect served with the English cheeses that the Georgian “higher sort” were beginning to enjoy.
33/4 cups/500g all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 oz/7g sachet active dried yeast
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp/30g butter
2⁄3 cup/150ml milk
Makes 30–40 crackers
1 Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C/Gas Mark 3.
2 Sift the flour into a bowl and add the dried yeast and salt. Warm the butter and milk together, make a well in the flour and slowly add the liquid, stirring the flour into the center until you have a dough. Add some warm water if necessary.
3 Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth; put it back in the bowl, cover and let it rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
4 Roll out well on a floured surface several times, folding the dough on itself, until it is very thin.
5 Cut out 30–40 crackers with a circular cookie cutter and prick the surface of each one with a fork.
6 Bake for 20–30 minutes until they are hard and bone-colored; if they are turning color, turn the oven down to 300°F/150°C/Gas Mark 2.
To serve:With a rich local dairy industry, Jane’s circle and characters were likely to have often served local cheeses, including the famous Somerset Cheddar. Mr. Elton gives a clue to what a cheese course might consist of when he unromantically describes his whole dinner of the previous night to Harriet, when Emma overtakes them, and finds “that she was herself come in for the Stilton cheese, the north Wiltshire, the butter, the celery, the beet-root and all the dessert.” Mrs. Norris happily gets both a receipt for and a sample of “a famous cream cheese” from the housekeeper at Sotherton. Mrs. Austen describes “good Warwickshire cheese” made in the “delightful dairy” at Stoneleigh Abbey.
Dinner with Mr Darcy by Pen Vogler is published by CICO Books and is available from rylandpeters.com