Biscuits are essentially flour-based baked foods of the American and European cuisines, which may be soft or hard depending on the cuisine of origin. European biscuits are hard and the texture of the surface may be smooth, crumbly, or rough depending upon the variety. The American biscuit, on the other hand, is a small and tender leavened flour-based product which is considered as bread resembling a scone, to a certain extent, though not its variation. The Americans tend to eat their biscuits for breakfast, biscuits with gravy being one of their favorite breakfasts. The Europeans usually eat their biscuits as a snack. To the Americans, the European biscuits are baked food resembling their cookies.
Biscuits can be sweet, savory, salty, spicy or flavored differently from these. Though they can be baked at home, they are available in supermarkets under a number of popular commercial brands. The biscuits from the cuisines of the Commonwealth countries may be plain or contain a variety of fillings, usually sweet. The American biscuit is savory. A biscuit recipe for American buttermilk biscuit or baking powder biscuit may not include any sweet ingredients at all. The biscuits from the cuisines of the commonwealth countries are widely varied in the ingredients used, their taste, texture and preparations. Wafers, crackers, cookies, cream biscuits, digestives, sweet biscuits, salted biscuits are all considered as biscuits.
In Asian countries, biscuits are not only baked but also deep-fried in oil.
History of the Biscuit
Biscuits were invented out of a necessity for nutritious food which can be conveniently carried by people to work. The purpose is somewhat similar to a pie which was also invented when the necessity for portable nutritious food was felt by people in the olden days. The Egyptian dhourra cake, and the Roman buccellum are early biscuits. Biscuits were originally baked very hard to preserve them for a long time to come as they were carried by travelers for long distances. A biscuit recipe for hard biscuits would recommend baking the dish for about four times, which is double the usual two times. A number of biscuit recipes were designed to serve the dish as a complement for tea or coffee, a tradition which is followed even today in the homes of many commonwealth countries.
The invention of the biscuits can be dated back to before the 7th century and gingerbread was one of the earliest biscuits. The biscuit recipe of the very first biscuits is not known to include any sweet ingredient. The biscuit was made of leftover bread and was food for the poor. Spices and sugar were included in the biscuits of the later periods.
Biscuits and Health
The popularity of biscuits throughout the world today may be contributed to the fact that they are ready-to-eat, easily preserved, nutritious and substantial food, which not only taste good and satiate hunger but also give energy depending upon the ingredients. Biscuits are generally considered healthier than other snack or brunch foods and are recommended for consumption by people with health complaints. Today, a number of biscuit manufacturers are producing biscuits which are popularly consumed as diet substitutes and supplements. The constitutionally weak, diabetic, obese, or people suffering from specific bodily ailments complement their daily diet with nutritious biscuits which supplement the nutrients that are missing in their diets.
Popular Biscuit Recipes
Biscuits of the modern times have two sources of origin, namely, the Hardtrack biscuits or the Baker’s art biscuits
- Hardtrack biscuits – this is a class of biscuits, also know as ship biscuits which includes the cracker, Abernathy, digestive and rich tea biscuits.
- Crackers – these are savory, small, flat, crisp biscuits which are made of cereal grain. They make a cracking sound when eaten and hence have derived the name. They have their origin in breads like the pita, lavash , chapatti, matzo , or crisp bread. They are eaten as meal substitutes if required, and are essentially made of unleavened flour, herbs, salt and spices. Cheese may be added for flavoring.
- Abernathy – these are invented by English physician Abernathy as a digestive
- Digestive – these are slightly sweet biscuits also known as sweet meal biscuits as they are substantial enough for satiating hunger and are specially recommended for people suffering from digestive ailments as these biscuits are known to have antacid characteristics.
- Rich tea biscuit – these are English snack biscuits served as accompaniments to tea or coffee. They are round, sweet and made of wheat flour.
- Baker’s art biscuits – a good example of biscuits of this variety is the Biscuit rose de Reims, a pink-colored hard biscuit formally consumed after dunking in wine or champagne. The pink color of the biscuit is attributed to the food color called carmine, which is also known as crimson lake, Natural Red 4 or Cochineal.