How the other half ate: Tea biscuits from the Webley-Parry collection

This is not the first, or indeed the last, time that the Webley-Parry cookbook makes an appearance on our blog. For Explore Your Archives Week 2016, this archivist tried the Tea Biscuits recipe.


The original recipe

Here is the transcript, with original spelling preserved (but with added punctuation for clarity):

Tea biscuits

To a pound of flour,
2 ounces of Sifted Sugar,
1 ounce of Carraway Seed,
Mixed together; then rub in 2 ounces of fresh Butter and the yolk of an Egg, wet it with milk and add a little Brandy to it.

Roll it out very thin and cut out ?cakes with a glass. Prick them before you put them in the oven.

They had best be taken out of the oven when done and put in again to crisp when the oven is cool.

I used half the ingredients in my attempt, made the dough and rolled it out as directed.

Noodle the ferret helped to dispose of the unused part of the egg.


The oven was hot – about 200 degrees Celsius – and I baked the biscuits for about 15 minutes. Afterwards, I put them back in the by then much cooler oven, as instructed; the word biscuit means ‘twice-cooked’ so it was interesting to see that reflected in the recipe.


Result was delicious but very hard. Now I know why it said to roll them out very thinly! They were not as sweet as modern biscuits, not a bad thing in my opinion. Not sure why they needed brandy; I only used a mere capful anyway.

Verdict – recommended. Testers have asked for the recipe! Will definitely make them again.


UPDATE: I made them again already! I wanted to see whether they could be made a bit less hard so this time I doubled the quantity of butter. I used more brandy and less milk to wet the dough (less liquid was required anyway because of using more butter) and I rolled them out more thinly. Otherwise, I kept to the recipe. The biscuits were, as expected, less hard and somewhat more like modern biscuits in texture. Quite delicious!


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1 Response to How the other half ate: Tea biscuits from the Webley-Parry collection

  1. Pingback: Crispe Pancakes: 19th century – The Past is a Foreign Pantry

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