Thursday, 23 June 2016

Huntley and Palmer Biscuits - Army Biscuit - Recipe Development

This is a recipe that really jumped out at me...there were several revisions, including one requested specifically from the War Office in 1914 towards the end of World War 1). I assume this would form a staple in ration packs. It should be a good one to start with, as it's fairly simple.

Original Ingredients List - Industrial Quantities

  • 280lb Flour (127kg)
  • 6ozYeast (170g)
  • 95lb Liquor (43kg/litres)
  • 2lb Lawn Sugar (900g)
  • 2lb Salt (900g)
  • ½lb Soda (225g) it's got yeast in it, so we can assume that there is some mixing going on to form a smooth dough, but not so much that we form bread, and at least a bit of proving. Liquor is almost certainly just "water" (pretty much every recipe has it, and unless they made every biscuit with rum, I think it was just terminology).

Lawn Sugar is a grade of sugar, and on balance I think it's icing sugar. It's unusual in that there is an equal amount of salt and sugar, as well as a decent chunk of soda. I'm going to make a brash assumption here, and say that leavening agents in the 1900's were not as strong and effective as they are today.

There was a final note that up to 1/3rd of the flour could be substituted with rye flour, possibly to give some more flavour, possibly it if was cheaper I imagine. What I was able to find was a photo of the biscuit (not form the museum, but online)...square, with holes punched through regularly, a bit like a cream cracker. Square makes sense, as then there is no cut-off wastage, and I would imagine the government would want these cheap.

So, lets shrink this down to a more manageable batch, and use more modern ingredient names;
  • Plain Flour - 200g
  • Rye Flour - 100g
  • Yeast - 0.4g
  • Water - 100ml
  • Icing Sugar - 2.5g (1 level tsp)
  • Salt - 2.5g (1 level tsp)
  • Bicarbonate of Soda - 0.5g
I'm going to assume that yeast is a little more (the dried stuff we typically use now was only invented during World War 2, and not really available until the 1970's...the yeast here may well have come from a brewery).

As for method, I've looked at some other yeasted biscuits, and typically you mix the yeast and water, leave it to activate for a while, then mix into the dry ingredients, leave to prove for an hour, then roll (5mm thickness), cut, leave for a short period again, then bake. I'm going to assume 190-200'C is the temperature's low in sugar, so not much risk of burning, and they should be done in 10-12 minutes.

Huntley and Palmer Army Biscuits - Modern Version


  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 100g Rye Flour
  • 5g fast-action yeast
  • 100ml Warm water
  • 5g Icing Sugar
  • ½tsp Salt 
  • ½tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1) Put the mix the sugar and yeast into the water, stirring with a fork, and leave for 10-15 minutes

2) Place the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.

3) Add the yeast and water to the dry ingredients, and mix until the dough is consistent

4) crape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling-film, and leave to prove for 1 hour

5) Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and roll out to 5mm thickness in a rectangle

6) Cut squares about 8-10cm a side, and place on baking trays lined with baking parchment

7) Prick the biscuits all the way through in a grid pattern (about 1 hole every cm)

8) Leave to rise for about half an hour

9) Pre-heat the oven to 200'C

10) Bake the biscuits for 8-10 minutes

11) Remove to a wire rack to cool