Afternoon tea was the best time to arrive at my Nan’s place. You were always guaranteed something to eat. Shortbreads were a staple. I think Nan just made a new batch when the current batch was eaten. They were OK but I preferred the ones my mum made. What I really loved, and looked forward to, were Nan’s cheese biscuits. These didn’t appear all that often, and if they did they were usually leftover from some other event, but I was always pleased to see them. A few years ago I collated all of my Nan’s recipes into a single cookbook. There are four separate recipes for cheese biscuits in that book. None of them seem to be similar to those that I loved as a child. Without her recipe, I had to develop my own, and this crispy cheese biscuit is the result.
I have always preferred savoury foods to sweet. Any cakes or cookies I bake are primarily eaten by The Princess (and Mr Grumpy if The Princess is in the mood to share). However I have made a few batches of these biscuits now and have probably eaten the majority of them myself. The Princess found half a cheese biscuit in the container one afternoon, and questioned its presence in an accusatory tone. I’m pretty sure that had nothing to do with me. I wouldn’t have left half a biscuit behind.
If you use a high-fat hard cheese to make these biscuits, they will look slightly disturbing as they bake. The fat from the butter, combined with the fat from the cheese, seeps out and bubbles around the biscuit as it cooks. I was a bit non-plussed the first time this happened, convinced that I had just baked a load of chicken food. The resulting biscuits were crispy and flavourful, and well received by the family. So don’t panic if you happen to peek into the oven as they cook.
Any odds and ends of cheese in my fridge are grated and consigned to the freezer for storage, and are then thrown into muffins, frittatas or bechamel sauce. I’ve used a few different cheeses to make these biscuits now but I think Cheddar produces the best result. The dough will also freeze well, so you can make half a batch of biscuits and freeze the rest for emergencies (or company).
Whilst I will never be able to replicate my Nan’s cheese biscuits, I am pretty happy with these nonetheless. They are crispy and cheesy and all for me. Don’t tell The Princess I made them, will you. I don’t like to share either.
Crispy Cheese Biscuits
I use black sesame seeds as I like the visual interest they add. Just use normal sesame seeds if you cannot locate (or don't want to use) black ones.
If you cannot find smoked paprika, use a combination of normal paprika and cayenne pepper. You can also increase the amount of hot smoked paprika if you want a spicier biscuit.
- 150 g white spelt flour
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- Pinch of salt
- 110 g cold butter chopped
- 80 g cheese grated
- 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
- 1 large egg beaten
- Extra water if required
- Pulse the flour, spices, salt and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. To make these by hand, sift the flour and spices together, then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the cheese and blitz briefly.
- Put the mixture in a bowl and mix through the sesame seeds.
- Stir in the beaten egg to form a stiff dough. If all the flour will not incorporate, add a small amount to water to the mixture.
- Form the mixture into a 6cm x 18cm log, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan forced).
- Line a baking tray.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into 6mm slices.
- Place the slices on the tray, allowing room for spreading.
- Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown.
- Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.
I have some Spelt flour lying around and I have been thinking of what to do with it as I cannot get a handle on doing a Sourdough starter. Will try these biscuits instead. They look soooo good.
They are very moreish. I have eaten … well let’s just say many 🙂 As to the spelt, you can swap spelt into pretty much any recipe in the place of wheat flour. It does absorb moisture differently, so you may need to adjust your liquid in some cases, but in things like biscuits (cookies) there shouldn’t be a significant difference. I use a lot of spelt instead of wheat as it has a slightly better nutritional profile than plain white wheat flour.
Hi Tania, My Aunty Margaret who is long dead, used to make cheese biscuits too. I used to love them.
They always used to appear at afternoon tea parties in my childhood Glenda. I have no idea why they seemed to be reserved for special occasions.
Hi Tania! I live in the States (: We don’t do metric (yet – I’m still hoping). Since it’s baking, I know that measurements are important. Could you possibly give me (us) the recipe with US measurements. Life would be soooo much easier if we all measured the same!
Hi Heather. Unfortunately I find US measurements just as confusing as I’m sure you do metric 🙂 I am trying to learn, but I do not yet have a good system I feel able to share. I use different online calculators to try and switch between grams and ounces when I am baking, so that might be of help to you. I can tell you that I am currently working on 1 cup of spelt = 135g and a stick of butter as approximately 110g. Life would be so much easier if it was all the same wouldn’t it 🙂
Hi Tania, I’ve just made these biscuits for the first time. I found they took a lot longer than 20 minutes, though I didn’t time them I cooked the in a fan forced oven at 180°.
I was waiting for them to brown and then realised that the underside was nice and brown so I turned each one over. They smell amazing, and taste even better! Thank you!
Thanks for the feedback Dorothy. It is quite tricky providing exact times as everybody’s oven cooks differently, and is why I also try to provide visual cues as well so people know how they should look when ready. I am glad you liked them 🙂
Just came across your cheesy biscuits and was wondering how long they will keep after making them as I would like to give them as part of a christmas present.
Hi Deborah. The biscuits will last for up to 5 days, but will soften over time. What you can do is make the dough in advance, and freeze the log of dough. Defrost the dough overnight in the fridge, then proceed with the recipe. This means you can make the dough now and get ahead on your gifts.
Thanks for the reply, I will do that.xx