Cookies and candy are in abundance this time of year. Everyone has their favorite. This is also traditionally a season of entertaining and those cookies no doubt will make an appearance as a dessert offering or gift. Again, and again, and again….. Of course they’re delicious (we hope!), and yes it’s a kind gesture as a gift, but this time of year often leads to sweetness overload. I’m not saying we should stop the cookie baking and gifting, but why not add some savory flavors to your repertoire? Savory shortbreads and crackers are a nice alternative gift. Your recipients will appreciate (and thus remember!) how you provided a much welcomed respite from the sugar sensationalism so prevalent during the winter holidays. You’ll enjoy having savory elements to add to a quick charcuterie board or give as a gift to a neighbor or co-worker.
Blue Cheese & Walnut Biscuits
These are “biscuits” in the English sense of crackers or cookies. Cheese straws and biscuits are popular party fare in the South. Traditionally made with sharp cheddar cheese, these provide an alternative flavor from the pungent salty blue cheese combined with the classic pairing of walnuts. These can be made up into logs and kept tightly wrapped in the freezer to have on hand when a quick accompaniment to a cheese tray or glass of wine is needed. You can change up the cheese, spices, and nuts in the Blue Cheese & Walnut Biscuits to make your own variations. Keep in mind that a dry type of cheese will work better than a softer, younger cheese.
Yield: 3 1/2 dozen
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup finely ground toasted walnuts, divided use
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons), room temperature
2 cups crumbled blue cheese, room temperature
Place the flour, ½ cup of ground walnuts, and remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel chopping blade. Pulse food processor until mixture forms a crumbly texture and then process until it comes together into a dough.
Scraped dough onto parchment paper and shape into logs that are about 1 ½-2 inches in diameter. Roll to smooth the sides and then roll and coat exterior of dough logs with remaining ground walnuts. Roll up in plastic wrap, parchment paper or waxed paper. Chill for about 30-45 minutes or until firm enough to slice without the dough sticking to the knife blade.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice cross-wise into ¼-inch thick slices and place on a parchment lined baking tray. Bake the biscuits in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until lightly golden on the bottom. Cool and store in an airtight container. Stored airtight in a cool, dry location they will remain fresh for 3-4 weeks.
Oatcakes are a cracker or “biscuit” traditionally served with cheese and fruit in the UK where they tend to be less sweet and often made with wholewheat flour. Nova Scotian Oatcakes tend to be sweeter and are sort of a cross between a cracker and a cookie, perfect for snacking on their own. These are more akin to those from Nova Scotia.
½ c. oatmeal, toasted
¾ c. brown sugar
1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ sticks cold butter, cut in small pieces
3 tablespoons ice water
Combine dry ingredients in food processor and pulse until combined. Add butter and pulse until of a meal-like consistency. Add water and pulse until dough comes together.
Roll out dough to ¼” thick, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with oatmeal and salt. Cut into crackers and bake on a parchment lined baking sheet at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes (325 convection for about 20 minutes).
Variation: Instead of rolling the dough and cutting out, roll the dough into a 2″ diameter log and chill. Cut into 1/4″ thick slices and bake.