This time two years ago, I was in Los Angeles with my family. While there, my kid sister, Scotty, introduced Helena to the magic of Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers. I am happy to have captured this moment with my camera. It’s one of my favorite pictures from that holiday. Well along with the ones of Helena trying to get away from Mario Lopez. I guess not all girls love his Latin good looks. But I digress. . .
Back to the goldfish. . . These cheese flavored crackers are a pantry staple for families with small children all across America. I ate my weight in them as a kid. So did Helena until we came back to London. Suddenly she had no interest in cheese–not even in biscuit form (we’re in England now). That is until we went to Nanny and Grumpy’s house for Christmas this year. There, Helena helped Nanny make the same cheddar biscuits she used to make for my husband and his brothers when they were young. The sentimentalist in me loved seeing her on the exact counter where Henry used to sit and also help. Plus ça change. . .
After the holidays, I tried making my mother-in-law’s recipe but it didn’t turn out the same. I think it’s changed slightly since she started making it in the 70s. For instance, the recipe she gave me calls for pecans but the biscuits she makes do not contain nuts of any kind. The answer was clear. I had to experiment and create my own.
Below is the recipe I’ve been making the past few weeks. The biscuits it yields are extremely buttery, flaky and moreish.
I have been using a dinosaur shaped cutter as when I asked my three year-old which animal we should use for our biscuits, her response was, “Animals?” She looked at me like I was daft. “Dinosaurs!” Helena replied. So cheesy T-Rexes it has been. Apparently, animal crackers are for a bygone era. I’m so old.
100 g butter, cut into cubes
100 g plain flour
100 g mixed grated hard cheese (I use a blend of cheddar, pecorino, and parmigiano-regiano)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
dash of cayenne
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with your fingertips. The warmth of your fingers will soften the cheese and butter. When the mixture resembles coarse meal, begin kneading it until it’s smooth. If it feels too crumbly just keep kneading. You’ll get there.
Shape the dough into a disk, wrap it in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. During this time, pre-heat your oven to Gas 4/350F/180C.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough and cut your biscuits with a cutter.
Place them on a lightly greased baking tray and bake them for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Your nose will tell you when they’re ready.
Allow your biscuits to cool a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. Be careful as these cheese biscuits are extremely crumbly.