Let me put this right out there from the start: This is not a "low-cal, healthy, light" recipe. While I do cook healthy most of the time, I also believe in the importance of balance, and I don't tend to eat a lot butter, flour, and so on on a regular basis - but when the occasion calls for it (or the food is good enough), then hell yes. And these biscuits certainly are. I first learned the recipe for them years ago when I worked on Good Housekeeping magazine as a Deputy Editor, and our go-to food expert and food stylist, Fiona Archibold, taught me how to make them. I was doing a shoot for our Christmas issue that year, and after just one bite, I was smitten. I said I'd only have a couple... and intended to. Fat chance of sticking to that when they're this melt-in-your-mouth good. I only make these a couple of times a year (once in summer, once at Christmas) since I'm at a high risk of scoffing them by the jarful, but when that time does come around, they're pretty epic. I've tweaked the recipe from her original several times, and this is the one I've come to. Warning: It will leave you in a haze of cheese and butter, but I am actually capable of exercising restraint (and my buttocks, hopefully - made more necessary when I eat too many of these!) and a few of these dirham-sized biscuits are perfect with a cup of hot tea, which perfectly balances out their rich, crunchy butteriness.
180g unsalted butter
180g finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (this must be the real stuff, and is better grated fresh. the fake-tasting box options are a complete no-no!)
200g plain flour, sifted
1 level (flat) teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon saffron powder
a pinch of dried fresh rosemary, crushed into smaller pieces
a pinch of garlic powder
1. Preheat oven to 160°C fan, or 180°C non-fan.
2. Make sure the butter is soft (I used soft, room-temperature butter but if it’s not soft yet, cut it into cubes and microwave it in 5-second increments until it’s soft but doesn’t melt) then mix it into the flour, using your hands, until it forms loose crumbs.
3. Add in all of the remaining ingredients (the cheese, salt, mustard, egg yolk, saffron powder, rosemary and garlic powder) and mix it all in thoroughly, kneading the mixture until it forms a nice dough consistency.
4. Roll the dough out into a thin, long sausage shape, to whatever circumfrence you’d like for the biscuits to be, then slice the sausage into small slices (not too thick or they’ll burn outside and not be crunchy inside, but not too thin or they’ll burn too fast – I did mine at about half a centimetre or just a little less) to form the biscuits. You can also cut them into cookie cutter shapes but I actually prefer the sausage method for these - that's what she said! - since I feel like it makes them look more rustic and that suits these biscuits better, plus it helps them stay a little smaller this way which makes them a little more bite-sized.
5. Place the biscuits on top of a piece of baking paper (NOT wax paper, unless you want your cookies to have a burnt wax smell and taste!) that’s laid on top of a cookie or baking tray. You can also do the butter-and-flour method of greasing a baking tray or cookie tray, but baking paper is better since unlike the latter method, you won’t have to worry about the butter-and-flour greasing burning the bottom of the biscuits as they get really crisp.
6. Fiona originally said to “bake for anything from 10 to 25 minutes, until crispy and very golden. The real cheesy umami flavour comes from really baking the biscuits on a low-ish heat for as long as you dare without burning” – but I found that mine are usually done in around 12 minutes. When they’re ready, slide the biscuits on to a wire rack to cool (don’t just slide them onto a plate – the wire rack is really important here so they can truly cool down evenly throughout and become nice and crispy). When you first take them out of the oven, they will actually be quite soft and a gentle poke to one of the biscuits will see your finger dent it a little (and probably get a bit singed from the heat, hah!) but don’t fret – leave them to cool on the wire rack for about 20-30 minutes and when you come back they will be a deliciously crispy little bite-sized treat that’s jam-packed with flavour.
They basically taste like cheese straws in biscuit form, and can be stored in beautiful glass jars from Tavola for a couple of days. potentially longer, but they've never lasted much longer. This recipe makes quite a lot of them, but you can tore them in glass Tupperware or even freeze them if you want to keep them for longer. They make great holiday gifts, but if you do want to have fewer portions, just halve the ingredients throughout the recipe.