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Abernethy Biscuits


Now made as a medium to low bake biscuit of coarse wheat flour with salt and sugar typically 2¾ins diameter x 3/16ins thick, impressed with indented dots. Some early receipts included caraway seeds.

Abernethies are an early form of Digestive Biscuit, designed to aid digestion, older, of lower bake, slightly thinner and using less bran than the modern Digestive Biscuit form.

London surgeon John Abernethy (1764-1831)
Engraving by John Cochran after a portrait by Thomas Lawrence

Original Receipt from 'The Bread And Biscuit Baker's And Sugar-Boiler's Assistant' by Robert Wells, 1890 (Wells 1890)

61. Abernethy Biscuits. (Dr. Abernethy's Original Recipe.)
1 quart of milk, 6 eggs, 8 ozs. of sugar, ½ oz. of caraway seeds, with flour sufficient to make the whole of the required consistency. They are generally weighed off at 2 ozs. each, moulded up, pinned and docked, and baked in a moderate oven.
Note. The heat of an oven is not required so strong for biscuits containing sugar, as it causes them to take more colour in less time.

62. Abernethys as made in London.
7 lbs. of flour, 8 ozs. of sugar, 8 ozs. of butter, 4 eggs, 1 ½ pint of milk, 2 tablespoonfuls of orange-flower water, ½ oz. of caraway seeds.

63. Usual Way of making Abernethy Biscuits.
Take 8 lbs. of flour, 1 ½ lb. of butter and lard, 12 ozs. of sugar, ½ oz. of caraway seeds; some use about ½ oz. of powdered volatile salts. Proceed to make into dough as before. Well break the dough and finish with either hand or machine.

Abernethy biscuits were developed by the distinguished London surgeon John Abernethy (1764-1831). 'Reece's Cylopedia' of c1820 tells us that; "His 'Surgical Observations on the Constitutional Origin and Treatment of Local Diseases' (1809) ... was one of the earliest popular works on medical science. So great was his zeal in encouraging patients to read the book that he earned the nickname "Doctor My-Book". He taught that local diseases were frequently the results of disordered states of the digestive organs, and were to be treated by purging and attention to diet." Part of which attention was his promotion, from about 1829, of his coarse-flour biscuits as an aid to effective digestion. They quickly seem to have gained a certain celebrity...

Adertisement for Abernethy Biscuits
Newcastle Courant - Saturday 28 August 1830

... and even inspired a sort of poetry, as this from an advertisement from J.Hutchinson's of Manchester, "the original introducer and sole proprietor of Abernethy's celebrated Digestive Biscuits", found in the 'Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser' of Saturday 16 October 1830


Come young and aged, poor or grand,
Abroad, at home on sea or land,
Where'er you chance to frisk it;
Take good advice and quickly hie
To 89, King street, the King's Arms nigh,
To tastes and try and quickly buy
Hutchinson's Abernethy Biscuit.

If you are sick there's nought so good,
To warm the stomach, cleanse the blood,
Or clear head - heart - or - brisket;
If you are well and would remain,
From drugs and chemicals refrain,
And munch with Sherry or Champagne,
Hutchinson's Abernethy Biscuit.

In recent years the biscuits have come to be associated with Scotland, presumably because of their inventor's grandfather's connection with the town of Abernethy near Perth. Dr Abernethy was, however, born, raised, studied and worked in England and it was in England that his biscuits were first made.

Abernethy Biscuits

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