Very low bake white wheatflour biscuits, slightly raised with yeast, unsweetened and lightly salted, typically 3ins diameter and 1/4ins thick with prick-marks all over the surface.
It is said that Dr. William Oliver (1695–1764) invented them as a type of digestive biscuit for patients taking Bath's restorative waters. He bequeathed the receipt to his coachman, Mr. Atkins, together with a sack of flour and enough money to set him up as a baker. The receipt was been handed-down through successive owners of the biscuit business to James Fortt, whose family were making 80,000 a day in 1952.
Original Receipt from 'The Bread And Biscuit Baker's And Sugar-Boiler's Assistant' by Robert Wells, 1890 (Wells 1890)
78. - Bath Oliver Biscuits.
1 quart of milk, 1 lb. of butter, 2 ozs. of German yeast, 6 1/2 lbs. of flour. Make the milk warm, add the sugar, yeast and a handful of flour to form a ferment, let it ferment for an hour and a half. Rub the butter into the remaining flour and make all into a nice smooth dough; let it stand about two hours, then roll it out thin; cut the biscuits out with a cutter about three inches in diameter, dock them well, place on clean tins sprinkled with water, wash over with milk when you have them all off, put them in a steam press or drawers for half an hour, and bake in a cool oven.
Norfolk Chronicle, Saturday 12 November 1842
Image: Richard Wheeler (Zephyris)
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