Paul Hollywood hates Mrs. Beeton’s Cheese Biscuits

This week, we returned to Mrs. Beeton for appetizer ideas, and were inspired by this “Cheese Biscuits recipe” from her Book of Household Management.

We pretty much followed this exactly, but ended up adding some flour in the process of rolling and cutting. I’d have some flour ready to prepare and de-stickify your workspace. Armed with my biscuit cutter and some aged cheddar cheese, I decided to separate the dough into batches so I could experiment with time and temp. Here is the transcription of the recipe: 

Cheese Biscuits.-- INGREDIENTS for small dish.--3 oz. of grated cheese, 3 oz. of flour, 3 oz. of butter, the yolk of an egg, cayenne. 
AVERAGE COST, 6d. 
Season the cheese well with cayenne, and rub it, with the butter, in the flour, moisten with the yolk of an egg. Roll out the paste very thin, and cut into biscuits with a tin cutter. Bake a light brown in a quick oven. These biscuits may be served either hot or cold, and will keep a long time good if put in a tin. 
TIME.--10 minutes to bake.
Mise-en-place

Sounds pretty simple, no? There was a touch of disagreement in our house about what it means to “rub in” the cheese with the butter, which resulted in our recreation of one of our favorite scenes in Schitt’s Creek. No, mom and dad aren’t fighting, we’re just trying to get to the bottom of this recipe. 

I mixed in the Cayenne with the cheese, then did my best understanding of “rubbing in” the butter and cheese. 

Added flour and mixed until a somewhat greasy dough developed. 

For the first batch, I attempted to roll out the dough directly onto the silicone baking mat, then cut out the circles. I went with a 1 ½ inch ring. Removing the excess dough was IMPOSSIBLE, and terribly frustrating. Mrs. Beeton calls for a “quick oven,” which I looked up; it’s apparently 375-400 degrees. After getting the mat into a 380 degree oven I set a timer for 10 minutes, then watched and waited, like any good Bake Off competitor would. 

The crackers spread, lost most of their definition, and didn’t have much crispness to them. More like a doughy, cheesy cookie. Not the most appetizing. 

For batch two, we cranked the oven to 400 and used flour to roll out the crackers. These turned out better, didn’t spread as much, but I managed to ignore Alexa when she announced the ten minutes were up, and these got far too brown. Paul Hollywood had some things to say about that: 

It’s a shame, really.

Batch three was the closest we got to what we were aiming for! Even MORE flour to aid in rolling them out, poked a center hole and five others in a sort of star-point pattern, put them in the 400 degree oven for 9 minutes. These turned out pretty perfectly!

The taste: overall, these taste JUST like the cheese straws people give each other around the holidays. That’s not exactly my favorite food, but the well-cooked ones were pretty great topped with fun things like bacon and a buffalo dip from Trader Joe’s. 

Then my partner had a GENIUS idea to make tomato soup for dinner, so we could garnish with the cheese crackers. This was delicious! Honestly tasted like a fancy parmesan tuile, and they stayed super crisp in the soup. We were pretty happy with these in this application. 

Now for the reviews:

I would not eat these alone. It tastes like there’s something missing.

“Paul Hollywood,” my sous chef

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Excellent in tomato soup, and as a base for other appetizers. Most importantly, we had a great time testing this one out!

Rachel Duke

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Looking at these cheese biscuits from Karen Wright’s IG (former Bake Off contestant). I think we might have made ours too small and too thin? What do you think?

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