Tea and biscuits are as essential to Britain's cultural history as the Queen, Turner's moody skies, and queuing. Among Brits, they always elicit the question: Are you a digestive biscuit or a rich tea biscuit kind of person? The primary point of difference is that the digestive crumbles while the rich tea snaps when split in half.
I'd argue that this snap, along with their subtle flavor, makes rich tea the ideal tea biscuit. Rich tea biscuits serve as a blank slate for absorbing the flavor of the tea, and scientists have proven that they are the superior dunkers because of their texture and lower fat and sugar content. While the digestive takes 5 seconds until it starts to fall apart, the rich tea can stay together for a whopping 20 seconds.
Rich tea biscuits have been served as an afternoon snack in Britain since the 17th century, but they earned a place in history more recently when Prince William requested a rich tea biscuit cake for his royal wedding to Kate Middleton. The cake, reported to be a tea-time favorite of the Queen herself, was made with 1,700 biscuits and 40 pounds of chocolate.
More: Want to try digestives for yourself? Read on.
From the Queen's mouth to my stomach: I decided I had to give homemade rich tea biscuits a try. This recipe yields biscuits that are coarser than the commercially produced biscuits, but they work just as well for dunking. My advice? Dunk long and enjoy the soaked biscuit to the fullest.
280 grams all-purpose white flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 heaping teaspoons cane sugar 4 1/12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter 2/3 cup cold, full-fat milk
To prepare, place a rack in the center of your oven, preheat to 410º F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut the butter into small cubes, transfer it to the bowl, and start rubbing the butter into the flour until you get a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Pour in the milk and use your fingers to mix it together until it becomes a dough. Press and knead briefly.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, divide it in half to make it easier to work with, and roll out half of it as thinly as possible. (Keep in mind that the biscuits will rise and be twice the height!) Using a biscuit or cookie cutter, cut the dough into individual 2 1/3-inch-wide circles. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
Prick the biscuits all over with a fork and transfer to your lined baking sheet. Bake the biscuits until lightly golden but not brown. This should take around 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool on a baking rack.
Either pour yourself a cup of hot tea, dunk, and enjoy, or store your biscuits in an airtight container. They are best when enjoyed immediately, but will last around 3 to 4 days.
Regula Ysewijn is a food & lifestyle photographer and divides her time between Belgium and England. She collects vintage English kitchenalia and old and tatty cookery books. Her first book about British food culture 'Pride and Pudding' is out in Dutch october 2015 and will be available in UK,NZ,AUS april 2016