Oat Digestive Biscuits

Oat Digestive Biscuits
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digestive biscuits
A little chocolate coating never goes amiss!

Not biscuits like buttermilk biscuits, but biscuits that are more like cookies. The biscuits of Ireland and England and other areas of the world. Here in the U.S., we might refer to these as cookies, but that wouldn’t be quite the right term, because they aren’t really sweet like a cookie. Let’s just go with biscuit, and leave it at that.

Now, that might be confusing, but, while we don’t really have a term that does proper justice to these biscuits, those on the other side of the Atlantic don’t have quite the right term for one of our buttermilk biscuits, either. They probably would refer to them as a scone, but, anyone who has had both a scone and a buttermilk biscuit knows that they aren’t the same thing at all. So they’re probably just as confused, or maybe even more confused, when they see biscuits and gravy on the menu.

So, let’s just stop confounding the issue with terminology and just scratch up some cookie/biscuit thingies.

Oh, and, so we don’t forget, this recipe comes from Real Irish Food, by David Bowers.

Makes thirty 2-inch rounds

Oat Digestive Biscuits

Oat Digestive Biscuits


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • 1 large egg

Abbreviated Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.

In a large bowl, mix together flours. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse meal.

Mix in oats, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, mix egg and milk.

Stir egg and milk mixture into dry ingredients until a dough forms.

Roll out dough a little thinner than 1/4-inch thick, dusting lightly with flour as needed.

Cut out 2-inch rounds and transfer to baking sheet, separating biscuits slightly (these do not spread). Dock with fork.

Bake 10-12 minutes, or until light brown and just set in the middle.

Transfer to rack to cool completely.


Ingredient discussion:

Use old-fashioned oats, not the “quick” oats. Of course, who in the world needs “quick” oats, anyway? Old-fashioned oats only take 5 minutes to cook; it’s not as if shaving a few minutes off your breakfast preparation will allow you to finish up that work for the Nobel prize, will it? But, on to other things. Butter, as always, should be unsalted. You’re probably old enough to salt your own food. No need to have the butter-salters do it for you. And, don’t even think of margarine. If you’re thinking that, you’re reading the wrong blog. Eggs: find eggs that come from pastured hens. You’ll have better eggs and those hens will be happier, making it a win-win.

Procedure in detail:

Mix flours. In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose and the whole-wheat flours. We just reached in with a hand and gave it a few stirs. Easier than using a spoon.

cutting butter into flour
We find it easier to cut the butter into thin “pats” rather than cubes for cutting into the flour.

Cut in butter. We like to slice the stick of butter into 10 to 12 “pats” and distribute them amongst the flours. Then, we get in there with our fingertips and grind the butter into the flour. Work fast so the butter doesn’t melt and you can get it all cut in. We’ve never used a pastry cutter; that might be easier, we just don’t know.

dry ingredients
Use your hands to mix in the brown sugar and other dry ingredients. You’ll be able to find the sugar lumps and break them apart.

Add remaining drys. Add the brown sugar (note that we provided the weight measurement for that, as it’s easier to weigh brown sugar than it is to pack it into a measuring cup), the salt, the baking powder, and the oats and stir everything in. We like to use our hands for this, too. It makes it really easy to find and break up those sugar lumps.

addine egg and milk
Stir in the egg milk mixture. Even though it doesn’t seem like much liquid, there is enough.

Add liquid. In a small bowl, or even a measuring cup, mix together the milk and egg, then pour it over the flour mixture and stir it in. It will be a dry dough, but it will come together. Just keep stirring. If needed, yep, you guessed it, get your hands in there to help mix it all up.

digestive biscuit dough
See, the dough will come together. You might have to get your hands in there and give it a few good kneadings.

Roll out. Take about half the dough and roll it out on your workspace. Dust with a bit of flour if it starts to stick to the rolling pin. Just a tip: it will stick, so have the flour handy. Keep rolling until the dough is between 1/8-inch and 1/4-inch thick. We would say 3/16-inch thick, but that just sounds silly. Just eyeball the thickness and you’ll do fine.

cutting biscuit rounds
We happened to find a small tin that was exactly 2 inches across. It’s really made to hold tiny cookie cutters, but we pressed it into service.

Cut. Using a floured 2-inch round cutter, cut out round biscuits and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets.

docking biscuits
Docking is a fancy term for poking holes. We think, but aren’t sure, that it’s called this because it “docks” one side of the dough to the other.

Dock. Grab a fork, any fork will do, and use the tines (the part with which you stab pieces of lasagna), to stab holes through these 2-inch biscuits. If you’re feeling silly, feel free to make little screaming noises as you pierce the biscuits. We didn’t, probably because we didn’t think of it until just now.

Bake. Slide the sheet into the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the biscuits start turning golden brown and the center sets up. Since you’re not really doing anything while they bake, you should be working on filling the next baking sheet.

digestive biscuits
Let the biscuits cool completely. Oh, just try one. It’s okay!

Cool. Remove the biscuits to a rack and let cool completely. Afterwards, store in an airtight tin, but be aware that these are best the first day. If you’ve been good, feel free to put a few chocolate chips on the biscuits while they’re still hot, then spread the chocolate over the surface as it melts.

If there is anything that we are missing in this country, it’s a good digestive biscuit. Yes, they look somewhat like cookies, but, in many ways, they are so much better. They aren’t really sweet, so you can eat more you don’t feel as if you’re on a sugar-high after eating a dozen few. Being a bit more savory, they are perfect with a cup of tea, or a quick between-meals snack. Now, we will say that these aren’t quite the same as McVitie’s Digestive Biscuits, and may not be quite as tasty, but, you have to realize that the last place we had McVitie’s was on the Emerald Isle, so our memories might, just might, have been influenced by our surroundings. Anyway, we give these five stars, provided you eat them on the first day; after that, they get four.

Worth the trouble?

2 Replies to “Oat Digestive Biscuits”

  1. Very entertaining instructions! Would like to try these, but I want to add a LOT of fresh chopped ginger, powder and candied. What do you think about the amounts I should try to incorporate?

    1. We are glad you like the write-up and we thank you for your kind words, but to be honest we’re not sure how much ginger you might add to these. We’d guess a teaspoon of dried, 1 1/2 teaspoon of combined minced fresh ginger/candied ginger.
      If you make them, let us know how they turn out, we’d be interested.

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