I’m talking about cookies—or “biscuits” if you’re on the other side of the Atlantic—known as Hobnobs.
If you are unfamiliar with Hobnobs, you are in for a tasty treat today, my friends. Hobnobs are a delicious oat-based British cookie, similar to a digestive biscuit, that are available plain or with a layer of chocolate. As far as I can tell, Hobnobs are to the U.K. what Oreos are to the U.S. As Oreos are marketed as “milk’s favorite cookie,” Hobnobs might be called “tea’s favourite biscuit.”
Most major U.S. grocery retailers sell Hobnobs in their international sections, including World Market. Alas and alack, they’re pretty pricey for the size of the package. (Heh.) Naturally, I set out to find a recipe I could make at home. After trying several versions with varying degrees of failure, I finally tweaked them to create what I think comes close enough to satisfy my Hobnob hunger.
And I am writing this post to share the cookies of my labor with you. You may thank me now, later, or both.
First, the ingredients:
1 cup oats/oatmeal
1/3 cup of whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs shortening (like Crisco)*
1 Tbs butter*
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
semisweet or milk chocolate chips
Special Equipment: Food processor (a blender might work too, but I haven’t tried it), some kind of round cookie-cutter shape (ideally about 2 inches in diameter), and a rolling pin (a wine bottle will work too, in a pinch)
* I’ve never tried it, but coconut oil may be a good substitute for either the butter or shortening or both. You want something that is solid at room temperature to get the right texture for the dough. I’m not sure how that will change the flavor, though.
And now, the Steps:
Pardon the lower-quality photos. My camera battery died, so I had to use my iPod.
1. Brew yourself a cup of tea.
(OK, this step isn’t actually necessary, it just adds to the Experience.)
1b. Pour 1 cup of oats into food processor. Pulse a few times to start breaking up the oats. Don’t overdo it—you don’t want the oats to become all powder.
2. Add 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt to food processor. Pulse a few more times until everything is evenly combined. You’ll want a few larger bits of oats to remain, for Texture.
3. Add 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 Tbs butter, and 1 Tbs shortening. Pulse some more to combine.
4. Add the 1/2 tsp vanilla and the 2 Tbs vegetable oil. Pulse, pulse, pulse, like the lifeblood that flows through your veins. The mixture should be oddly clumpy and a little misshapen. You may have to stop to scrape the sides a time or two.
5. Turn on the food processor and let it run, adding the cold water 1/2 Tbs at a time. Give it lots of blending time between doses of water. You want the mixture/dough to form a big ball in the food processor, but you don’t want it very wet.
6. Remove dough from food processor (turn the processor off first, for goodness’ sake!!!!), form it into a ball, and wrap it in cellophane.
7. Let the dough chill like a vill…ain for about 20 minutes.
8. Unwrap the dough and roll it out with a rolling pin to about 1/4 inch thick. If the dough is too sticky, use a dusting of flour (preferably whole-wheat) and roll it out on some wax paper. If it’s still too sticky, then you used too much water when it was in the food processor and have brought dishonor on your family.
9. Cut out the dough into shapes, and place it on cookie sheets.
As you can see, with the amounts and methods I used, I got 7 uniformly-sized cookies and one weensy Hobnob cobbled from leftover scraps of dough. Slight differences in dough thickness and cutting size may yield a different number. You don’t have to be too careful about spacing them out on the sheet. They will expand and puff out, but not a lot.
10. Bake at 350 degrees F until cookies are set and nicely browned around the edges. I think it took me at least 15 minutes, but I’m pretty sure my oven temperature is out of whack. Your Mileage May Vary. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack.
11. If you want chocolate Hobnobs (because of course you do), melt some semisweet or milk chocolate and spread a thin layer on the completely cooled Hobnobs. Let the chocolate cool and harden either at room temperature or in the fridge.
12. Make a(nother) cup of tea to have with your Hobnobs.
Eat them while watching the latest Sherlock, if you have good taste, or the latest Downton Abbey if you don’t. (Ooooohhhh!!!!!!)