Dry biscuits. I remember the standards from when I was a child. Saos and Saladas. Ritz, Savoy and Jatz. And Vita-Weats. All still readily available and all living up to their name. Dry by name and dry by nature.
The word biscuit has its roots in Latin, where it means twice cooked. A dough would be baked and then dried out in a slow oven. Biscuits that we make like this in the modern era are things like biscotti, where a log is made, baked and then sliced and dried in a slow oven.
Savoury biscuits are a huge part of our grocery shop these days. According to the consumer advocate CHOICE, Australians spend more than $750 million a year on them. We eat savoury biscuits in all manner of ways. As standalone snacks. As vehicles for dip. As something to smear cheese on. As something to top with open sandwich-style ingredients. They seem to have become ubiquitous in people’s pantries, and are getting far fancier than the supermarket biscuits I grew up with. What I don’t understand is why we buy so many when they are so easy to make. Homemade savoury biscuits are far more delicious.
This is the recipe I use for making what I know as lavash. It’s a bit of a misnomer, as real lavash is typically an unleavened bread from the Middle East. Some traditional recipes call for the dough to be stretched over a bag of hay and then thrown against the wall of a tandoor-style oven. This is far simpler and way more conventional. I make this version to serve with cheese, so I am not looking for the biscuits to have too many dominant flavours. But if you were making these for eating with dips, you could always sprinkle the top with dukkah, zataar or sumac in addition to the salt and the olive oil.
There are also times that instead of cutting the biscuits into triangles, I will just bake it as a whole sheet and allow people to break off what they want. Whichever way it ends up, whether small or large, salted or spiced, it is delicious. And a far cry from the mouthful of dry Saladas I remember from my childhood.
225g plain flour
1 tsp salt flakes, plus a little extra for baking
1 tsp castor sugar
1 tsp nigella seeds, or poppy or sesame seeds
60ml olive oil, plus a little extra for baking
Preheat your oven to 170°C.
Place all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Combine the oil with 125 millilitres of water, then add this to the dry ingredients. Mix together until it forms a soft dough. Wrap and rest the dough for half an hour before rolling.
Line four baking sheets with baking paper. Divide the dough into four rectangles and roll each one out as thinly as possible. Transfer the rolled dough onto the baking paper on the trays and roll again until it is almost translucent. To cut the biscuits I use a pizza cutter, going up and down cutting triangles. Then give the biscuits a very light drizzle of olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown (check halfway through in case you need to turn the trays).
Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container for up to four weeks.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 28, 2020 as "Going crackers".
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