Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Biscuit Inquisitions: Part 1

OK, you're probably as bored as I am of my biscuit posts reappearing and disappearing . You may have noticed my recent biscuit post is gone again.

The trouble is, I still can't really decide where to put the borderline of the definition of 'biscuit'.

I think the best way to work out how I need to define a biscuit is to decide what things need to be excluded from the definition. A biscuit is definitely not:
  • Custard or mousse. It's free-standing, and wouldn't wobble or pour off the plate if left alone.
  • Brownies. Biscuits are not gooey or wet. They might be a bit chewy, but are still dry and solid.
  • Cake. It doesn't have a bubbly texture, it's solid all the way through. It can be light and fluffy, but it'll never have the distinct kind of bubbles you get in cake. A lot of dictionary definitions call biscuits 'unleavened', but that's not strictly true. Loads of biscuits use baking powder to alter the texture.
  • Chocolates and sweets. Biscuits are always baked. I know some recipes call themselves 'no-bake' biscuits, but in my opinion there's no such thing. Those recipes are something other than biscuits. (I have nothing against them of course).
  • Cheesecake. It's random but think about it, if we used just free-standing, solid, and baked, cheesecake would be classed as a biscuit. We've missed the obvious one - they're made of flour. Of course they could be made with a flour alternative, like ground almonds and suchlike, but it's the same principle. The structure comes from that, as opposed to from eggs or something else.
  • Something really big. OK, I can't think of an example now but if you made something like a biscuit and made it a foot across, you wouldn't call it a biscuit, so it's relevant.
In conclusion then, a biscuit is:

A small, free-standing, solid, dry, baked food made from flour.

Any objections? If you think I should add anything else to the definition, please do let me know!

Now it's time to start the real legwork. I'm going for third time lucky on this biscuit thing. But it's going to take time. And serious scientific experimentation. There will be lists involved. There are likely to be calculators. There may even be graphs. I will keep you updated on my progress as I track the variation of the biscuit through ratio. It may be a long journey, so I will see you on the other side.

PS: These biscuit inquisitions will be nowhere near interesting enough to solely maintain the blog for however long it takes. They'll mostly be a supplement to my usual (thrilling) weekly posts - no need to panic.

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