UPDATED JULY 2020
If you are a friend of mine there is a good chance you have eaten these cheese biscuits on more than one occasion: they are my go-to dinner party nibble and I can’t count the number of times I have made them. Easy, cheesy and dangerously more-ish, they are the perfect snack to serve hungry guests while dinner cooks in the oven. I will also often take these as a coming-for-dinner present, bagging the stars in little cellophane bags and tying them up with a pretty ribbon.
The beauty about this recipe (one which has taken several years to hone!) is that it’s very adaptable and can be tweaked subject to what you have loitering at the back of your cupboards.
Any kind of hard cheese works well here; gruyère, comté, emmental and gouda are all nice. Although I have specified the holy grail combination that is cheddar and parmesan, I tend to use whatever I have in the fridge. (Not to point out the obvious, but I wouldn’t recommend using a soft cheese for this recipe).
Plain flour and a pinch of baking powder will work in place the self-raising flour, although I do prefer the rise you achieve with self-raising.
Feel free to take creative control with the form your biscuits take – any kind of cutter shape or size will work (stars are simply my personal preference), and you could always cut them into thin rectangles to achieve more of a straw-like biscuit. In fact, you don’t even need to have a cookie cutter to hand (although I would always encourage such a state of affairs): simply roll the dough into a sausage-esque shape and cut into discs.
You might also consider varying the flavourings; a couple of pinches of finely chopped fresh rosemary gives a lovely herby taste, while the addition of chopped nuts or a sprinkling of sesame or poppy seeds adds a bit of texture.
Also in this recipe’s favour is the ease with which it can be scaled up or down. Halve the quantity for a smaller gathering, or double, triple (even quadruple!) for a larger crowd.
You can also freeze the dough ahead of time. Either freeze the ball of dough and defrost thoroughly in the fridge when needed or – even better – cut the biscuits into the desired shape, place on grease-proof lined baking trays, pop in the freezer and when fully frozen put the biscuits into a large sandwich bag. Then whenever you need them, cook from frozen as per the recipe below – just add a few extra minutes to the cooking time.
150g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
150g salted butter, fridge cold and cut into cubes
1 tsp mustard powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper or paprika
75g mature cheddar, grated
75g parmesan, grated, plus one small handful to sprinkle as a topping
1 egg, beaten
Makes 50-60 depending on the size of your cutter
Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
Measure the flour into a bowl and add the butter.
Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mix resembles rustic breadcrumbs.
Add the mustard powder and cayenne pepper/paprika and stir through the mix with a cutlery knife.
Add both cheeses and stir through with the cutlery knife until evenly distributed.
Using your hands, bring the mixture together until it forms a ball.
Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes (this stops the biscuits from spreading in the oven and losing their shape).
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out the dough to the thickness of 0.5cm.
Cut the dough into star shapes using a cookie cutter.
Transfer the biscuits onto the lined baking trays.
Brush each star with beaten egg…
…and sprinkle over the extra parmesan.
Bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes (you might need to do this in batches) until the biscuits are golden. Watch them like a hawk once they have been in for about 8 minutes – I have lost count of the number I have burnt these by only one or two minutes.
Leave on the trays for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
They keep well for a couple of days in an air-tight container, but I doubt they’ll last that long!