This Christmas just gone, these moreish Parmesan and nigella seed biscuits from Belinda Jeffrey's cookbook Mix & Bake became known as 'Christmas Crack' in our household. I baked them to give away as edible gifts, but in fact, I think (no actually, I'm sure) I ended up consuming more than I gifted (oops!). On their own, or with a glass of bubbles for aperitivo, breakfast, lunch, dinner and anytime in-between, these buttery savoury shortbreads are dangerously good – so good they should come with their own warning! Happy baking and thank you Belinda for the baking inspiration.
Makes about 80
300g plain flour
50g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
200g grated good-quality cheddar
250g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, strained
Nigella seeds or black or white sesame seeds, for sprinkling
1. Put the flours, salt and chilli flakes into a food processor and whiz until well combined. Add the parmesan and cheddar, and whiz until the cheeses are thoroughly mixed in. Add the butter and whiz until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Drizzle in the lemon juice and let the processor run until a ball of dough forms around the blade.
2. Lay a large sheet of foil on a bench and cover it with a sheet of baking paper. Knead half the dough lightly to bring it into a ball, then shape it into a log 2.5cm in diameter. Sit the log along one side of the baking paper and roll it up in the paper. Next, roll it in the foil. Twist the ends tightly in opposite directions so you end up with something that looks like a very long bonbon. Do the same with the remaining piece of dough. If you are baking the biscuits the same day, chill the logs for 2-3 hours in the fridge until they are firm enough to slice. Or at this stage you can freeze the logs until you need them (they keep well in the freezer for about 5 weeks; just defrost them in the fridge before slicing them).
3. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Unwrap the logs and roll the dough in the seeds to coat the edges. Cut the logs into 5mm-thick slides, then arrange slices on baking trays lined with baking paper.
4. Bake, in batches if necessary, for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and leave biscuits on trays for 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.