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  • Difficulty Easy, Normal

Recipe Description

Abernethy biscuits is a traditional confectionery named after English surgeon John Abernethy, who invented it in 1829 as a digestive biscuit to support proper digestion.

He believed that most diseases were caused by digestion disorders and had adapted the military hardtack biscuits recipe to include sugar for energy and caraway seeds, which was reputed to prevent flatulence.
His traditional formula was a combination of butter cookie and shortcake recipes and raised with ammonium bicarbonate, but modern recipes now use either baking powder or baking soda.

Abernethy biscuits are still very popular in Scotland and are commercially produced by a few confectionery manufacturers. These products, however, have not been imported into Malaysia, so the only way to sample them is to bake them yourself.

The key flavouring for Abernethy biscuits is caraway seeds, which resemble cumin and fennel in appearance but are milder in flavour with a pronounced hint of anise-like aroma. Caraway seeds are quite hard to find in Malaysia except at some shops that specialise in organic products. Here’s a shout-out to Deirdre Whittington from Scotland, who gave me her hoard of caraway seeds, as well as this recipe for Abernethy biscuits. She also advised against substituting with cumin or fennel because the biscuits will not taste the way it is supposed to.

When making the biscuit, the dough is lightly kneaded so that they are firm when baked but not overworked to become tough. About three to four turns are enough to give the biscuits the structure to hold their shape. When made properly the baked biscuit should snap like Marie biscuits and are perfect for dunking.

Recipe Ingredient

  • 225g all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt to taste
  • 90g unsalted butter
  • 90g castor sugar
  • ½ tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 egg


  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  2. Grease and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  3. Sift flour with baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Rub in the butter to form a crumb-like mixture. Mix in the sugar and caraway seeds. Whisk milk and egg in a small bowl and add to the mixture slowly to form the dough.
  4. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a big ball of dough. Roll the dough out to 2-3mm thick and cut into discs with the rim of a glass or a dough cutter. Gather the scraps and roll them out again to cut into discs.
  5. Place the discs slightly apart on the baking sheet, and use a skewer to poke holes all over the dough. Bake for 10-12 minutes till pale golden.
  6. Allow to cool on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.
  7. Serve Abernethy biscuits on their own or for dunking in milk or tea.

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