A Bath Oliver is a hard, dry biscuit or cracker made from flour, butter, yeast and milk; often eaten with cheese. It was invented by the physician William Oliver of Bath in Somerset around 1750.
William Oliver was a legendary physician who treated people with the spa waters in Bath, which is why the biscuit was named Bath Oliver.
The origin of the Bath Oliver biscuits
Bath Oliver biscuits date from the eighteenth century when Bath was a centre for all good things in England and fertile ground for medical men who specialised in soothing the strained digestions of the wealthy and over-indulgent. When he died in 1749 Dr William Oliver, the famous Bath physician who invented this biscuit, left the recipe, 10 sacks of flour and 100 sovereigns to his coachman, who opened a shop selling the biscuits and made his fortune.
The Bath Oliver recipe still appears to be a closely guarded secret, but If you’re feeling brave, why not attempt making your own Bath Oliver biscuits by following the below recipe for friends and family
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon dried yeast
- 50 grams of butter
- 150 grams skimmed milk
- 340 grams plain flour
- Place water in a mixing bowl and heat at 37 degrees for 20 seconds. Pour into a bowl and sprinkle yeast over and leave to soften. Place butter in mixing bowl and melt for 40-50 seconds at 50 degrees, speed 4. Add milk to butter and heat at 37 degrees for 40 seconds.
- Add the yeast mixture to the milk and butter, with 70g of the flour, and mix on speed 3 for 5 seconds. Leave lid on mixing bowl and leave for 10 minutes.
- Add the remaining 270g flour and the salt. Mix for 6 seconds on speed 6; then knead for 2 minutes.
- Transfer dough to a thermomat (or place in a bowl and cover) and form into a ball, place in a warm place for 15 minutes.Preheat the oven to 160º C.
- Roll the dough on Thermomat into a rectangle about ½ in/13mm thick.
- Fold the bottom third of the dough up, and then the top third down on top of it. Rotate the dough so that the folded edge is on the right side. This is one 'turn'.
- Press down all over the surface with the rolling pin, then roll out again and repeat for 6 - 8 turns.
- You will find that the dough resists rolling after a couple of turns, and keeps shrinking back, so cover it with a cloth and leave to relax for about 5 minutes before you continue to roll.
- Once all the turns are done, rest the dough for another 5 minutes, then roll it out as thinly as you can - no thicker than ¼ in / 7 mm.
- REMOVE FROM THERMOMAT and place onto a cutting board (never cut directly onto Thermomat). Cut into large circles about 3 in / 8 cm diameter and place them on oven trays lined with baking paper. press with a blunt skewer or similar (I used the end of a small paintbrush) to make indentations.
- Cut leftover scraps of dough into shapes and place on baking tray, these make smaller crackers so you don't waste any dough.
- Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown and crisp, rotating the oven trays half way through.
- These are plain crackers, but if you wish you can brush them with water or milk before baking and sprinkle with a topping of your choice. Try flaky salt, caraway seeds, paprika, chilli powder, grated parmesan cheese - or even sugar.