Recipe: Bath Olivers – the perfect cheese delivery system

Bath Oliver crackers: delighting cheese lovers since 1750.
Sam Mannering

Bath Oliver crackers: delighting cheese lovers since 1750.

Decent cheese needs a decent vehicle and sometimes you need more than just the old cream cracker.

A physician from Bath, by the name of William Oliver, invented the original recipe in 1750, hence the curious name. Like smoked kippers, a decent pork pie or a good Stilton, Bath Olivers are one of those old-school stalwarts of the English table. This is a rustic take on the traditional recipe. I like them because it you can bake the dough in large lengths and then break them up as required; or alternatively, you can roll the dough out in a single sheet and cut them into rounds. 

I always like to have a jar of these at the ready, perhaps with a stick of rosemary put in with them so that the crackers end up infused with lovely herby flavour. My good friend James at New Zealand Cheese (look him up, you won't regret it) always has something wonderful up his sleeve for me to go with them; Grinning Gecko brie is a sublime match, or a rich creamy blue such as Mt Eliza's Blue Monkey.

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Bath Oliver crackers

Serves: depends on how greedy you are
Prep time: 15 mins, plus 30 mins rising time
Cook time: 15-20 mins

150ml milk
60g butter
15g yeast
100g rye, spelt or oatmeal flour
250g good wholemeal flour
About 1 tsp sea salt, plus more to sprinkle over
Several sprigs of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

Combine the milk and butter in a saucepan and heat slowly over a very low temperature until the butter has melted. Transfer to a large bowl, stir in the yeast and a pinch of flour and leave to stand somewhere warm for 10 minutes, so that the yeast has a chance to bubble up. Combine the flours together and stir into the mixture with the sea salt and most of the rosemary, and knead to a smooth dough. Taste a little bit of the dough and add some more salt if need be. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to stand for about 20 minutes, to allow the dough to rise.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Knock down the dough and divide into four equal pieces.

If you have a pasta machine, carefully roll the dough through that until you have lengths of dough about 2mm thick. Otherwise, use a rolling pin. Dust the pieces with a little extra wholemeal flour if necessary.

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Cut the lengths into rectangles or squares, and lay out on lined trays. Scatter with the remaining rosemary and a bit more sea salt, and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until they are crisp and slightly golden brown. Allow them to cool completely on a rack before serving. They will keep well in airtight containers.

 - Sunday Star Times

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