Abernethy biscuits are round, flat, crisp semi-sweet biscuits made in Scotland.
They are made from flour, sugar, baking powder, fat, eggs, milk, lemon zest and caraway seed.
The most well-known commercial Abernethy Biscuits are made by “Simmers.” Simners don’t list caraway seed among the ingredients, only “Natural Flavouring.”Nutrition FactsPer 1 biscuitAmountCalories60Fat2.6 gCarbohydrate8.6 g
In the early 1800s, particularly in Scotland, there was an interest in “biscuits” as a health food.
Florence Marian McNeill, in her cookbook “The Scots Kitchen” (1929) says that biscuits called “Captain Biscuits” were made by a baker and that the addition of sugar and caraway seeds to make the biscuits more appealing was suggested by a Dr John Abernethy (1764–1831.) Alan Davidson (The Penguin Companion to Food) appears to endorse this story. Jacques L. Rolland (The Cook’s Essential Kitchen Dictionary), however, says that it was a barber who served the Captain Biscuits in his shop, and that Abernethy made the flavouring suggestions to him, and that in 1850, about 20 years after Abernethy’s death, the barber decided to switch careers to become a baker and make the biscuits commercially.
Simmers is in Craigmillar, Edinburgh. The company was started in 1888 by a man named “Forbes Simmers” in Hatton, Aberdeenshire. He bought out an existing bakery there for £60.
Literature & Lore
6l. — Abernethy Biscuits. (Dr. Abernethy’s Original Recipe.)
1 quart of milk, 6 eggs, 8 ozs. of sugar, ½ oz. of caraway seeds, with flour sufficient to make the whole of the required consistency. They are generally weighed off at 2 ozs. each, moulded up, pinned and docked, and baked in a moderate oven. Note. — The heat of an oven is not required so strong for biscuits containing sugar, as it causes them to take more colour in less time.
62. — Abernethys as made in London.
7 lbs. of flour, 8 ozs. of sugar, 8 ozs. of butter, 4 eggs, 1 ½ pint of milk, 2 tablespoonfuls of orange-flower water, ½ oz. of caraway seeds.
63. — Usual Way of making Abernethy Biscuits.
Take 8 lbs. of flour, 1 ½ lb. of butter and lard, 12 ozs. of sugar, ½ oz. of caraway seeds; some use about ½ oz. of powdered volatile salts. Proceed to make into dough as before. Well break the dough and finish with either hand or machine.
— Wells, Robert. The Bread and Biscuit Baker’s and Sugar-Boiler’s Assistant. London: Crosby Lockwood and Son, 7, Stationers’ Hall Court, Ludgate Hill, 1890.
Some children in Glasgow had a nasty game that they’d play on other, unsuspecting children in the street. They’d stop them, and ask them to say very very slowly and deliberately “Abernethy Biscuits.” To say the “th” in this manner, you have to put the tip of your tongue between your teeth, and that’s when they’d rap you under your chin, causing you to bite your tongue.
Stanton, Jim. Simmers takes the biscuit with rise in profit as customers get their oats. Edinburgh: The Scotsman. 25 April 2007.