Abernethy biscuit

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Abernethy biscuit
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Created byJohn Abernethy
Main ingredientsHardtack, sugar, caraway seeds

The Abernethy biscuit was invented by doctor John Abernethy in the 18th century as a digestive improver and hence aid to health.[1]

Abernethy believed that most diseases were due to disorders in digestion. The Abernethy biscuit is a type of digestive biscuit, a baked good originally designed to be eaten as a support to proper digestion.[2] In creating his biscuit, Abernethy was following a trend of other medical practitioners like English William Oliver of Bath, Somerset (invented the Bath Oliver) and the American preacher Sylvester Graham who was a nutrition expert (the Graham cracker).[3]

The Abernethy biscuit is an adaptation of the plain captain's biscuit or hardtack, with the added ingredients of sugar (for energy), and caraway seeds because of their reputation for having a carminative (prevents flatulence) effect[4] making them beneficial in digestive disorders. The biscuit is a mix between an all butter biscuit and a shortcake, raising through use of ammonium bicarbonate.[5] According to The Oxford Companion to Food, a baker at a shop where Abernethy regularly had lunch created the new biscuit when Abernethy suggested it, naming it after him.[6]

Abernethy biscuits are still popular in Scotland. They are manufactured commercially by Simmers (Edinburgh), Browns Bakery (Orkney Islands), Walls Bakeries (Shetland Islands), and by Stag Bakeries (Isle of Lewis).[7]

Sample ingredient list[edit]

The following are ingredients:[8]

The biscuit in history[edit]

When British statesman William Gladstone was Vice-President of the Board of Trade in the 1840s, his only luncheon consisted of an Abernethy biscuit, brought to him by his wife.[9]

In the libretto of the comic opera Princess Toto written by W. S. Gilbert (first performance 24 June 1876) the king disguises himself as an Abernethy Biscuit.[10]

In Charles Dickens' first novel The Pickwick Papers, the character of Mr. Solomon Pell is found, "in court, regaling himself,...., with a cold collation of an Abernethy biscuit and a saveloy".[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laura Halpin Rinsky; Glenn Rinsky (2009). The Pastry Chef's Companion: A Comprehensive Resource Guide for the Baking and Pastry Professional. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. p. 1. ISBN 0-470-00955-1. OCLC 173182689.
  2. ^ "Abernethy Biscuits". The Foods of England. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  3. ^ "Abernethy biscuit". theoldfoodie.com. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  4. ^ Prosper Montagné (1961). Larousse Gastronomique: The Encyclopedia of Food, Wine & Cookery. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. pp. 209–210.
  5. ^ "Abernethy biscuit". nicecupofteaandasitdown.com. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  6. ^ Alan Davidson (2006). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 78. ISBN 0-19-280681-5.
  7. ^ "Abernethy biscuit". bakersandlarners.co.uk. Archived from the original on 11 February 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  8. ^ "Traditional Scottish Recipes - Abernethy Biscuits". Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  9. ^ George William Erskine Russell. Seeing and Hearing. Project Gutenberg. p. 169. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  10. ^ W. S. Gilbert. "Princess Toto – An entirely new and original English Comic Opera in Three Acts" (PDF). The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive. p. 57. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  11. ^ "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club", (1836) p. 774, Charles Dickens