Few people go to the trouble of baking water biscuits, the crisp savoury crackers most of us automatically buy in packets, to serve with cheese. It is an interesting challenge, however, and the ingredients could not be more basic — fat, flour and water. Keeping the fat-to-flour ratio low, at about 1 to 4, makes it easier to roll the pastry very thin. A way of preventing curl is to prick the biscuits all over. You will also get a lighter result by adding a little baking powder to plain flour, which will help create the slightly bubbled surface characteristic of water biscuits. The fat needs to be worked in as cold as possible and this is a pastry which benefits from using a food processor briefly to do the job. If you overwork it, the result will be too elastic, making the pastry difficult to roll out, and the biscuits will be unpalatably chewy.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°/gas 4. Sift the flour into a food processor with the baking powder. Add the lard dice and blitz briefly to a crumb, then add just enough of the ice-cold water through the feeder tube,
Roll out thinly (about 3 mm /⅛ inch) on a floured surface. Prick all over and cut into 10-cm / 5-inch rounds with a pastry cutter. Transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and bake in the oven for 10–15 minutes, when they will have taken a pale colour. Allow to cool on a rack.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.