The River Cottage Spelt Digestives

Once upon a time in a land far away, well in 1892, Scotland to be exact, Alexander Grant, a rather enterprising apprentice baker, invented the digestive biscuit. Working at the already popular McVities Bakery in Edinburgh he devised and produced what was to become arguably one the UK’s most popular biscuits.

The digestive gained it’s name from the amount of baking soda in the recipe as this was allegedly supposed to aid digestion. So what you ended up with was a good tea dunking biscuit which helped with the odd stomach ache. What I would call a win/win situation.

Somewhat like Colonel Sanders secret herbs and spices recipe McVities have closely guarded the secret digestive recipe for years and according to their website still use the original recipe today. Which just goes to show you what a good confidentiality clause they must have in their employment contract.

Home bakers of course have been trying to replicate the digestive for years and the internet is overflowing with different recipes. This is the first time I have attempted the digestive, but with the overindulgence of Christmas I was in the mood for something a little less sweet and these spelt digestives from “The River Cottage Bread Handbook” hit the spot.

Oh and in case you were wondering what became of Alexander Grant, Alexander stayed with McVities, eventually took over the company when the original partners retired and became a very wealthy man. All that from one small humble biscuit…


Adapted from The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens.

Makes 20


  • 125gm unsalted butter, cubed
  • 125gm spelt flour
  • 125gm ground oats
  • 50gm brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • milk.


In a food processor blend the butter and flour to a fine breadcrumb consistency.

Add the oats, sugar, salt and baking powder and blend to combine.

Add the milk a few drops at a time until you have a slightly sticky dough.

Form into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out dough between two sheets of baking paper until approx. 1/2 cm thick. Using a 7cm round cutter, cut dough into circles. Place on a baking tray covered with baking paper.

Bake at 175°C for 7-10 minutes.

Allow to cool on tray for 5-10 minutes then place on wire rack to cool completely.

17 thoughts on “The River Cottage Spelt Digestives

  1. TheKitchenLioness

    Dear Karen, you already know that I am a River Coittage groupie – so the title of this recipe readily caught my attention. But now that I have read through your post, I know that I will have to make these – they look wonderful. I love spelt flour, I love digestive cookies, now all I have to do is make them! Maybe dunk half of them in deep dark, good-quality chocolate (one side only).
    Btw, did you use white spelt flour or brown spelt flour for these? I found this wonderful regional flour mill and they carry the best spelt flours, ever.
    Thank you for all your inspirations,

  2. David

    The story makes you want to invent a biscuit, doesn’t it? 🙂 I have never had a digestive biscuit – I should definitely try these! Happy New Year!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s