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  Themes Homepage > The First Biscuits
The First Biscuits

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The word biscuit comes from the Latin for 'cook twice'. This is because biscuits are usually baked and then dried out to remove moisture. It is this process which gives them their long life.
The expansion in sea travel from the sixteenth century onwards led to the development of the biscuit as we know it today. Owing to its nutritional properties and its long-life, the biscuit soon became indispensable to sailors on long voyages.
Thin Captain Biscuits, early twentieth century
Thin Captain Biscuits, early twentieth century
From the beginning of the nineteenth century "fancy biscuits" began to be produced. The main varieties were called Captain, Water and Cabin and, as the names suggest, they owed much to the traditional ship's biscuit. However since the 1600s the health benefits of biscuits had been recognised and some brands were produced which were named after doctors and physicians.
Huntley's First Biscuits
In the 1820s the London Street bakery was one of three Reading shops which specialised in biscuit baking whilst most of the thirty other bakers in the town made at least some biscuits. Its trade was on a modest scale as a sack of biscuit flour lasted for six months and no more than a quart of milk per day was required for biscuit making.
List of cakes and biscuits, 1830s
List of cakes and biscuits, 1830s
By the late 1830s the firm was selling about twenty different kinds of biscuit, from the Captain's, Abernethy and Oliver varieties to the more choice Cracknels, Macaroons, Ratafias and Sponge Tea Cakes. In addition it made four kinds of cake mostly produced in batches according to demand. There was also one or two items of confectionary including fancy bread rolls and some seasonal products such as Hot Cross Buns and Twelfth Night cakes.
Patent Unfermented Bread
In March 1844, in a bid to increase profits, Huntley & Palmers paid £50 for the right to make and sell patent unfermented bread within five and a half miles of Reading. In place of yeast, the bread contained hydrochloric acid and carbonate of soda. The new type of bread was an immediate success and led to a rise in profits which exceeded £1000 for the first time in 1845-46.
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