Dorset Knob, Dorset
Schoolboy tittering at the name of this rather rare culinary speciality could become a crescendo when the village in which they are made is mentioned – Morecombelake, a small place near Bridport .
The Dorset knob is a biscuit, or at least it is made by a biscuit company, Moore’s, and often sold in a biscuit tin. It is probably best described as being like a rusk. In looks though it is a bit like a bun, a bit less than two inches across and slightly less high, the top a pleasant bread-crust brown. Rusk, bun or biscuit, take your pick, which the unkind may say is the best tool for tackling one.
The Moore’s operation has made them since 1860, supposedly from leftover pieces of bread dough in the first instance. The technique is to make a flour, white sugar, oil (originally butter) yeast and water dough, kneed and prove it, then take small lumps off the mass and prove again before what could be called a triple baking: at high temperature turned once to let both top and bottom crisp, then at a low temperature for several hours during which they dry out. The process is labour and energy intensive, and so the makers restrict production to a brief period after Christmas and New Year, when demand for their doubtless more profitable luxury biscuits dips.
It is said that the product was eaten like a cereal in times past, drenched in milk or tea with perhaps the luxury of some sugar. For country folk it was a useful standby that would last for an inordinate length of time. These days it is promoted as an accompaniment to cheese, with or without a scraping of butter.
Incidentally, it is claimed that the Dorset knob got its name from its similarity to an embroidered button made in the area. Though I and every other male with a mental age of 13 would beg to differ.