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Caxton Pink'n'Whites

Wednesday 13 Oct 2004

Wafers have to have a very good reason indeed to make it on to the biscuit of the week review list, and this weeks biscuit has managed to secure a place through the ultimate use of executive power, my Mum made me buy them. Not only that but she launched into a speech about how they are 98% fat free, and her sister likes them too. Given that we seem to be addressing biscuits with some kind special feature in the current batch of reviews I pleaded plausible deniability based on low fat content and allowed some wafers into my trolly.

Now it turns out that Caxton is a brand name for OP Chocolate, based in Merthyr Tidfyl (thats: mer-tha tid-vil) South Wales not far from where I grew up. Anyone who finds themselves in the locality of Merthyr usually takes advantage of one the three roads by-passing it, there by avoiding actually going there. This was the industrial heartland of the South Wales valleys with a history that dates from the early industrial revolution iron works, through to the manufacture of the Sinclair C5 at the old Hoover washing machine plant (from bits of washing machine no doubt). The name in Welsh refers to St Tydfil and some kind of burial, of what or whom nobody is terribly sure. Founded in Wales 1938 by Austrian Oscar Peschek, and relocating to Merthyr in 1963, OP is today part of French Groupe Cemoi. OP has a thriving business making every sort of wafer, and chocolate wafer for own label supermarket products. Ever wondered where those Tunnocks or Kit Kat look-alikes came from?

Now, however, we are faced with sort of niche product that needs to carve out a name for itself, and which comes in a big bright pink packet. The last wafer and mallow product which we examined (Super DIckmann alike Lidls Choco Softie) was denounced by some as seaside confectionary. With this product I fear we are very paddling in the same waters. The wafer seems to have been procured from a batch meant for ice-cream vans, and had all the features one would expect. This includes bold diamond ridges, and finer square ridging on the underside and that warm golden, well Ice Cream cone colour. At 95mm by 48mm this is a big biscuit, but as its largely made of air that is fairly irrelevant.

The mallow center consists of two strips of mallow laid one on top of the other. The white bit is ever so slightly bigger than the pink bit. I'll leave that to you to decide why. Personally I thought of four possible reasons before I got bored. Its also worth noting that robots are used on the mallow production line. Perhaps they can't handle big pink bits? That makes five.

What does it taste like? Oh come on you know what it tastes like. I found it difficult to eat mine without looking slightly pained. Nanny Nicey on the other hand scoffed hers down and once again reminded us all that they are 98% fat free and only 50 calories each.

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Nairns Stem Ginger Wheat Free Biscuits

Monday 4 Oct 2004

The other week we took a look at some organic chocolate biscuits. This week we are going to take a look at that much requested subject of wheat free biscuits. Now all things being equal I would normally leave the wheat free Bourbons and so forth that are available to those with special dietary requirements. However, when the oat engineers extraordinare Nairns get involved its time to investigate.

Nairns are the oat focused division of Simmers who are best known for their Abernethy biscuits. Nairns produce a range of oat cakes using Scottish oats which have been grown to conservation grade which although it can't be called organic farming does use many of the same traditional farming practices. Wildife assets such as hedges, ponds and woods are cared for as the creatures they support actively control crop pests. I've been enjoying their oatcakes since meeting up with them last year at the Good Food Show at Birmingham NEC. Up till then I had stayed away from oatcakes being somewhat confused by their name, however, now I'm quite keen on a rough oat cake and a nice bit of cheese, slice of apple, glass of red, you know the sort of thing.

The first thing to note about the stem ginger biscuits is that like their savoury cousins they are packaged within the box as four cellophane packs of five. I suppose we This is so handy, as it means your biscuits are always crisp and fresh and you can easily pop them into lunch boxes and the like. Five is a good number being a two whole biscuits more than a just sufficient three.

As with other Nairns products the flavour is very clean and un-cluttered. This lets the subtle interplay between the stem ginger and the powdered ginger sing through. The biscuits are fairly thin and crisp, and have a pleasing golden colour. They are not overly sweet, and this again allows for a fairly impressive tang on the tongue from the ginger.

I would have frankly been amazed if I didn't like these. I liked them a lot. Hopefully Nairns will continue to expand their range with other such interesting offerings.

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Asda Fruit Shrewsbury with Lemon Drizzle

Friday 17 Sep 2004

Once in a while we get asked where you can get hold of a fruit Shrewsbury, to which the stock answer is 'possibly on GNER mainline services from London to Edinburgh, although I can't personally confirm that'. We think they are made by Patterson-Arran who supply biscuits to the catering and hospitality trade under the brand of Bronté biscuits. So when I saw a pack of Asda own label Fruit Shrewsburys I felt compelled to act decisively and bunged them in the trolley.

I tried to ignore the lemon drizzle stuff, pushing it to the back of my mind and hoping that when it re emerged it would take the form of a lovely surprise. However, drizzle is a type of weather and really has no place on top of a biscuit. In fact its one of those words that has migrated from everyday parlance to the restaurant in order to help us better understand why we are expected to pay lots of money for something that looks like its been dropped on the floor. Its not quite as annoying as those 'Marmalades' that have been made from Red Onions and Balsamic Vinegar (hello that's what we call pickle). I think the term swarf (which is the curly bits of metal that collect under lathes, and that we weren't allowed to touch in metal work at school in case it cut us to shreds) is ripe for appropriation by the restaurant trade. Yep, I can quite imagine at some point hence tucking into a small traffic island of flash fried sea bass with a courgette and beetroot swarf, on a rocket and watercress decking drenched by an unexpected downpour of raspberry and walnut dressing.

Anyhow back to the biscuits, what is going on there? Well not much really. The lemon drizzle is fairly closely aligned to the sort of stuff that appears on top of supermarket lemon sponge cakes. Being a mixture of sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil and flavouring its not the sort of gear that you really want to seeing large quantities of, so perhaps this explains the drizzle rather than torrential lemon. The biscuit contains a sprinkling of fairly dried up currents. As to if this is really a genuine Shrewsbury, it didn't ring particularly true. Sure its some sort brittle shortcake biscuit with a good clean snap, but it doesn't seem to have the density I would have expected. As for the flavour I would mostly say sugar.

So all in all I feel that I'm going to keep looking on trains for more representative members of the genre.

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