|Tuesday 6 Sep 2005|
|About time too, I'm sure many of you are thinking as you spy this weeks biscuit, the Cadbury's Finger. How has such a classic remained un-reviewed for so long? Explain your self Nicey, and make it good.
Well the first thing I would like to trot out by way of defence is that I was brought up to view the Cadbury's Finger as some form of decadent luxury item. There were so many things about it which elevated to the level of oppulent living.
To begin with, it came in a box, with little compartments to hold a couple of bunches of fingers. When all other biscuits in my universe at the time were wrapped in cellophane, possibly with a bit of cardboard in there for support, the Cadbury Finger seemed very grand. I felt Cadbury's Finger moved in the same social circles as the After Eight Mint, even turning up at some the same events such as Boxing Day tea with the turkey sandwiches and mince pies.
Then there was its crowning glory and simulataneous strength and weakness, an entire and seemless coat of Cadbury's chocolate. Of course this made it an object of sweet desire. However, in the wrong hands, typically anybody under the age of ten, it could be used as an object of destruction. In this case the destruction of clean clothes, upholstery, carpets and so on. In a competitive envirnment such as a plate of them at a birthday party, things were actually fairly safe as it was imperative to all taking part that the chocolate fingers were scoffed in record time. This was to ensure your fair quota.
In slightly less pressured environments, such as being a bit spoiled by one of your Aunties, things could get a bit messy. One could experiment with techniques for chocolate removal safely going unoticed in cacophony of gossip. Nibbling, licking and slurping all resulted in some form of unwelcome post biscuit personal cleansing. Frequently taking the form of a damp dish cloth in the face.
So oddly I've never really spent my adult life buying Cadbury's fingers, but not because I don't like them. Probably more to do with not having sufficiently auspicious tea drinking occasions to merit their appearence. Also melted chocolate plays havoc with ones keyboard.
When I bought the review pack I had quite a time tracking them down, due to their spawning of several subspecies. There are now giant fingers, mini fingers, white chocolate fingers, caramel, crunchy fingers and combinations of said. I wanted proper straight forward original ones, which I eventually found.
My suspicions were aroused immediately by the box, which was a long rectangular affair rather than the squarish ones of old. Inside the sheet of shiny dark brown paper over the top of the compartments, is no longer to be found. What we do find is that today's Cadburys finger is a much smaller affair than its forbear, hence the different shaped box. Perhaps the effort of giving birth to giant and mini ones has left it stunted. Now this could simply be the Wagonwheel effect at work but I'm sure that they are genuinely smaller. However, they still seem to taste the same which was a welcome relief. The pale biscuit core quietly goes about its business, providing a crunchy vehicle on which the chocolate can ride. Its always known its place and doesn't attempt to interfere with the flavour of Cadbury's chocolate. However, the role of the biscuit shouldn't be downplayed given the number of people who have told us that they like to use theirs as a drinking straw. It begs the question: Which came first, the Aussie Tim Tam slam or British Cadbury Finger Straw?
Now to its performance as a finger. Really its main rivals in the finger arena are the Rich Tea finger and the Sponge finger. The rich tea finger is actually very poor when it comes to looking like a finger, and therefore makes a woeful finger substitute. The sponge finger, does much better looking like brutish but sugar frosted fingers. As such it can lend its self to structural duties in desserts and the like. It also does a good job of confounding the whole naive biscuits go soft cakes go hard argument. As for the Cadbury finger its very possibly a bit too slender, however, it can often surpass itself as an integral part of birthday cakes, helping to create wooden forts, pirate ships and even spiders legs. For this alone it deserves our utmost respect and deference.
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Breton Biscuit Super Review
|Monday 22 Aug 2005|
|Since the younger members of staff joined the NCOTAASD team our fact finding missions to continental Europe have been somewhat curtailed. This year, however, we felt that their training for such a mission was at an end and it was time to put what they have learnt into action. Where better to aim for than the one place in France where all carefully gathered biscuit information had been pointing to. The Bretagne region, or Brittany as we like to call it.
On a previous strike mission we had secured a pack of Galette Bretone, or French butter biscuits which uncharacteristically for France were superb with tea. French contacts in the UK (Mattiew from the 21st Century Fig Fest) had also informed me of the Palet Bretonne, a much thicker bulkier biscuit. So we arrived in Brittany with a simple plan of attack. Find more examples of the Galette Bretonne and track down the Palet Breton in its wild state.
Field HQ for NCOTAASD was the northen Breton town of Plouha, where we took up a strategic position just 30 meters from the nearest boulangerie. From here we could make between 2 to 3 daily sorties to stock up on bread, pastries and cakes. Up the hill was a well stocked super market which even had packs of PG Tips, McVities Digestives and Weetabix. Despite coming away with 80 pyramid bags, this removed a huge amount of 'running out of proper tea bags' tension that I had been struggling to overcome.
The Bretons identify themselves with other Celtic races, the Scots, Irish, Welsh and Cornish. This gives them noticeably different out look on life to the rest of France. Their Patisseries and Boulangeries all have the local Breton specialities available which appear to be: Far Breton, a rich custard tart with prunes in; Kouign Aman, an impressive butter toffee covered layered pastry; Rice pudding, found in vast bowls on the counter next to the till and Galette Bretonne a la maison. All this stuff was thoroughly tested by the younger members of staff and myself until we were sure what its agenda was.
The two supermarkets in Plouha were amply stocked with the biscuits we sought. I adopted a moderately rigourous approach to the Galettes and chose three different packs which seemed to be steeped in Breton baking tradition, and all appear to have been baked in Brittany too. As for the Palets Bretonne Wifey choose them because they came in a nice little wooden chest a picture of a lighthouse on it and starfish stuck on the side. Of course the bonus was that it contained the biscuits I needed to inspect.
As we have previously reviewed the Galette Bretonne I'll be brief and note that happily all three test subjects were indeed different. The Tanguy were much as I had experienced before with a sweet egg glaze over a crisp biscuit whose pure butter combines with its sugar to give an almost butterscotch flavour. Indeed the Pleyben the thinnest of the three put me in mind rattling around the bottom of a pack of Butterkist Toffee Popcorn. The French call this sort of stuff 'croustillant' which means crunchy or crusty depending what its finding itself applied to. The third member of the trio made by Mere Poulard (translation: Mother small-Chicken (possibly a Bantam)). Although being glazed by eggs that are apparently 'extra-fresh', being embossed with a little picture of Le Mont St Michel and being packed in a lovely box, these were perhaps my least favourite. They just seemed to lack rustic charm of the other two. However, that said, they still followed same basic recipe of butter, sugar, flour, eggs, a little raising and maybe a drop or two of vanilla essence. With ingredients like that your biscuits are going to be tasty.
So to the Palet Bretonne and the first thing of note and seeing how we were just talking about is that the ingredients are fairly much the same for the galettes. The Palets are however about half an inch thick. The best way of describing them is like a very well baked piece of Victoria sponge that has ceased to spongy. It has about the same density and possibly flavour although once again the butter contributes greatly to this. As a dunker in warm tea the Palet is going to be quite interesting but in piping hot tea its romantic French construction is going to let it down.
All in all we had a very successful tea tour in France, and in our next news letter I'll be going in to depth on the formidable and highly impressive Kouign Amann cake.
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|Wednesday 20 Jul 2005|
|Regulars of the site will know that we hold the work of Fox's biscuits in the highest regard, but as some have spotted we have managed to overlook one of their staple offerings The Classic. Well lets get that sorted out as Norman Cook would get a sample to repeat over and over, probably by holding down a little button or something, "Right Here Right Now".
Now straight away I'll cut to the chase and tell you why we have over looked these biscuits for so long. It was simply their name that put me off. Yes I know that's a poor reason but I'm sure it's true. You see despite the biscuits having obvious qualities, made by Fox's, that golden crunchy biscuit they do so well, chocolate covered and cream up the middle, I couldn't get past the name. Even for Fox's Classic seemed a bit presumptuous. How was it a classic? I thought of classics of fields of human endeavor, such as art, engineering and entertainment and tried to square this with the world of biscuits. Surely the Bourbon or the Rich Tea are classics. This rather complex chocolate bar wannabe was surely too contrived to merit such a name. And so I passed it by time after time, like somebody who frequents the same places as you and yet have never spoken to.
However, the readers of NCOTAASD tend to spot such obvious oversights in our coverage of the planet's biscuits and so after yet another email imploring me to try the Classic I finally decided that it was time to clear the air and formally introduce ourselves to one another. This took the form of me popping in a 14 pack (two inner packs of seven) into my shopping basket. As with all NCOTAASD formal introductions the proceedings included a big mug of tea, and where chocolate covered biscuits are concerned a big knife to cleave them in half and study their inner workings.
Immediately I began to feel a little sheepish, as all the elements of the biscuit worked together in an unaffected display of Fox's biscuit craft. Yes there was a note of coconut in the biscuit but it played its part competently against the oatmeal. As I saw off my second Classic it slowly dawned on me. I had set this pleasant little biscuit too bigger a stage to play upon, it was a Classic within the bounds of Fox's biscuit kingdom. All the elements were there, the sweet Fox's chocolate, the soft cream filling and of course the light golden crispy biscuit. I apologised for the misunderstanding then let the younger members of staff introduce themselves.
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