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Fox's Brandysnaps

Monday 26 Sep 2005

Look at that Brandysnap, isn't utterly fantastic, all sweet buttery and brittle, just waiting to shatter into a mouthful of delicious little toffee shards! Now I could just leave this weeks review at this point, but one sentence would be a bit on the lean side. Besides if you haven't guessed by now I really, really like Brandysnaps, and feel the need the share that with you.

Fox's actually started out making Brandysnaps back in 1853 in Batley Yorkshire where they are still made today. Given that history lets not get into any silly arguments about who makes proper Brandysnaps. Fox's are the chaps. Instead we should quickly turn our enquiring minds to fact at no point in their recipe does brandy seem to figure. Obviously with a 150 year old biscuit there is plenty of scope for it to have a forgotten past that saw it teaming up Brandy.

Also if we look at the box it seems that rather than pour ourselves an enormous glass of Courvoiuser put our feet up and begin to polish of the contents we are more encouraged to use them to create desserts. Raspberries and cream abound, and one is even to seen poking out of a sundae at forty five degrees. No doubt this is all very delicious, but certainly we have always viewed the Brandysnap as too precious to muck about embroiling it some dessert. No I would much rather deal with them on a fairly one to one basis, although if they did bring along two or three of their friends that would be just fine.

So what exactly is a Brandysnap? Well it can be thought of as the missing link between ginger biscuits and toffee, the hard brittle stuff. The main ingredients are sugar, flour, butter oil and a little bit of ground ginger. When baked the mixture forms thin discs of bubbly toffee. As these cool and before they have hardened they are wrapped around something approximating to the handle of a wooden spoon. This gives them their distinctive tube shape. It also means that they are about as fragile as it possible for a biscuit to be. A company of Brandysnaps requires a great deal of packing just to ensure that a few of their number arrive at your table unscathed. In fact our review box which was the last one on the shelf contained only two intact Brandysnaps out of the complement of eight. It also illustrates how popular this old favourite is especially amongst the forward thinking people at this time of year. If you did follow that last comment, then your Christmas's at your grannies must have been quite different to mine.

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McVities Chip 'n' Chunk Cookies

Monday 19 Sep 2005

The McVities brand makeover continues even if their own web site is cheerfully still talking about the one before last. It even goes on to natter on about those defunct McV Cookies that edged us towards the other side of the Atlantic. Well that was all some time ago and now they've adjusted their cookie sights (if not their web-sites). It would appear that McVities are going after the Maryland cookie with their latest offering.

So what are we looking for in such a high profile new biscuit? I would say quality, innovation and good old fashioned cup of tea appeal.

As far as quality goes then everything seems to be in place. As befits a new recipe in the 21st century the hydrogenated fat has been left out. This leads to a much crumblier biscuit, which is also a bit prone to going stale. So if you don't plan on seeing them all off in one go then a proper airtight biscuit tin is going to be needed. Still full marks to McVities here for giving us all one less thing to worry about, especially at such an important de-stressing moment as the cup of tea and sit down.

Now to innovation. This is obviously a big play for the choc-chip cookie sector of the market which has always belonged to in the UK to the Maryland cookie. Too much in the way of original thought and McVities may well end up missing out on converting Maryland eaters to McVities. Yes, they haven't strayed too far away from the genre and in fact have resorted to the oldest trick in the book when it comes to competing for the top slot in choc chip cookies, they've put more choc in. Rather than get into an ugly slanging match about percentages McVities have moved the goal posts by creating chip 'n' chunk cookies, which have both plain choc chips (18%) and larger milk chocolate chunks (6%). This is as far as the innovation goes for today. As far as flavours so far we've spotted Milk chocolate chunk, Choc 'n' Hazelnut and White chocolate chunk.

So it comes down to good old fashioned cup of tea appeal, and here I think we've stumbled at the fence. The anticipated biscuit cull that usually accompanies the arrival of steaming mugs of tea failed to materialise. To set the stage the chocolate bits are all very chocolately as one would hope for, but the biscuit part seems to have taken a step back to become a simple foil to the chocolate. The cookie to fair to it probably works best with milk. For the sake of rigour I tried that hoping for a minor revelation. It never came. Ultimately my attention remained un-grabbed, and I think that was due to the in-substantive nature of the biscuit holding all those chunks together. If you like your biscuit to obligingly dissolve in your mouth to expose whatever its payload is then this is for you. I prefer mine to put up a bit more of a fight before succumbing to the the molars of inevitability.


Cadbury's Fingers

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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