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Cadbury's Choc Brownies and Choc Rings

Wednesday 21 Jun 2006

What's been going on? What have you been up to for over a month Nicey? Well I've been in a bit of an odd place biscuit wise, a sort of journey of self discovery that every committed biscuit critic has to make in order to rediscover what it is they are really trying to find. Yes, it does sound like a load of new age mumbo jumbo, doesn't it, but at least I didn't mention healing with crystals or aligning the sofa with the points of the compass. So lets start at the beginning then, that is, about three weeks ago (warning the following biscuit review goes on a bit)...

Whilst on a trip to Wales notionally hunting for waterfalls I had my eyes open for possible new biscuits. Passing by Baglan bay, Aberavon beach and the famous Sandfields estate I couldn't resist detouring the entire NCOTAASD team for a trip to Lidls. South Wales seems to be particularly well placed for them. Resisting the urge to buy a bargin set of hozes and attachments for a jet washer, which is something we don't have I headed for the biscuits. One quick raid later and I had two exotic looking packs of Euro biscuits branded Sondey, one of which I'm sure somebody had recommended to me. Surely between the two I would make some form of valuable discovery. Alas no. The splelt flour biscuits with linseed were indeed exotic but the odd flavour and seedy texture made me think I was eating something that wasn't strictly intended for humans but maybe parrots/cockatoos/budgerigars. Despite putting brave face on it I was knocked back to my second choice of thin oaty biscuits half coated in dark chocolate, surely some form of Euro choc HobNob. Nope. Whilst not as far fetched as the bizarre linseed and budgie flavour ones, and I suppose perfectly pleasant they failed to grab my imagination.

So on return to NCOTAASD HQ I was in desperate straits, with two largely uneaten packs of odd biscuits. Pausing in Tesco's next to the 'these are all very expensive so only buy them if you are trying to make some form of statement' biscuits I spied a tube of Austrian black-currant and yogurt wafers. These could make an amusing BOTW thought I, erasing memories linseeds trapped between my teeth I bunged them into the basket. Oh dear. Not only was the black-currant content a lowly 2% but the gritty sludge bearing it was plying its trade thanks to the inclusion of hydrogenated fat. Not too classy. The wafers, which generally would do well to keep a low profile raised a distracting rice paper sort of texture punctuated by the impression that they had the merest dusting of scouring powder (I'm guessing Vim). Overall a bit like nibbling on a sherbet flying saucer with a squirt of mutant black-currant custard cream filling.

My heart wasn't in it. Had it come to this after five years of BOTW sat in the dining room trying to get to grips with a tube of Austrian Black-currant wafers?

Then a ray of light. About a year ago we took a look at some Cadbury Oat and Fruit biscuits which went down a treat. Well Burton's the people behind them have been steadily growing the range and when Chris Davis got in touch to find out what was going with BOTW and suggested we try the Cadbury Choc Brownie biscuits it was the wake call I needed.

So here we are with a pack of Choc Brownies and for good measure a pack of Choc Rings. So first thing to celebrate is that both biscuits are substantial full sized specimens, no frilly thin coffee floosies here. Just as one gets a little mist in the eyes when spotting the big stainless steel vat of baked beans in the cross channel ferry restaurant after a fortnight on the continent, my woes with Euro biscuits faded as I beheld these fine examples of British Biscuit engineering.

The choc brownie is like a distant cousin of the Bourbon, its lost one of its biscuits the cream filling changed its shape and had a coat of chocolate, but the similarity is there. If it weren't for the shear scale of these biscuits (8mm deep by 64mm diameter) demanding your attention you might think you had taken a glancing bite from a Penguin and missed the cream filling. The ingredients made pleasant reading too no sign of dodgy fats and salt at trace levels per biscuit, which was quite unexpected in such a cocoa based recipe.

The Choc rings are even thicker at 9mm maybe to make up for their hole also delivered the goods. Their much paler cocoa biscuit had fine chocolate chips and a light texturing of oatmeal. Again the Cadbury's milk chocolate (27%) sat easily a top the biscuit forming a truly convincing whole and eliciting a rare 'these are nice' from Wifey.

When you are driven back to the kettle to make a second mug of tea to wash down the biscuits, you know you are back where you are supposed to be.


Tunnocks Florida Orange

Thursday 18 May 2006

I've wanted to get my mitts on a pack of Tunnock's Florida Orange ever since I spotted them on their excellently retro website. Next to the rest of Tunnock's gloriously mature range these look like iPod Nanos resting up against Nanny Nicey's circa 1978 Sony Music Center with its enormous great perspex lid that used to inflict nasty injuries by crashing down on the back of your hand when trying to put on Boomtown Rats singles. In those days the quality of a music center was gauged not by its sound but by how slowly it ejected cassettes. Actually in the case of the teacake I'd like to up that to my Nan's old Dancette Record Player that used hurl its needle from a dizzying height on to our precious vinyl like somebody trying to knock a chisel trough a wall. My Dad used to keep his Black and Decker drill in the cast-off case of an old Dancette, I know, get on with it Nicey!

So what are we dealing with here? Well imagine we took a standard issue Tunnocks Caramel Wafer and swapped the Caramel for Orange cream. There you have it. But with all orangey biscuits there one simple and burning issue, exactly how orangey is it? Perhaps the best and typically evasive answer would be "very orangey if oranges tasted like this".

A quick glance at the ingredients reveals the tools employed by the canny Scots bakers, glucose, citric acid and flavouring. This gives an orange flavour that is somewhere between Tangerine Tic Tac and Orange glucose energy sweets (can you still get those in Boots?). As for a genuine Orange from Florida, not really. Still as somebody who eats the Orange Tic Tacs before the Green ones I was perfectly happy, and found the whole combination to work in Tunnocks usual un-fussy and beguiling way. It would be remiss of me not to point to the hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredients, and hopefully biscuit boffins at Tunnocks can work to replace these with non trans-fat laden alternatives.

The use of modern looking shiny metallic flow pack might not have the charm of the classic wafer wrapper, but it does a good job of keeping in that orange zing. It's also interesting to see this Tunnocks covered in French as well as English, indeed the Tunnocks site is now bilingual. There also appears to Arabic on the wrapper too, so Hoorah for Tunnock's export market.


McVities Moments

Wednesday 10 May 2006

The 'moment' is a hotly pursued phenomena by the giants of tea time. PG Tips have made it integral to their current advertising campaign, reminding us that we all need a PG Moment and even choosing that as their website's domain name Now McVities have made their big play for the moment by creating a range of indulgent biscuits simply called Moments. They are not taking any chances as they have registered it as a trade mark. Just to make sure they are on the right track they also interviewed a nearly a bus load of busy mums to find out when exactly their moment fell in the day.

Oh all right I won't leave you in suspense any longer it's 9:27am. With study group as large as a bus queue who can argue with that outcome? Well with out seeing the error bars none of us. Also not wanting for a minute to provoke the wrath of busy Mums, surely they must have a lady who does come in and do all the washing, breakfast dishes and hoovering if they can get their feet up before 9:30. To quote McVites "The findings came from new research carried out by McVitie’s and psychologist Dr Aric Sigman who monitored a cross-section of British mums to see how their daily patterns varied. The new time was calculated by looking at the average time that Mums can first take a break following the morning rush of getting the kids ready, doing the school run and dealing with household chores." Personally Wifey and I usually like a round of toast and another cuppa at 9:12 am which allows us to get to at least 10:35 am before we start on the biscuits, but then we may just be old fashioned. Still the story did get a mention on Have I got News for you.

So what are McVities proposing would be a good thing to top breakfast off with? Belgian chocolate in various formats of course. I think if their bus load of ladies could have at least made it past ten o'clock before feeling the need to pile into the biscuits it might have come across a bit better.

The pack immediately sets about building an atmosphere of boat pushing out-ness. Brushed gold coloured lettering and details are slightly raised above deep blues. The image of the little pile of biscuits has a small handful of whatever strewn in front of it, lumps of chocolate, toffee, raisins and hazelnuts depending on the biscuit. We are also told on the pack that the biscuits are mouth watering and perfect for when you want a relaxing moment to yourself. Don't under estimate that last bit, we are in the land of single figures as far as biscuit numbers are concerned. Most packs had nine and the Chocolate Fruit and Nut Caramel Shortbreads had only six biscuits. Such figures could turn the most generous and gregarious soul into a solitary biscuit hoarder.

So are they worthy of our undivided attention. I'll have to play my 'I don't think they're aimed it me' card here, as I could take or leave them. Now I know I have made my views plain in the past on chocolate excess especially with some of Fox's more notable Creations, but in this case its not really a chocolate overkill thing. Of the three we tried the half dozen Chocolate Fruit and Nut Caramel Shortbreads had the most appeal evoking memories of vintage chocolate bars with obviously fruit, nuts, caramel, chocolate and shortbread. The decorative Chocolate Viennese Melt (pictured top) failed to, whilst the impressively sculptural Chocolate Toffee Crunch (middle piccy) wasn't that memorable taste wise. As I say I'm probably not the ideal candidate for a pack of these. Once again we must note the complete lack of trans-fats with butter oil turning up in most recipes, so well done McVities. However, I did spend my personal moment wondering exactly what is meant by the term 'Belgian' chocolate.