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Tesco's Organic Fruit Bake Biscuits

Monday 10 Jul 2006

If you thought our last biscuit review seemed a little jaded then take heart as I've just found some really nice biscuits that I'm getting on with like a house on fire. Not only that but the pack extolls their environmental credentials so I can feel all warm and fuzzy about all the various hedgerow creatures going about their business that aren't being sprayed with a cocktail of chemicals. Only one slight fly in the ointment, next to the price on the shelf it says they have been DISCONTINUED.

Good grief, you discover that your local supermarket has had some very tasty biscuits stashed away in it, only then to find that they are awaiting the chop in some kind of biscuity death row. How can this be? The reason I noticed them was that they had been uprooted from where-ever they had been hiding and dumped conspicuously to sell out till their end of their days between the work-a-day Bourbons and Gingernuts. They caught my eye as they seemed a bit like a fish out of water all resplendent in their little green packs with pictures of blue skies and green meadows, designed to appeal to the organic shopper.

I suspect the reason I've missed them till now and for that matter all the other people who were really supposed to buy them is that they have been ensconced in some organic product enclave, up some aisle that we normally scoot through in a semi-daze. Now here at NCOTAASD we are quite keen on some Organic produce like milk, meat and vegetables but haven't quite made the jump to an entirely organic trolley load. Paying a premium for organic produce is something that we don't have a problem with if it's lovely stuff, but something about those Organic only sections in supermarkets makes me feel a bit self conscious and I tend to plough on through.

Anyhow fate has conspired for me to make the acquaintance of these charming and noble biscuits just after Tesco's has signed their death warrant. Very nice they are too with chiselled good looks being provided by organic oat flakes, jumbo oats and currants set into a tasty wholemeal substrate. Some of the sugar is scattered through in discrete crystals which combined with the oats gives a entertaining texture full of little crunchy surprises. The biscuits have a deep brown hue like the crust of a brown loaf which extends to their interior and this quite high bake also adds plenty of flavour.

So as I sit here dabbing the corners of my eyes with my lace hanky, my last pack of fruit bakes before me I wonder is it better to have dunked and munched then never to have dunked and munched at all? Yes, yes, cries the small lump of it still adhered to my back teeth.

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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.