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La Paille D'Or

Monday 20 Nov 2006

The French and Lemons generally are on good terms, a good Tart Citron is truly a wonderful thing. Ok they call them citrons, but I think that is quite an evocative name. A foody equivalent of onomatopoeia, not just a word that sounds like what it is but tastes like it too, an ideophone. Shame they had to cop out with Citron Verte (Green Lemons - Limes). The last example of French Lemon advancement to cross our path was the rather nasty LU Citron Mousse Pims that we messed about with for our Jaffa judgement. Finding ourselves in France for the pre-festive season raid and being emotionally buoyed by the amount of red wine, beer and stinky cheese in our trolly we decided to let the French, Lu and Lemons have another crack at it.

So here we have LU's La Paille D'Or aux Citrons (Lemon golden straws). I must have been in a good mood because not only are these already batting on a sticky wicket but they are conspicuously a packet of wafers. In general all wafers are having to rely heavily on their mates to gain acceptance be they chocolate, and caramel in the case of the very accecptable Tunnocks, or a thin scraping of pasty white grit in the unacceptable case of the Pink Wafer.

Looking at the box I counted 21 images of lemons in various states of distress from sitting in their own leaves in a little basket to lying hacked into bits again on their leaves. That's a great deal of lemon ambience for one small piece of cardboard. Once inside we found four sachets of of biscuits tightly wrapped in space age foil plastic film, with the odd picture of a lemon on them here and there, just in case the effect of cardboard box was by now waning. This came as little surprise as I had paused long enough to spot a large yellow number four on the outside. The sachets temporally held me up for two reasons.

The first was the sense that I was holding some kind of domestic insulation material, extremely light, rigid and reflective. Resisting the urge to go up in the loft and nail a few packets to the floor I ripped my way in. Now came the second problem. The special shiny film just tore off in small bits. After five attempts I finally did enough damage to get in, and even then there was a fair amount of adhesion between biscuit and pack.

So finally a stack of four wafers. I was still a bit tempted to bash a nail through them, however, I tucked in and instinctively wrenched the top wafer into its three sub sections. Hmm, wrenching, I was expecting to snap them. The lemony stuff within was evidently fairly tacky. Each wafer section comprised five wafer straws with a little ribbon cross embossed upon their middle. The first mouth full appeared to contain several of the twenty one lemons from the outside of the pack. The wafer really was taking two steps back here whilst the lemon filling confidently did its thing in the spot light. Looking at the ingredients it seems that the filling is some form of lemon-curd and apple jam hybrid turbo charged with 2.5% concentrated lemon juice, which equates to 15% diluted. Fans of pancakes drenched in lemon juice and sprinkled with sugar, or lemon sherbets will find much to keep them busy here. If you like lemon sorbet and wafers then you should be pleased as I think LU have managed to make it into a biscuit, and ridiculously low fat one that, only 1g per 100g of biscuit.

A quick bit of research tells me that LU have been making these for a tad over 100 years, and I can see why. The golden wafer limits itself to what it is best at being an amusing container for something tasty. The lemon stuff is indeed world class lemon stuff, which upon reflection lives up to its packet's hyperbole. Mind you I'm not so hopeful for the Citron Mouse Pims making it to its hundredth birthday.

One final parting shot for the pack, down in the bottom right on the back in small letters, its tells us of a 'small moment of pleasure' for Juliette aged 28 who after shopping all day returned home had a pack of these, a vanilla milk shake and a glass of fizzy water. Nicey, 42, after staggering round the hypermarket in Boulogne could quite easily see off these with a mug of P&O ferry tea.


Fox's Delicious Cookies

Wednesday 1 Nov 2006

Well about the most popular program on British Television right now is the X Factor on a Saturday evening. The singing contest attracts massive audiences and for me invokes memories of how Saturday night telly used to be when I was a kid back in the 70s. On would go the Generation Game with whole family sitting around eating a tea of ham and cheese sandwiches, a shared pack of crisps, celery sticks, tea and biscuits in front of the telly as treat. Advertisers are keen to get such prime time slots, and last week between the adverts for burgers, pizzas, brown stuff to make it look like you've just been on holiday and phones there was an advert for Fox's biscuits.

Now I don't remember the last time I saw an advert for Fox's and the one last week was very much a brand building type of thing, rather than a specific advert for a certain biscuit. So what's going on here? Well there is much reading between the lines to be done but I think this weeks biscuits are an interesting reflection of what is happening right now in the biscuit world. Also it accords a good bit of freedom to innovate if we simply trust the name Fox's to deliver.

The two growth sectors in biscuits right now are healthy and indulgent, at first glance diametrically opposed. Despite the obvious problems with obesity an increasing number of consumers are becoming more aware of diet and making much more considered choices. Not only are people choosing organic, fair-trade they are also concerned with what is in their food. What both growth segments share is to show the enquiring eye lists of key ingredients, wholesome or decadent, take your pick.

Perhaps this explains why this trio of biscuits don't really have names, which is a bit of a revelation, akin to Apples iMac not having a floppy drive when it was launched. To determine what is contained within one has to look at the picture and read the little sentence on the pack front which contains the words Delicious Cookies picked out in brushed gold script. One has the word Sultanas the next Milk Chocolate Chunks and the last Extremely chocolatey. Indeed all three biscuits live up to their pictures and descriptions, and as we have come to expect from Fox's all three are very nice indeed, and why shouldn't they be after all we indulging ourselves.

The Sultana cookies have that all important randomness associated with some thing that looks more handmade than mass produced. The Sultanas are second in the list of ingredients followed by sugar and butter and the resulting biscuit reflects this uncomplicated approach. A rich buttery open textured biscuit with generous fruit. Although I initially steamed into them I quickly tired finding them a tad too greasy. Such biscuits are obviously at the very best when just cooled from the oven, and in order to keep the impression of such mouth pleasing meltingness straight from the packet the fat in the biscuit has to be carefully controlled. In the old days the black arts of hydrogenated fats could be relied upon, but nowadays some vegetable oil and a bit of butter are all that Fox's have at their disposal. In short very nice but resistible.

The chocolate biscuits were both the same thing really with the extremely chocolately ones picking up an additional coat of chocolate on their base. Big chocolate chunks form the main ingredient whilst the biscuit which is a pleasing brown colour would appear to be so due to some molasses rather than cocoa. Some oatmeal and desiccated coconut have been included which keeps the texture interesting. These are quite thick biscuits, (unfortunately I don't have dimensions as Wifey and the YMOS saw them all off before I could get near them with the tape measure). Definitely one to investigate if you like big chunky cookies with a good crunch to them. Also given their size those of you who like to keep strict tabs on the number of biscuits you tuck away should have no problems counting them.

So there we have it three appealing biscuits that have plenty of their key goodies designed to catch the indulgent shoppers eye. I think they have almost pulled it off but given that Fox's are a veritable powerhouse of innovation I'd expect to see plenty of siblings joining them and vying for our attention.

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Cafe Bronte Range

Thursday 28 Sep 2006

Its a tricky business for a purveyor of biscuits to put together the perfect couple of biscuits to go along with that welcome cuppa when you are out about. Especially difficult if they have to compete for attention against an array of tempting home made cakes, in some nice little tea room. Yes it's tall order for a couple of biscuits, they have to make you believe that you made the right call that you are indulging yourself just that little and above all that they were worth it. More often than not you'll have never met them before so you'll be judging them entirely upon first impressions. Step up to the breach Paterson Arran supplier of some the tastiest biscuits to the catering and hospitality trade.

At the start of year we took a look at a little windfall of Paterson Arran's Bronte biscuits that had turned up for a one off appearance at Asda. Much fun was had seeing off a box load of these premier league tasty biccies normally found in pairs next to kettles in expensive hotel rooms. Now Cafe Bronte has been launched as a range of stylish and tempting till side biscuits. The range includes dunking bars, shortbreads and soft cookies with such goodies as milk chocolate chips, raisins, cranberries and spices such as ginger and cinnamon (full list at the end). The range takes all the things Paterson Arran already do so well, such as shortbread (well they are Scottish), oaty biscuits (yep still Scottish) and crisp treacle laced ginger snaps and makes them temptingly larger than before. The soft cookies are really just large biscuits that manage to not be crisp and crunchy and yet don't trigger the excessively limp alarms like so many things bearing this moniker. The dunking bars are just big (30g) biscuits that have been optimised for immersion by making them long and narrow.

Now I have to say that this for me is one of the best things about the whole range, lets take it as read that the whole range is really very nice indeed so quality is not an issue. The most common problem with little packs of biscuits is just that.. they are little. This sets up all sorts of unnecessary tensions in the customer, who invariably wishes the pack had at least another biscuit in it, and wonders if they should go back for another and if everybody else will stare and point at them if they do. Not conducive to a nice sit down.

The biscuits in the Cafe Bronte range are all substantial offerings and should comfortably accompany even the largest mug or small pot of tea. Much more relaxing. Released from your fear of premature biscuit finishing you can now turn your attention to the other customers and stare and point at them at your leisure.

The biscuits are presented in clear cellophane packs dropped into little shiny black card wallets each with two little legs. A large sticky label keeps the whole lot in place and tells you all you need to know. I presume these are there to literally raise them up above the competition thereby catching your eye in that first all important encounter. Having had a big pile of them to work through we soon found that you need to peel off the label first to release the biscuits sufficiently to gain access. Once you are in you won't be disappointed, and you won't regret passing on the cakes.

Cranberry, All Butter and Choc Chunk shortbread. Oat & Raisin, Double Choc Chip, Ginger Snap, Cinnamon Snap, Fruit Shrewsbury and Choc Chip & Orange dunking bars. White Choc Chunk, Apricot & Coconut, Milk Choc Chunk & Orange, Cranberry, Dark Choc Chunk & Stem Ginger soft cookies.

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