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Cornish Fairings

Sunday 5 Oct 2003

Well our recent tea tour to Cornwall gave us the chance to sample Cornish Clotted cream teas, a must for any visitor to the county, or country if you're from Kernow. We would, however, have been very remiss if we hadn't had a crack at the flagship biscuit of Cornwall the Fairing.

Baked in Redruth by Furniss (est 1816), packs or tubes of Fairings can be found in any shop in Cornwall that could remotely sell something sweet and edible, which makes for a fairly high percentage of them. Redruth also seems to be the operational base for Roddas the clotted cream barons, which might be a useful piece of information to know. Ok, its not important, but if you ever find yourself on a TV game show and that comes up as a question, it won't seem so trivial then.

Fairings are a close cousin of the Gingernut, however, some of the ginger has been replaced with cinnamon and mixed spice to give an a flavour that is in some ways similar to a continental cinnamon biscuit like the Speckaloo. Fairings should be quite hard and brittle, with a reddish golden appearance caused by the sugar and syrup caramelising during baking. The inside remains paler, whilst the surface has pleasingly rustic fissures caused by their rapid rise in the oven.

The Wife decided they were good dunkers, and being of quite substantive size they held their own during some concerted efforts to thin out their numbers. One word of warning, much in the manner of a Foxs Crinkle Crunch they will quickly go stale if left to fend for themselves. So eat them in one go or find a tin to keep them in.

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Bodam Carlsbad Spa Wafers

Wednesday 17 Sep 2003

Czechoslovakia, with its historical and beautiful capital Prague, home of good king Wenceslas, attracts throngs of visitors, many of which indulge in its lovely beer, which stems from a brewing tradition that predates that of nearby Bavaria. In fact Budwiser is a Czech beer brewed to strict beer laws laid down in the middle ages. The upstart American Budwiser is a about as far as you can get from the proper Czech stuff being made as it were with rice and apparently according to recent advertising not requiring much in the way of maturation as its not been made with sensible beer ingredients. Anyhow, apparently the Czechs also have wafer or 'oplatky' thing going on, which we have been alerted to now on several fronts.

We recently took delivery of two consignments of Czech wafers some Zlaté wafers made by Opavia now owned by Danone, and the second some traditional Spa wafers made by Czech producer Bodam. The spa wafers had already been opened so we thought we would dive straight in.

How big are these wafers? Well the small black blob in the picture is a 10 pence piece, which hopefully gives you an idea what a 190mm wide wafer is like in the flesh. As for the taste, its predominately that of a wafer. A thin gritty middle layer contains some dried up sugary stuff in which small particles of hazelnut have met their end, much like minute daphnia caught between a microscope slide and coverslip and doomed to desiccation. A faint taste of cinnamon struggles to hold its own above the sugar and vanilla. As is frequently the case with wafers, I'm put in mind of eating packing material, which I once foolishly did to see what it tasted like. It was some of those things that look like corn puffs, and these were made of some form of starch. No doubt they were full of toxins like fungicide and rat poison. They tasted like unsweetened wafers.

It would appear that these traditional wafers are baked fresh in some places and so maybe have a special charm that factory produced wafers can't approach. I don't know I'm really just trying to say something nice about wafers right now. Still next time you are in Prague munch down a few spa wafers with your demi-litre of Staropramen and see if the local built ones are something to write home about.

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Khong Guan creamy chocolate biscuits

Wednesday 10 Sep 2003

When Jonathan Dean mailed us to say that he had found himself in China for the week and could he bring us back some chinese biscuits, we jumped at the chance. 'Ooo Yes' or words to that effect were mailed back, and Jonathan set about Shanghi's super markets. Jonathan from Dublin, has a job that takes him all over the world, and has added himself to that select band of biscuit hunters scouring the globe for new additions to the NiceCupOfTeaAndASitDown biscuit mountain, or small hillock. What Jonathan came up with was the Khong Guan Creamy Chocolate biscuit. Would it be a revelation from the far east?

Regular emails kept us up to speed with the progress of the little packet back across the globe. In Ireland Jonathon fashioned a sturdy shipping container using nothing more that a cardboard box, some bubble wrap and half a roll of gaffer tape. So much gaffer tape was used that in fact the little parcel started to resemble a suspect device. As Jonathan said "Unfortunately I went a little overboard with the duck tape and now it resembles a bomb. So just to assure you that in case your local post office rings you to say you have a 'Suspicious looking package ' down at the office for you you will know it is the biscuits".

Now if you thought my knowledge of Scandinavia was a bit scant when I reviewed Anna's Swedish thins stand by to be impressed by my ignorance of the orient. As we all probably know the Chinese invented loads of really great stuff, pasta, paper, compasses and gunpowder. Gunpowder, used for lovely recreational firework displays. Pity it became a really popular way of blowing people up and generally making holes in things. Of course they also came up with the humble cup of tea. So thanks to all you ancient chinese types, who knows what this website would have been called without you.

Right that's enough about explosive. This web page will probably start setting off alarms in Scotland Yard and the FBI or something. While we are the subject, the KGB seem to be invoved, because a closer look at the biscuit reveals that's who made it. What did the biscuits taste like? Well short answer would require me to swear so we'll go for the slightly longer version which is 'not terribly nice at all'. Actually 'taste' is an inappropriate word to use alongside these biscuits. Creamy is also not one that would be at the top of my list, whereas 'dreadful', 'chalky', 'brown', and 'nasty' might be. Now I don't want to sound ungrateful, but I simply can't see how they have wound up being so unpleasant. A quick scan of the ingredients, would indicate that they are built from standard sorts of things, and yet some how despite it appearing on the list flavour seems to be overlooked.

So western biscuit bakers if this is an example of the sort of thing they are knocking out in the Peoples Republic I think you can all sleep easy in your beds at night. No flooding of the market with Chinese imports this time.

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