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Malted Milk Review
With a new baby due imminently, we've been making all the necessary preparations for the birth (rusks etc). At an ante-natal class we were given a list of things to take to hospital. This included the item: "favourite biscuits." I'm sure like most of your readers, we have different favorites for different situations. I wonder if you have any suggestions what would be suitable? Presumably it's got to be good biscuit in a crisis -- something that offers plenty of energy in case of a long labour, but not one that will melt all over the bed sheets in the warmth of a hospital.
|Nicey replies: Hello Barry,
Well it sounds like you are already on top of most of the important aspects of biscuit selection, although I would say crumbs are another aspect to keep in mind. What ever you bring along will probably be very welcome. To be honest I seem to remember that it was me who ate all the biscuits as Wifey wasn't really in a biscuit mood. I also seem to recall that I went out on a limb and brought Cadbury's Chocolate fingers, a very non-standard biscuit for us.
Thinking about it rationally and with hindsight I would have probably gone for some fig rolls, malted milks and possibly a small pack of digestives, although modern post-hydogenated fat Digestives are very crumbly. However, something that shouldn't be overlooked was the on tap supply of NHS tea and toasted sliced white with Golden Shred marmalade that was available when the YMOS made their debut.
I recent years we have taken to baking large NCOTAASD fruitcakes for our friends when the have their own younger members of staff. In fact Mr ad Mrs T are due YMOS No 2 in about 6 weeks time and Mrs T is already making space in her cake tin.
Another thing to watch out for is that fact that post birth you'll be all over the show and may well not be entirely capable of making rational biscuit choices due to excitement, warm fuzzy feelings, lack of sleep and confusion as the Wife sends you out to buy all sorts of strange things you've never heard of before down aisles of the supermarket you didn't even know existed.
||Well done Nicey, you got a mutation in your welsh greeting, the hardest thing to master apparently. They don't do half days on St David's day anymore as most of the children wouldn't turn up at all. Sadly dressing up ends when they go up to Juniors now. Infants and nursery age only, although you can buy the whole costume at Tesco or Asda these days, boys either wear Rugby jeseys or a bought Boys version costume of waistcoat and muffler with a Dai cap. very cute!|
On the day itself they are trying to get parades and so on going ala St Patricks Day, but a bit feeble so far. Also there are regular requests for it to be a National Holiday, so far unsuccesful. And the fake cream mix is Dream topping , excellent on trifle or my speciallity Butterfly cakes topped with a piece of fresh strawberry.
Noswith da, butty love Marion
||Dear Nicey,Wifey and YMOS|
It seems to me that "whether biscuit or cake" is still arguable topic in the U.K. And I wonder if the "Biscuit-cake" is popular in many other countries outside Japan. The "Biscuit-cake" is a familiar as a simple, easy, safe but delicious "home-made" cake suitable for beginners in Japan.
The cake doesn't need the oven. I'm sorry if you have already known , but I would like to try to introduce the "Biscuit cake", here.
* Rich tea/Marie type biscuits
* whipped cream added sugar ( Luckily,ready-made whipped cream is available at my local E-mart in Korea)
* strong brewed coffee (or milk), room temperature
#1 Dunk the both faces of a biscuit lightly in coffee (or milk).
(Be careful not to make it too moist, please!)
#2 Spread some whipped cream on top of the biscuit.
#3 Continue piling with slightly moist biscuit and whipped cream alternately as much as you like, finishing with the biscuit.
#4 Fill the gap between biscuits and spread on top with cream, stylishly.
(If you prefer a "low-calorie" cake, you can skip #4.)
#5 Cover the yummy tower with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least three hours until the biscuits successfully change into a soft moist texture like a sponge cake thanks to the whipped cream.
#6 Adorn with your favourite fruit before serving.
If you create your cake longer like a log and lay it and then spread cream all over it, I think that your cake can be something like a Buche de Noel. To tell the truth, I have never baked even home-made biscuits and I know that my home-made "biscuit-cake" is extremely out of touch with elegance.
However, it was enjoyable for me to fix this cake. I hope many people will enjoy making your own "Biscuit-cake". By the way, as much as we the Japanese call the Biscuit-cake "cake", some people outside Japan may consider it "biscuit".
How do you feel about that, Nicey?
Hiromi Miura (seoul Korea)
|Nicey replies: Dear Hiromi,
I think that biscuits can be ingredients in cakes, as the digestive biscuit and ginger nut often form the base for Cheesecakes. So biscuits are quite prepared for this treatment. I don't think it can go the other way though. Perhaps the closest is the sponge fingers that get used in desserts which are very dry and brittle which have almost entered a state where by they could be used as biscuits. Even so that is no the same thing as smashing them up or treating them with a solution that would turn them into biscuits.
Perhaps some of the people outside of Japan should think about that, although you might have to do the translation again.
P.S. I like the strawberry on top, very tempting.
||I'm writing to you as an American who has recently begun a love affair with tea and biscuits, to inform you that you are much to blame.|
Although I was born and raised in the American Midwest, I've always been a bit of an Anglophile - eschewing action movies and MTV in favor of staying up late watching old BBC shows on public television.
If you have any American readers ask you where they can buy proper biscuits in the states, you should tell them to see if they have a store called "World Market" in their area. It's a chain of about 300 stores, and really the only part of the country they haven't spread to yet is the Northeast. (http://www.worldmarket.com/) They carry furniture and goods from all over the world, plus lots of tasty imported foods. I became a regular at our local World Market a year or so ago, when I discovered that they had an amazing selection of tasty European chocolate bars. I confess to being a complete Ritter Sport addict, especially the "butter cookie" and "milk chocolate hazelnut" varieties.
Then, this summer I moved into an apartment across the street from the store, and I began visiting much more frequently and trying a lot of new things. Well, really I only got as far as the biscuit aisle and have gotten hooked. I started with the Jaffa Cakes and Jammie Dodgers, but was still skeptical of the Digestive. Then I somehow stumbled upon an article about Custard Creams online a few months back, and ended up at your website.
I have always liked tea, although it is a bit sacreligious in the coffee-obsessed Pacific Northwest part of the country, where I live now. I have to confess though, that until recently I mostly drank herbal "tea", not realizing how good proper tea could be. Everyone I had ever known brewed their tea the same way - by plopping a couple tea bags into a pot and just letting it sit there forever, resulting in bitter, stewed tea. I have since learned the error of my ways (thanks to encouragement from your website and book) and now drink loads of proper tea (with milk and one sugar). I have even procured some PG Tips, which certainly is better than any American brands of tea I've tried. I've become such a tea fanatic I've even bought myself an electric kettle (brilliant! why doesn't everyone else have these?) and my friends and family think I'm crazy.
I've learned to love the digestive, of course. It's the perfect companion to tea! The selection at World Market is varied and unpredictable, but they always have plain and milk chocolate McVitie's digestives, as well as Crawford's Bourbons and Custard Creams (yummy), plus usually Penguins and Cadbury Fingers. Occasionally they will have Gingernuts, Fruit Shortcake, Garibaldis, McVitie's Chocolate Caramel, etc. I recently picked up a packet of Plain Chocolate digestives, which only make occasional appearances on the shelves. My favorite biscuit though has to be the Hob Nob. Until recently I had only tried the Milk Chocolate, but I spied the plain ones on the shelf the other day, and my are they delicious. I prefer to eat the less chocolatey-sweet biscuits at work, as too much sugar makes it hard to type straight.
I have to say that as much of a fan of Cadbury's chocolate I am, I don't like their biscuits. Too sugary for me, and not in a good way. Don't get me wrong, I like my sweets, but Cadbury's biscuits make me feel like I'm just eating spoonfuls of sugar.
This is turning into quite a long message, but I just have one more thing to add:
Regarding fruitcake in the States - I saw an expat reader of yours mention that she had noticed a certain negative attitute towards fruitcake over here. That is certainly true. Fruitcake is legendary for being an horrifically dense, overly sweet dessert that little old ladies bake and give away as Christmas gifts. The story goes that when you receive a fruitcake as a gift, you should not eat it, but rather try to pawn it off as a gift to someone else - or failing that, stick it in the back of the cupboard until next year, when you dust it off and try to give it away again. I don't know anyone that actually eats fruitcake, except for possibly some little old ladies. I may have tried some at my grandmother's house as a child, but I don't really remember. However, I did try some at a fancy tea party that I attended at a fancy hotel last Christmas, and found that it had a very strong brandy flavor, which does not appeal to me at all, and decided to avoid it in the future. Your rhapsodizing about the perfect fruitcake might make me reconsider, though, and attempt to bake my own this Christmas. Maybe.
That's all for now. Keep up the good work!
|Nicey replies: You seem to making very good progress towards a completely well balanced tea and biscuits outlook. The fruit cake will come in time. Ours is a very tasty and relatively light recipe not like those dark tarry masses that appear to have given it such a bad reputation in the US. I would have tough the Pacific North West is probably ideal fruit cake territory, providing it doesn't attract bears.
As you might remember, we moved to Pennsylvania about four years ago. Managing only to return to England once a year, we therefore get a little homesick for certain British treats - marmite on toast, Seville Orange marmalade, REAL milk chocolate, and so on. Much of this homesickness is fended off by regular re-supplies provisioned by well-intentioned friends and relatives on transatlantic visits. However, when I saw your piece about the adventure of the fruitcake, the theme of British delectables in the USA bubbled unbidden to the surface. Since there was a camping trip to Williamsburg and Jamestown (Virginia) in the offing, we thought that bringing a bit of homemade fruitcake to the original colonies would be an appropriate way of extending that theme, and a whole lot better than bringing shop-bought fare.
The only way to do this was (of course) to use your recipe as a starting point. I doubled the cherry quota and included slivered almonds in the mixture, as well as some brandy along with the orange juice. It turned out very nicely, and since we were camping with another family of four with small children (also English), the cake was demolished within two days. Now, what I haven't mentioned (and this is something that even the hardiest NCOTAASD reader may not know) is that in the USA fruitcake is something of a national joke. It certainly seems that recipes for fruitcake were inherited during the period of colonial rule, and there are plenty of places in the USA where one can buy it. But somehow, along the way, it has come to be regarded as the ultimate in unwanted gifts, frequently re-packaged and handed on to the next 'unlucky' recipient, hardening all the way since no-one has heard of feeding such an aging masterpiece with brandy. The association with Christmas doesn't exist over here, so mention of 'Christmas cake' generally meets uncomprehendingly blank stares. I'm fairly sure there was no cake at the Boston Tea Party, so I wonder if you can shed any light on where our friends across the water went wrong.
Yours with thanks,
|Nicey replies: Hello Simon,
I'm very pleased to hear that you have built your own NCOTAASD fruit cake with some extra custom build to order features. Its also terrific news that you took it camping too. Wifey and I are filled with warm fuzzy cake, tea and sitting on the floor thoughts.
I think I once detected in an American sit-com a sideways jibe at the British and fruitcake, and just put it down to ignorance of the good things in life. I think that fruitcakes really became firmly established in the Victorian era. This was also around the time that baking powder and self raising flour came on the scene. Most recipes prior to that time are for fruited breads raised with yeast. So it would seem that the first British colonists had pre-dated this wave of Victorian baking. The emigrating Scots and the Irish were probably America's best hope of getting some decent fruitcake know how after that.
Certainly sounds like a subject worthy of further investigation.