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McVities Milk Chocolate Digestive Review
Any idea what McVitie's have done to the Chocolate Homewheat? It seems to have metmorphed into the inferior Chocolate Digestive. People have referred to them as digestives for years, but that was only the copy brands. The Homewheat was a great biscuit, particularly in plain chocolate. These digestives are too "refined".
|Nicey replies: Neil,
You are basically compounding the recent history of the McVities Chocolate Digestive into one issue. The Homewheat branding was dropped a bit over two years ago as McVities sought to refocus on the McVities name after the nasty dabbling with MacDonaldsesque 'McV' of 2002. So this was really an exercise in re-branding and fitted in well with the planned diversification of the Digestive. Indeed just the other week we bought some new McVities Yog Fruit digestives, topped with a sort of white substance and bearing little clumps of squashed fruit matter. This would have been un-thinkable five years ago, but now seems somewhat inevitable.
The biscuit too has changed a good deal in that time loosing lots of its salt content and its payload of hydrogenated fat. With the best will in the world it can't be said that the biscuits of yore are at all like today's, such is the price of progress.
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.
Thanks for clearing that little one up. I think that you should go on with your choice of bicky. I must say I have never been a big fan of the fig roll but I’ll be backing it all the way… Come on Australia!!
|Nicey replies: Thank you Sara,
You are very gracious. I have to say I didn't realise that Jason was actually interviewing me this morning but then I was a bit out of it as the Wife left in the middle of the night (to go on a girls weekend to Poland (she has strict instructions to bring back exotic Polish Jaffa Cakes) ) and a car alarm woke me up twice after that. Then just before waking I was having a strange dream where the girl from Big Brother who was the actress who pretended to be Australian was pinching a variety of sandwich cream biscuits from a conference room which was sited in the middle of a very busy road here in Cambridge. I think one of the biscuits might have been a form of Canadian Maple syrup biscuit, judging by the colour of its cream. I however didn't mind as I was only on my second best bicycle.
Have a nice sensible Friday and a lovely weekend.
Fig Roll Review
I appeared today on Jason manfords show for the dunk off challenge with my gingernut. Which I know is a biscuit. However, Rob came along with his Fig Roll – and won. Please do not think that I am a poor looser. I have been looking into The Fig Roll and it would seem, that, it is pastry and not biscuit, the tester being that when a biscuit goes off it goes soft and a pastry goes hard and like Jaffa Cakes they are cake and not biscuit as the pastry goes off and goes hard as do fig biscuits.
I would like to know your opinion on this and I’m sure Jason will raise it with you tomorrow when you are on the show.
|Nicey replies: Sara,
Right first off I'm not sure what the biscuits are being subjected to, but if its just a straight forward see how long they can be dunked for then that's fairly meaningless. I can think of a two biscuits that could be immersed in boiling hot tea and shrug it off as if it had never happened, but I'll keep that to myself until I've been on the show.
As for the stale thing we have to debunk that on a regular basis, as it is riddled with exceptions. Indeed the preceding message I've just posted about the Irish Kimberley shows that they have to go stale rendering them hard before non Irish people trust them. It won't do to be sniping at the Fig Roll and trying to make out that it's not a biscuit but is a cake that somehow took a wrong turn and ended up in a biscuit packet. It's actually the filling of the fig roll that gives it a resilience against the hot tea rather than its pastry outer. Feel free to debate the nature of the Fig Roll at length but be aware that French have one that starts off crunchy and goes soft when stale, which we covered in our FigFest.
As for ginger nuts I think that was a good plan, If you had gone in with a Griffins one from New Zealand you might have won.
Kimberley and Chocolate Kimberley Review
What can I say, the Kimberley, best biscuit in the world EVER! However, I am a purist and do not agree with the chocolate variety at all. If it aint broke, don't fix it etc. Chocolate Kimberley used only be available at Christmas. I vividly recall a "trolleys at dawn" episode in my local supermarket many years ago trying to get the last tin of them one Christmas Eve morning. I have a sister who lived in London for many years and every time she came home my mum purchased the Kimberley for her - the rest of us didn't deserve them at any other time! Happy memories of all 6 of us being together again around the kitchen table, cups of tea and Kimberley. God, I've got a goo on me now for a pack, must buy some on the way home! I have actually found one friend in Yorkshire who also loves Kimberley but she does have Irish ancestry so it could be that she's inherited the gene. Whenever I brought some back to England with me when I lived there, nobody else touched them.....until they were stale! Strange.....