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||Dear Nicey, Wifey and the YMOS's,|
As a student I always have my cupboards stocked high with biscuits of all shapes and sizes (I must confess that one of my favourites is the pink wafer, but don't let this put you off). However recently during a time of great biscuit need I went to the cupboard only to find it was bare of all biscuit related items....apart from some 2 and a half month old Merba apple pie cookies. They were left over in their foil wrapper and additionally wrapped in a plastic carrier bag. When I bought them originally I hadn't enjoyed them as I found them too hard for my liking, despite their delicious smell, but needless to say I was desperate!
Normally biscuits that have been left open for as long as this go soggy, but this biscuits benefited from a slight softening and I gobbled up the pack. I urge you to try this, don't forget about the plastic bag over the top....can you explain why this might have helped?
|Nicey replies: Alexandra,
Having been educated to degree level at the same august if slightly concrete obsessed establishment as yourself I have first hand experience of subsisting on a student diet. One quickly learns to adapt to ones impoverished circumstances and try new foods as well as completely revising ones whole understanding of best before dates. I well remember some friends taking their lives in their hands as they cleaned out a catering size jar of mayonnaise which had been left in a house that they had rented. By the time they became desperate enough to do this they had already lived there for the best part of a year. The same house also proved very stimulating to its largely biology student residents due to its impressive use of assorted wall paper roll ends. These were all from the 1970s school of large orange flowers on a black background wallpaper design. The large poster they had of the H Bomb detonating at Bikini Atoll often struggled to outdo the wall paper for dramatic and imposing presence. More academic stimulation could be found behind one of the wardrobes which had its own ecosystem of slugs which were living on the tender shoots of a shrub which was managing to grow through the wall.
So I can only say with respect to your biscuits that you were fortunate to find them to your liking. I would say that the plastic bag would have helped to create a constant micro-climate in which your biscuits could exchange moisture with each other and what ever atmospheric moisture diffused in. This would allow them to go stale much more gradually which is after all why you bunged them in there in the first place.
||Dear Nicey and Wifey|
I am reading your book at the moment and enjoying it very much. I have just read the section on keeping biscuits fresh. I have a different way of keeping them fresh. As I take the biscuits I require from a packet I reseal the packet with parcel tape. This is the best way I have found of keeping my biscuits fresh because my husband does not eat many biscuits and so in our household I am really the only biscuit fan. As I like to eat a variety of biscuits I find that having about three packs of biscuits on the go at once is helped by my parcel tape methos of freshness. By pursuing this method I am trying to keep the manufacturers freshness in the biscuits for quite a few days.
|Nicey replies: Angela,
Thank you for that, its always good to hear about people willing to push at the boundaries of biscuit technology. Do you use a fresh piece of tape each time, and do you use one of those tape gun things if you do?
Actually I could see this approach becoming quite addictive, and going around taping up things around the house after one has used them. The cereal boxes, tubs of margarine, doors, pets etc.
Slightly concerned that your husband doesn't eat many biscuits.
|Hello again, Nicey|
Well....what a turnup for the books! Further to my recent communication regarding the forthcoming demise of the Lincoln, I spotted a pack...in, of all places, Sainsburys in Godalming! There it was, sat all alone in about half a foot of shelf space...so I grabbed it! When I asked Customer Services about their stocks, they did seem to think that they may be getting more in but they couldn't guarantee anything.
A close examination of the pack revealed a BBE date of April 07, so it would appear that these biscuits have a potential shelf life of around 4 months. My plan then, is to buy up some reserves as and when I can and try to preserve them in edible condition for as long as possible. Your good self being, I presume, an expert on such matters - what advice can you give me for storage of biscuits in the best possible condition? My thoughts are an airtight biscuit tin with a sack of silica gel (several of which I shall, no doubt, find amongst electronic products under the Christmas tree this year!).
I remember my Granny, sadly departed from this life now, having a rather nice copper-coloured biscuit tin with a silica gel insert in the lid...every few weeks this would be popped in the oven to refresh it. This kept her biscuits in fine fettle and there was always something very special about being allowed 'something from the tin, Pet'. As the lid popped off the tin, the little puff of 'biscuity aroma' was a joy to inhale. My brother and I often fought over who would get first whiff. What with this and her saving up all the cards from the PG Tips (we only visited a couple of times a year due to distance), or Monkey Tea as it was known, stays with Granny were something special.
To this day, the smell of a well loved and regularly used biscuit tin still evokes happy childhood memories of Granny's kitchen...memories enhanced by closing my eyes and indulging in a little dunking session with a good cuppa and of course, a Lincoln!
Cheers Nicey, and my best regards to you and Wifey this Yuletide season.
|Nicey replies: Hello again Mike,
Yes its quite common to find 4-5 month BBE dates on biscuits when one actually has cause to take notice. It is in the nature of NCOTAASD's mission to have to sample biscuits which are very close to or have actually passed their BBE date. The simple truth is the fresher they are the better, and particularly for shortcake biscuits like the Lincoln which seem to hold up the least well compared such things as Garibaldis and Gingernuts.
I think you are probably doing about all you can possibly do. Excluding moisture, light and extremes of heat are about the best one could hope for. Maybe a protective atmosphere of pure nitrogen gas (as in crisp packets) if you have any compressed nitrogen and hermetically sealing vessels with valves to hand. Even with all of this the biscuits will still go off caused by inevitable and irreversible chemical changes. Indeed one of the arguments that kept biscuit manufacturers using hydrogenated fats for so long was that they prolonged the shelf life of the product.
These modern twilight Lincolns will have none of that. Devoid of hydrogenated fat, the last of a great and majestic dynasty of patterned shortcake biscuits. Like the giant Sauropods at the end of the Cretaceous Period 65 Million years ago, going about their business on the shelves of Sainsbury's unaware that they are about to be wiped out by the dispassionate comet of de-listing.
Perhaps they'll continue to find a place in that great seasonal biscuit assortment the Family Circle selection tin, (only its a plastic box nowadays) along side the Gypsy Cream
I just went to the biscuit tin and made a horrible discovery. In a fit of tidiness, someone in our family had put hobnobs and ginger nuts in the biscuit tin together. As all biscuit lovers know, mixing ginger nuts with other types is supposedly not a good idea, as ginger nuts will impart their flavour. But what we now have is a ginger nut flavoured hobnob. Surprisingly, this is not an unpleasant combination of flavours/textures, and the hobnobs have lost none of their crunch. I have just put away four of them, and very nice they were too. Anyone wanting to replicate this mutation should note - the formula is 2 hobnobs to 1ginger nut, and leave for about 3-4 days.
||Hello again Nicey.|
Kate Strudwick got me thinking about biscuit tin etiquette, by talking about "the rules that require you to finish the first layer before proceeding to the second layer". There are loads of unspoken rules in our house (sort of "The Tin Commandments"):
- You mustn't take a foil wrapped biscuit twice in a row
- You mustn't leave the foil wrappers in the plastic molding, in case you fool someone taking a quick glance into the tin that one of the nicest biscuits is left
- You mustn't leave any of the sellotape around the top when you first open the tin
- You mustn't eat pink wafers by taking the wafer bits off, scraping the cream stuff off with your teeth then putting the reassembled wafer bits back in (ditto bourbons)
- You must not pretend you've eaten the first layer by eating a biscuit out of the second layer then putting the last biscuit from the first layer into the space it leaves (especially if it's a different shape)
... I could go on, but you get the general gist.
I still really enjoy your site, thanks a lot for the fun.
|Nicey replies: Hi Nicky,
Yes I particularly enjoyed that bit too I'm glad you picked up on it. Well done on your other points too. I think we could develop this into the definitive list in time for Christmas, which would be very helpful for all those clueless uncouth people. It would also be a boon for all those sticklers for decorum who could brow beat the biscuit tin abusing louts with it (I was once interviewed in the Daily Mail you know).