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||I've always gone by the mantra that cakes have eggs in them whilst biscuits don't. Things like scones qualify as cakes because they are bound by an egg (although some tight people use milk), whereas biscuits are a combination of sugar, butter and flour in varying quantities and with ingredients like chocolate, nuts etc to provide the interest. I was taught the basics of baking from childhood and have found that this rule has stood me in good stead when negotiating the often confusing world of teatime snacks.|
Perhaps the lack of eggs is what makes biscuits snappable (Colin's theory) and cakes softer. Maybe the hardening of stale cakes is due to the eggs drying out, and the softening of stale biscuits is due to moisture in the air permeating the hard butter/flour/sugar mix, and the end result in either case is the texture of the base of a tunnock's teacake....mere speculation but I believe it could be scientifically proved.
Of course things would all be simple if it weren't for modern industrial recipes - hydrogenated fats, whey powder, dried egg type stuff - these are the ingredients that turn jaffa cakes into either soft biscuits or dry cakes (althought they are clearly cakes).
I entered this debate to help provide answers, but now I feel drained and confused thinking about
|Nicey replies: Oh yes the inclusion of eggs is yet another fairly sound way marker, on the road between biscuit and cake. There are some exceptions as always. The garibaldi has an egg glaze, and there is the occasional biscuit with some egg in its dough.|
Have you ever discussed the problem of flavour cross contamination?
There's a chap in our office who kindly offers biscuits to the needy employees and although this is usually a pleasant experience there are times when the combination of biscuits in his - I'm sorry to report - plastic container produce mutant biscuits which can taste rather bad.
So this leaves me wondering whether there are any biscuits which can survive being in close company with stronger flavours and also which biscuit can keep it's own flavour intact for the longest.
Ginger Nut vs Minty Viscount might be an interesting battle for although the ginger nut is strong the silver/green armor of the viscount may provide sufficient protection whilst it mounts an attack of its own.
Perhaps others have recommendations of how not to mix biscuits?
|Nicey replies: Chris,
First recommendation is not to keep strongly flavoured biscuits in a plastic container, as they trap flavours. The second is to keep really strong ones in their own tin possibly with other related biscuits. Either way maybe you should get a couple of tins of biscuits in for Yuletide then you'll have something decent to put biccies in come the New Year.
As luck would have it I found this picture of you.
As I'm sure you are aware the cake/biscuit controversy raised its head on the BBC TV program QI last week. Their definition being biscuits get soft as they get old, cakes get hard as they get old. This was apparently used by McVities in a test case to prevent them having to pay tax on Jaffa cakes! This cannot be a complete definition as this allows in such interlopers as crisps and quavers which are definitely not biscuits.
A workplace challenge has forced me to come up with my own definition. I am still working on it but it has to do with being able to "break" a biscuit i.e. there must be a fracture line when applying a breaking strain. The definition should also include compound biscuits i.e. biscuits that are joined by some other non biscuit glue as in custard creams and bourbons. I am having problems with excluding such non biscuits as toffee which under the right circumstances will break in this way but is obviously not a biscuit, this also hovers dangerously close to brandy snaps which I suspect many will consider to be biscuits. Perhaps all biscuits must contain a certain proportion of cereal as in flour, oatmeal or similar. This takes us down the slippery slope of the poppadum/rice cracker debate. Are they biscuits? A colleague say no because they are eaten with a meal (this is spurious as this would debar cream crackers and water biscuits which are definitely biscuits).
Other suggestions include a sweet/savoury split, excluding all savouries. I cannot agree with this as biscuits designed to go with cheese are definitely biscuits but are savoury.
There is always the dunking argument. All biscuits must be "dunkable", this would exclude the aforementioned poppadoms but might let in the dough stick or doughnut. Dough sticks possibly could be considered to be biscuits, they certainly have the right texture. If disallowed because of size then what about mini dough sticks?
Basically Helpppppppppppp! Can you please provide me with an "official" definition of a biscuit as the controversy rages on in my place of work.
|Nicey replies: Colin don't get yourself in a state over this.
Yes we saw the bit on QI, which was fairly well informed, but did slightly play down the technicalities. The soft/hard argument has many exceptions, which is why the tribunal hearing for the Jaffa cake wasn't a simple open and shut case.
If it was that simple I wouldn't have been able to write a book on it. The really big Venn diagram in the book goes some way towards helping at least bring some form of order. However, there simply are no hard and fast rules rather a whole series of continuums upon which things find themselves, and a truckload of annoying exceptions. I find the Venn diagram is the best way of representing these issues, and you can place things on it using all the sensible rules you have devised. The beauty of the Venn diagram is allows things to more than one thing simultaneously depending on how you look at it, which often solves the problems. For instance the Doughnut sits in the union of cakes and bread all be it closer to the cakes. All the crackers you mention sit simply in crackers, and those Hovis digestives sit in the union of biscuits and crackers, again albeit closer to biscuits than crackers. Don't worry about Poppadums.
The fact is that all of these things exist and what's often more important the names we give them is their relationships with other baked goods. Through this we learn that its how things are made and how they are eaten is often the key to working out where they belong rather than their physical properties.
|D Lawnland Esq
||Dear Mr Nicey,|
I occasionally drop in to your site to cheer me up. What I like is its jolliness and, in a world beset by issues its refreshing to read something that is not terribly controversial (although I notice Wifey is becoming ever bolder in her views - keep an eye on that).
Now, on to tea and biscuits. Our domestic situation is a little bit complicated because we enjoy both Earl Grey and ordinary. Don't get me wrong, we're not posh or anything, we down the EG in big mugs just like builders, but generally the ordinary tea is for visitors, and we either forget and serve them EG and it isn't always appreciated, or we remember and have to ask them what they want and it all becomes difficult trying to remember who wants what.
I note that you are a family organisation. We, too, have rapidly-growing children and, not without a modicum of parental pride, I can say that they have all taken to tea-drinking with great enthusiasm. Not only that, but when they are in the mood, they will actually MAKE a cup of tea for me and Mum. It doesn't get much better than that on a Sunday afternoon. However, much as it pleases me to see the little ones developing their appreciation, I would like to see their appreciation of the contents of the biscuit tin developing a bit less rapidly. They are increasingly partaking of the biscuits WITHOUT the benefit of tea.
In a hard-pressed economy, it can be deeply shocking to one's soul to fill a biscuit tin Saturday morning with a choice selection of Digestives, Custard Creams and Malted Milks, only to open the same tin early Sunday evening to see just a few sad crumbs. Leaves you with a gray heart.
What is to be done? Can one obtain lockable biscuit tins? My wife's general philosophy in the past was to buy not-very-fancy biscuits, like Rich Tea, in order to discourage temptation. But how does that help me? Once I left the home of my own parents I was, I thought, liberated from the 2-biscuits-only rationing system of my youth. How ironic. Currently I am forced to secrete my own stash of luxury biscuits in "Dad's Cupboard", where no child must goeth. Then, of course, to scoff down Boasters in front of the TV whilst the young ones have to make do with Asda Smart Price Nice doesn't help my image as Caring Father.
I think this issue requires wider debate. How are the hard-working parents and guardians of this country to implement a workable policy to regulate the flow of biscuits fairly, and without prejudice, to all members of the household?
D Lawnland Esq.
|Nicey replies: Yes I see the problems, although you already seem to have taken steps to address some of the issues. The core problem seems to be the rapid emptying of the biscuit barrel and premature loss of biscuits. As for palming off the younger members of staff with cheaper biscuits, don't worry about it as they only have themselves to blame for this.
I would suggest simply upping your purchase of entry level biscuits. Plain shortcakes, triple packs of mixed biscuits that sort of thing (but not the really cheap ones). They'll still take a hammering but you shouldn't feel so distressed, and you should be able to keep a pack or two to replenish the barrel. By all means get some decent ones in and keep the packs in a secure location, only produce them for immediate sharing with those nice family cuppas.
Unfortunately the NCOTAASD younger members of staff are still too junior to make our tea despite Wifey's frequent suggestions at 7.30am that they go and make it.
congratulations on a splendid website. I just thought i'd pop you an email to say thank you for writing such an entertaining book. i'm an english literature student and this was the first book i've actually read all this year. which includes case studies and books i'm meant to have to of read for the course itself.
|Nicey replies: I think that has made me proud.|