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Galettes Bretonnes

Wednesday 27 Oct 2004

The other week Wifey and I mounted a carefully planned and executed mission to foreign soil, in order to secure vital supplies for the forth coming festive season. So whilst in France relieving the French of some of their wine, we took the opportunity to pick up a few tactical packets of French biscuits for a bit of pure research. If you try hard enough, it is possible to pick up sensible biscuits in France, but it requires discipline and rigour, other wise you'll end up with small overpriced cakes or small slabs of something that would seem more suited to a job as ceramic block inside a 1970's gas boiler, despite the hopeless addition of chocolate to them. Based on previous data I was aware that there was one unassuming little biscuit which warranted investigation, the Galettes Bretonnes.

Now in typical French style just when you think you have succeeded in cracking one of their closely held cultural secrets such the unexpected existence of a useful biscuit, they have to confuse you with its name. Yes, on past trips to France I have enjoyed Galettes on several occasions, both savory and sweet, and in restaurants. I was able to do this as they are a variety of French pancake, originally cooked on a big hot stone called a 'galet'. In Britanny where they hail from they were eaten in all sorts of ways often doubling up as a form of bread. So not really a small round butter biscuit then. Perhaps this explains why in the past I passed them over. Despite several years of recreational French classes, which I took in my thirties hoping to gain enough knowledge of the language to enable dazzling and daring raids on French hostelries and purveyors of groceries I had painfully leant that some things were inscrutable. An example of this were the numerous signs for 'Balltraps' that we saw stuck up round rural France. Why exactly did they want to trap their balls? and why did it usually seem to take place in the back of beyond. It was some years before we found out that this was in fact the French term for clay pigeon shooting.

So back to the unhelpfully named Galettes Bretonnes. Well blow me down if I don't actually like the little Gallic jobbies. In fact I would go even further than that and say I really like them. They are everything I always hoped a French biscuit might be. Charming and simple, with out recourse to flowery details, they have an integrity about them. I purchased a pack of Auchan (French for Robin) Supermarket own label ones. Helpfully the pack design showed pictures of the ingredients, butter, eggs and even a big pile of flour. It has to said the French seem have a bit of a thing for wheat and flour, and its probably stimulating to them to see a big pile of it. The British on the other hand seem to be more stimulated by pictures of chips and beer. This is dangerously close to being Belgian so take care everybody.

The biscuits are finished in an egg glaze, reminiscent of a Melton Mowbray pork pie and have a delicious buttery snap. The texture has the odd little nibbly bit in it, despite being essentially a homogeneous biscuit. The diminutive size means that they really are fairly defenseless when faced with the might of a British mug of tea, so just as well that my pack was part of a French bogof offer.


Caxton Pink'n'Whites

Wednesday 13 Oct 2004

Wafers have to have a very good reason indeed to make it on to the biscuit of the week review list, and this weeks biscuit has managed to secure a place through the ultimate use of executive power, my Mum made me buy them. Not only that but she launched into a speech about how they are 98% fat free, and her sister likes them too. Given that we seem to be addressing biscuits with some kind special feature in the current batch of reviews I pleaded plausible deniability based on low fat content and allowed some wafers into my trolly.

Now it turns out that Caxton is a brand name for OP Chocolate, based in Merthyr Tidfyl (thats: mer-tha tid-vil) South Wales not far from where I grew up. Anyone who finds themselves in the locality of Merthyr usually takes advantage of one the three roads by-passing it, there by avoiding actually going there. This was the industrial heartland of the South Wales valleys with a history that dates from the early industrial revolution iron works, through to the manufacture of the Sinclair C5 at the old Hoover washing machine plant (from bits of washing machine no doubt). The name in Welsh refers to St Tydfil and some kind of burial, of what or whom nobody is terribly sure. Founded in Wales 1938 by Austrian Oscar Peschek, and relocating to Merthyr in 1963, OP is today part of French Groupe Cemoi. OP has a thriving business making every sort of wafer, and chocolate wafer for own label supermarket products. Ever wondered where those Tunnocks or Kit Kat look-alikes came from?

Now, however, we are faced with sort of niche product that needs to carve out a name for itself, and which comes in a big bright pink packet. The last wafer and mallow product which we examined (Super DIckmann alike Lidls Choco Softie) was denounced by some as seaside confectionary. With this product I fear we are very paddling in the same waters. The wafer seems to have been procured from a batch meant for ice-cream vans, and had all the features one would expect. This includes bold diamond ridges, and finer square ridging on the underside and that warm golden, well Ice Cream cone colour. At 95mm by 48mm this is a big biscuit, but as its largely made of air that is fairly irrelevant.

The mallow center consists of two strips of mallow laid one on top of the other. The white bit is ever so slightly bigger than the pink bit. I'll leave that to you to decide why. Personally I thought of four possible reasons before I got bored. Its also worth noting that robots are used on the mallow production line. Perhaps they can't handle big pink bits? That makes five.

What does it taste like? Oh come on you know what it tastes like. I found it difficult to eat mine without looking slightly pained. Nanny Nicey on the other hand scoffed hers down and once again reminded us all that they are 98% fat free and only 50 calories each.

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Nairns Stem Ginger Wheat Free Biscuits

Monday 4 Oct 2004

The other week we took a look at some organic chocolate biscuits. This week we are going to take a look at that much requested subject of wheat free biscuits. Now all things being equal I would normally leave the wheat free Bourbons and so forth that are available to those with special dietary requirements. However, when the oat engineers extraordinare Nairns get involved its time to investigate.

Nairns are the oat focused division of Simmers who are best known for their Abernethy biscuits. Nairns produce a range of oat cakes using Scottish oats which have been grown to conservation grade which although it can't be called organic farming does use many of the same traditional farming practices. Wildife assets such as hedges, ponds and woods are cared for as the creatures they support actively control crop pests. I've been enjoying their oatcakes since meeting up with them last year at the Good Food Show at Birmingham NEC. Up till then I had stayed away from oatcakes being somewhat confused by their name, however, now I'm quite keen on a rough oat cake and a nice bit of cheese, slice of apple, glass of red, you know the sort of thing.

The first thing to note about the stem ginger biscuits is that like their savoury cousins they are packaged within the box as four cellophane packs of five. I suppose we This is so handy, as it means your biscuits are always crisp and fresh and you can easily pop them into lunch boxes and the like. Five is a good number being a two whole biscuits more than a just sufficient three.

As with other Nairns products the flavour is very clean and un-cluttered. This lets the subtle interplay between the stem ginger and the powdered ginger sing through. The biscuits are fairly thin and crisp, and have a pleasing golden colour. They are not overly sweet, and this again allows for a fairly impressive tang on the tongue from the ginger.

I would have frankly been amazed if I didn't like these. I liked them a lot. Hopefully Nairns will continue to expand their range with other such interesting offerings.

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