Bahlsen PICK UP
|Monday 6 Mar 2006|
|People often ask me such questions as "what is your favourite biscuit?" and "what is the most popular biscuit?" and "why do we like biscuits?" and "do other people like biscuits as much as we do?" and you get the idea. What they haven't asked up till now, at least I don't recall anybody asking is "What biscuit has an army of loyal subjects whose fervour knows no bounds?". To which the simple answer is "The Choco Leibniz, although those Plain Chocolate Hobnob people are a bit forthright". I wonder, however, how many of the Choco Leibniz folks have even heard of its street wise off spring, the Pick Up.
Simply put the Pick Up is Bahlsen's go at turning the Choco Leibniz into a snack bar format, via that classic formula of the sandwich. Bahlsen have fashioned a jumbo 81mm x 39mm Leibniz biscuit and embossed it with the PICK UP! logo and retained the distinctive edge sculpturing. The unadorned Leibniz biscuit is one of those that teeters between blandness and brilliance, it could easily go both ways. By sticking to recipes that use butter rather than vegetable fat it keeps its self from toppling into blandness. In fact left alone with some Leibniz and a cup of tea one soon starts to appreciate this pure inner beauty.
What is apparent upon opening up the little flow wrap sachet that the PICK UP sits in is that there is a serious piece of chocolate lurking in here. The rich chocolately smell springs out at you as soon as you tear in. What you are left holding in your hands may take you aback a little in its pure simple brilliance. Yes it really is a big slab of really very good chocolate with biscuit handles on it. The chocolate comes out flush to the very edge too.
Further investigation reveals that Bahlsen have stuck to their magic number of 48% chocolate as witnessed in the Choco Liebniz. The fact that they are doing this in the presence of two biscuits indicates what a substantial inner core there is. Now it was somebody at Bahlsen who told me of some intricacies of VAT law concerning chocolate and its placement, and its my understanding that such an arrangement of biscuit and chocolate would be VAT free as inner chocolate is not considered 'Luxurious'. Thus a PICK UP should be a VAT free staple food stuff, and not some decadent choco indulgence... Right.
As you bite into this very solidly assembled biscuit your teeth which have made it through the crispy outer are suddenly arrested by the choc monolith forcing you to change into a lower gear and with a firm bite snap off a piece. This is a non standard biscuit eating experience and whilst the crisp buttery biscuit and chocolate in your mouth are starting to resemble that of a standard Choco Leibniz, your mind is trying to assess if there are any possible weak points where you could attack next. So thick is the chocolate that you actually have expend a bit of effort chewing it.
A final point worth noting is that the biscuits have a sort of dividing line across their middle between pick and up. I applied some pressure and sure enough it split obligingly in two. I think they look more impressive left as a whole though.
So where do you get your hands on this little chap? Well Tesco Express seem to carry them as do some other independent stores, and if you spot them they are well worth investigating.
Milk Chocolate and Orange Hobnob
|Friday 24 Feb 2006|
|In our recent biscuit poll the Chocolate Hobnobs both plain and milk came tops as the favourite biscuits that people are most loyal to. Or to put it another way not only do people like them but they all buy them too. With all that's been happening to the Hobnob's stablemate and elder statesman the Digestive it was only a matter of time before the Hobnob received some similar attention. Once again the Orange was choosen for the mission of coming up with a new sort of biscuit, and once again we got our hands on pack of them before they hit the shelves.
So what can we say about the HobNob that we haven't said before no doubt you are wondering as are we? Well it is worth pointing out what an amazing success story this oaty biscuit is. From a standing start in the 1980s it quickly rose to become one of the most successful biscuits ever, and it did it fairly much through simply being rather tasty. In fact so famous has the Hobnob become that even the Americans have heard of it, mostly through it being mentioned by Douglas Adams once.
So now we come to the important matter of what these chocolate orange Hobnobs actually taste like. Now when we encountered the first flavoured Digestives such as Lemon and Ginger, and subsequently the Milk Chocolate and Orange our hopes were for new vistas of biscuit taste to be revealed. We quickly learned that the flavours were much more evolutionary that revolutionary. Thus it would appear to be with this new biscuit, and gain to put it another way, they tasted just as we suspected they would, with a pleasant orangey tang emanating from the biscuit. This is no bad thing and harks back to the earliest days of the Hobnob which seemed instantly familiar. Perhaps this explains why they so successful at finding their way into the nation's biscuit tins.
So with the formalities over Wifey and I soon polished off a few with our mid morning cuppa, with the occasional approving noise to heard over the munching. This left me to search the packet to see if it actually held any surprises, given that the biscuits had been so predictable no matter how nice that had been. The best I could come up with is that the obligatory strap line "One nibble and your nobbled" had disappeared. Always one for reading deep meaning into such things perhaps McVities feel that that we are all now 'nobbled', and the vast majority of us have long since passed the one nibble stage. As such these new Milk Chocolate and Orange Hobnobs will be another big seller for McVities when they hit the shelves in March.
|Wednesday 15 Feb 2006|
|At this time of year NCOTAASD team like to make to make two incursions on to French soil. The first a sweeping manoeuvre down from the Swiss boarder and into Haute Savoie or as the younger members of staff call it, 'the snowy France'. This is followed a week or two later by a much shorter attack, a mere few hours long, on the supermarkets of the channel ports which I tend to call 'the shopping France'. Both have their merits. The high altitude manoeuvres allow for detailed reconnoissance of French biscuit aisles, whilst the lighting quick shopping strikes allow for great numbers of biscuits to fall into our hands. This year we captured a pack of Bastogne.
Now at this point you might be about to wearily think 'not another of Nicey's protracted military metaphors again' and indeed you might be right, but Bastogne also happens to be a small town in the Ardennes region of Belgium which featured prominently in WWII. Before the history lesson what about the biscuits?
The deep brown colour may easily fool you on first glance into thinking that these were some kind of cocoa flavoured biscuit. But what we are dealing with here is French biscuit powerhouse LU's very own Spekaloo. For those of you not previously paying attention to what that means, its a classic style of biscuit flavoured by its caramelised candy sugar content an cinnamon, typical of the Benelux countries. That deep brown colour comes from the cane sugar caramelising on baking. When we reviewed the Lotus Caramelised biscuit we were in very similar territory. They are, however, quite a bit larger than typical Belgian Speckaloos. The big Bastognes are also a good bit fluffier and not nearly as compact. So despite their large size they are seen off comfortably in a couple of bites.
That open texture also manages to contribute to the appearance of the upper surface of the biscuit which has a dragged through a hedge backwards demeanour about it. I'm willing to admit that getting all your biscuits to come out looking slightly scuffed on top is probably quite technical. Alas, LU have detracted from such a marvellous technical achievement on the packing by cloning the same biscuit image to show two biscuits side by side. You might fool the French with such cut and paste trickery, but not a Brit on his second cup of tea 25 minutes into a 45 minute tea break, oh no.
And so to WWII. Bastogne was the town that was successfully held by the Americans during the Battle of the Bulge. When the surrounding German forces requested the Allies to surrender Airborne 101st's acting commander, General Anthony McAuliffe sent back the now immortal reply "Nuts!". Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why Bastogne is one of LUs successful exports to the USA.
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