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Fox's Whipped Creams

Friday 27 Jun 2008

I've been trudging through some fairly dismal biscuits recently. Strictly I should have reviewed them and shared their bleak and un-stimulating selves with you, but really where's the fun in that? So two packs of McVities Organic Yumbles, which were Digestives and Hobnobs by another name, only much smaller and more expensive and in need of more packaging to make them seem bigger, passed by without comment. These were followed by a pack of Burton's Bingo acquired in the often left-field Morrisons biscuit aisle. They were a first and also a last for Wifey and I. A small and troubled dollop of 'chocolate' recumbent on a small slab of gritty biscuit which was more of an autopsy to find out what killed it than a snack. Sad too, as Nanny Nicey has lots of excellent Bingo stories, like the time a fight broke out and they had to get South Wales Police in to break it up. So like a ray of sunlight Fox's new range of Whipped Creams have arrived at NCOTAASD HQ to restore our faith in biscuit innovation.

Now its not going unnoticed that Fox's are using a state of the art computer generated Italian American Gangster Armchair bound Panda to extoll the virtues of their biscuits. Since Pixar made Monsters Inc and developed all the gubbins for doing fur and hair inside computers such things have become possible. Hence all the movies involving hair and fur over the last the last seven years and of course adverts too. I have to say like or loath him, the panda drinks milk and can't say biscuit properly, he does look very expensive. Burton's on the other hand have gone for a large rubbery looking glove puppet of a Maryland cookie sat on wall telling what I assume are jokes. McVities have decided to bring us little domestic tableaus from a family of CGI wheat ears, who individually don't look as expensive as Vinny the Panda, but live in a photo realistic wheat field as opposed to his minimalist white room. As one of the wheat ears is clearly Vernon Kaye we can be conveniently distracted from all the problems of how one wheat ear can apparently be the father of another adjacent one. As a parting shot to all of this Vinny does partake of a Chocolate Viennese finger, which being the product shot probably required huge attention to detail to get it looking right.

So down to business. Fox's tell me their new biscuits are aimed at the adult indulgent but "we've had enough of chocolate" sector. Yes the oh so obvious chocolate can actually be off putting to many who are after a something a bit fancy. Those who dream of the ultimate custard cream rather than a bar of chocolate passing itself off as a biscuit are the target audience. The pack does the work of positioning these as adult items. Two biscuits indulge in a bit of mild bondage with a black gauze ribbon the end of which caresses a third voyeur which has been opened to reveal its jam and cream. Just in case you think I'm over doing it a bit the strap lines on the pack are "Buttery shortcake biscuit caressed with cream and sinfully strawberry conserve. Naughty!" the lemon ones have "lustfully lemon curd" in them. I shall touch base with NCOTAASD chaplain The Rev Stephen Day to see if one could safely serve these to the Vicar with out getting into trouble.

The biscuits are already in ASDA and should be arriving at the other big four supermarkets through out July, in order Morrisons, Tescos and finally Sainsburys. Eight biscuits to a pack and in genuine need of some support the box contains a cellophane wrapped insert tray with four stacks of two biscuits. At 26mm high these are some of the tallest biscuits we have seen and definitely evoke comparison with a Mr Kipling Viennese Whirl. The biscuit does contain butter and some cornflour which makes for a very soft and crumbly texture with good flavour. The whipped cream filling (note the whipped has a little red heart to dot its i on the pack), is placed in six blobs towards the sides of the hexagonal biscuit. This creates a well in the center to hold the sinful strawberry jam or lustful lemon curd, either of which accounts for 9% of the biscuit. The occasional gap between the cream blobs lets some jam seep out ever so slightly. Unlike most biscuit jam Fox's have elected to use the genuine article, with the a 45% fruit content in their strawberry jam and no need to resort to colours or flavours. The lemon curd has a few odds and ends to make it suitable for biscuit use such as pectin and uses natural flavourings and colour to get the lemon effect.

With so much on offer it's perfectly possible to enjoy these biscuits individually, not a bad plan as they're packing 141 calories each. Personally I couldn't really imagine wanting more than two in a sitting as all that indulgence can be a bit much. In this case I would see that as a bonus, treat yourself but don't get hopelessly out of control and wind up regretting the whole thing. Yes the adult themes continue as we move from lust and sin to guilt and the mature use of self restraint.

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Blue Riband

Tuesday 6 May 2008

The Wife has called an end to this madness declaring it a disgrace that I haven't done a Biscuit of the Week since last year. With summer finally here and the prospect of lots and lots of cycling the natural processes that keep my midriff in equilibrium stand a chance, that is eating biscuits and getting from A to B. So with out further ado lets take a look at a wafer biscuit that we've inexplicably managed to pass over for many a year the Blue Riband.

What do you know I set my self up for a well earned biscuit only to find the Blue Riband has positioned itself as some form of calorie counting biscuit. Yes this assemblage of wafers milk chocolate, wafers and some nameless brown stuff between the wafers, bills itself at 99 calories per biscuit. Fine, but we'll come back to that. Right now let's rip into one and see what's going on before we start picking through the details.

Well no sooner have we started and its over, blink and you could have missed the whole thing. Casting my mind back a few seconds I realise that the Blue Riband does have a distinctive and overriding flavour. You are going to be underwhelmed when I say it tastes strongly of wafer, but it really does. Perhaps more so than any other wafer based biscuit I can think of. With distinct notes of well toasted bread crusts the wafer here is providing much more than a simple carcass on which to pour milk chocolate, its an equal partner in the taste. Of course all that wafer disappears at the slightest munch causing the Blue Riband to do a vanishing act in our mouths.

Whilst wondering about why its called a Blue Riband it transpires that the biscuit was launched in 1936 one year after the creation of the Blue Riband trophy awarded to ships that made the transatlantic crossing in the fastest average time. So maybe the speed at which these things go is captured in the name.

At 99 calories each they reckon each provides 5% of the daily intake, that's twenty a day then! Also I think as an adult male I get another 200 calories on top of that so I could have another one pretend we are still on 2000 and it would be like it never even happened. Nestle have anticipated this with a cunning scam, they only put 9 in a pack. Check my maths but I make that you are forced to buy 20 packs and eat nothing else for ten days solid if you wanted to live on Blue Ribands and not have any left over. Whether that is physically possible, or happens routinely I don't know.

For the sake of a sanity check lets compare the Blue Riband to a proper wafer, something you can consider eating one at a time and not feel that you missed something, the mighty Tunnocks Caramel. Not only is it considerably bigger but our Tunnocks tipped the scales at 34g whilst the Blue Riband managed a paltry 18g. There you have it the are only about half the weight of a proper wafer.

Not only can I justify having another but I've just proven that I've only really had half a normal wafer.

Actually I've got a Tunnocks here, kettle on, I think I'l have that instead. I know, I know that makes 1 and a half wafers or something..

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Tuesday 18 Dec 2007

It's the year end and we thought it would be nice to round out 2007 with some biscuits that we can all go out buy in the UK, as opposed to something exotic from foreign shores. Having said that these are those French biscuits we mentioned a while back in our news section LU's re-branded range of classics for the UK market, Encore, which includes their flagship Petit Ecolier. And seeing that team NCOTAASD has spent quite a bit of time in France this year we thought we would bring you a few highlights of our exploits in the land of the Petit Beurre in the manner of a special festive season BOTW.

Encore is one of my favourite French words since I discovered fairly early on in my adult dealings with France that uttering it causes French people to go away and return with another one of what ever it was you just finished. This came as a revelation as I was only expecting to use it at the end of a theatrical performance, which I desired to see again. Not very likely given the division of our time between tent, supermarket and bar. So it's nice that LU have chosen this as their brand name. In France they do have a biscuit called 'Hello!' which I always have trouble with. Its evident desire to start a conversation seems a bit pushy, and so you'll understand why I have studiously avoided till now. Perhaps if they changed its name to the noise you make when clearing your throat I'd be tempted, although I'm not sure how to write that down.

So let's take a look at those two Petit Ecoliers, a Dark chocolate and a Milk chocolate. Last time we reviewed the Petit Ecolier I have to say it got a bit of a roasting. You might want to skip back to that earlier review to find out who the strange looking individual is embossed into the chocolate. This time LU have made quite a lot of changes to the biscuit which I have to say all seem for the better. Chocolate and biscuit seem wedded this time round rather than the much more casual relationship they pursued in the past. The biscuit is now an all butter affair with 14.5% of it by weight and in lighter and more open textured resulting it what appears to be a taller biscuit. With a nod to LU's own French stylings the Milk Chocolate pack has pale blue accents, which is LU visual language for milk chocolate, just as green means cheese and onion and blue salt and vinegar. Unless you happen to be Walkers crisps who seem to want to fly in face of good sense and logic and have it the other way round. If the House of Lords can debate whether sliced bread is becoming too thick as they did a couple of weeks back how come this one has slipped under their radar.

So if you like your choccy biscuits and their chocolate to be on the upmarket side you will definitely appreciate these. With their magic number of 48% chocolate by weight (the same as in Bahlsen's Choco Liebniz and PickUp) and with 70% cocoa solids in the case of the dark chocolate, you might manage to spoil yourself with only a couple of them.

Talking of upmarket we had our regular autumn strike mission to France in November staying for a couple of nights in the seaside playground of second or third home owning Parisians, Le Touquet. Most of Le Touquet's streets are set in pine forest. These are lined with wide grassy verges and white railing fences behind which long gravel drives lead to sprawling thatched white washed mansions. We were amused by the signs at the end of the roads informing us that picnics were forbidden. Of course this was like a red rag to a bull, given that we had our thermos flask in our ruck sacks, some pate baguettes, half a Camembert and a quantity of French biscuits. Luckily for the French and us the weather intervened before we could find out at which point casual roadside nibbling escalates into a picnic.

We also found the local French water did quite a spectacular job of resisting being made into tea, producing some of the most revolting and scum laden cuppas I can remember. I also attribute this to the fact that we had to boil the water in a stainless steel saucepan, which refused to absorb its share of the calcium salts unlike the trusty NCOTAASD Tefal kettle, which may well find itself taking a short break abroad in future.

Tearing ourselves away from such fascinating topics we shall briefly cast an eye over the next offerings in the Encore range, re-branded LU Pims, which are of course French Jaffa cakes. I think wisely the flavours offered have been reigned in from the full range which naturally includes Orange to just Raspberry and Cherry. Pims have a distinctive chocolate top which looks like it has been stamped with an old fashioned wax letter seal. The bonus to this a thicker chocolate shell to support all that shenanigans, which causes a Pims to crackle noticably in the mouth. Of particular note on the raspberry Pims was the inclusion of raspberry pulp and puree which conferred a slight and authentic pippy finish. Quite alarming, however, is the pack description as Belgian Chocolate Sponge Biscuits. Are they trying to undermine McVities landmark ruling?

And so to our best French cake of the year, a tricky title to steal given the sheer number of our sorties into the massed Patisseries of France. However the clear winner was home made for us by our favourite French lady ever Mdm Moulinier, who has a lovely farm in deepest Perigord. We visited there back in August on a our own marathon tour de France, after spending a week in the Alps.

It's difficult to express using clumsy words how calming spending a few nights camped in a wildflower meadow under the shade of walnut trees can be. Having last visited Mdm Moulinier before the YMOS joined the ranks, we were delighted to find her well and in her usual generous way we were instructed that we would be receiving a Tarte aux Noix. Rather like a big walnut based Macaroon it is fashioned from fresh farm eggs and walnuts from the grove in which we were camping. This one was topped off with some dark chocolate and walnut halves. Each one is its own unique creation, no two ever having the exactly the same texture, which can range from slightly chewy to this year's quite crunchy. I suspect that at 86 Mdm Moulinier is using the electric whisk now to beat the eggs.

All this loveliness brings out the painter in me and I spend a good proportion of my time at Mdm Mouliniers paint brush in hand trying hard not to muddle up my jam jar of water with my enamel mug of tea. Both of which can find itself used for either purpose depending on my concentration.

The final biscuit in the Encore range at present is a diminutive crisp dark chocolate coated biscuit affair with pieces of cocoa bean baked in. At this point I will concede that a small black coffee is going to more at home with these. Also for no doubt the same reasons I'm unable to claim any knowledge of its European counterpart.

As a parting shot LU has also added its Barquettes as a complementary range called Petit LU aimed at the YMOS. Re-named fruit scoops to aid our understanding these are small boat shaped sponges filled with fruit jam. It's amazing that such a simple and tasty little item has taken this long to make it to our supermarket.

We'll certainly be keeping an eye on this range with interest as it shows real intent and insight on LUs part in offering UK biscuit fans something a bit different.

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