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Romany Creams

Monday 12 May 2003

Well we have just finished off this weeks box of review biscuits, and very nice they were too. All the way from the Republic of South Africa, came a 200g box of Bakers Romany Creams. The Bakers logo features a little man, 'The Bakersman', with receding hair and a pencil behind his right ear, adorned in an apron. He says on the pack 'I've been there, on all those packs of Bakers Biscuits you know and love, through everyone's childhood, a part of all the best memories'. Sentimental old chap this Baker. He also appears to sponsor Mini Cricket according to the pack.

Describing themselves as crunchy choc coconut biscuits, the Romany Cream is a sandwich biscuit with a filling of smooth chocolate cream. Now as you may know I'm not a fan of coconut in biscuits, with the 'Nice' biscuit representing perhaps the most loathsome example. However, after the recent Anzac review maybe I'm mellowing in my old age. The texture of the Romany was truly unique, the closest thing I could compare to would be a Foxs Viennese finger with a slight aldenté edge afforded by the finely divided coconut. The back of the pack displayed a recipe for chocolate cream pie, instructing one to crush the whole pack and to combine with butter to make a biscuit base. I have no doubt that this would produce a killer pudding. Despite majoring on the chocolate theme the overall chocolate taste was low key with the coconut easily holding its own. When put up against a nice cup of tea the Romany Creams started to disappear at quite a rate.

The biscuits themselves are quite small and I would think it not indecent to consume them in two mouthfuls. The pristine example of a Romany Cream on the pack front did not prepare me for the appearance of the contents. Rattling around in a bag in side the box the meant that the chocolate cream filling was quite hard to spot being covered as it was in a layer of biscuit crumbs. Now I don't mind this for a minute as it means less packing. In fact I would think it would be quite good sport to eat boxes of the things trying to find one that looked the same as the one on the box.

Ok, now to the nitty gritty, why are they called Romany Creams? Sorry I really don't know. What an earth the particular association between the Romany people and crunchy choc coconut biscuit is I can't even begin to guess at. Why they are so typically South African? Don't know either. Can you get them outside of South Africa. Don't know. Yes I know this is not much of an exhaustive reference of the Romany Cream,but as I said we enjoyed the biscuits.

Thanks to Nick Alliwell for getting us the Romany Creams to us.

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Crawfords chocolate rings

Monday 5 May 2003

Now as we all know the mighty United Biscuits has been having a bit of a sorting out of its brands, with the McV sub brand being the trendy alter ego to the dependable McVities. Crawfords, very much the B team, is actually the oldest brand in the portfolio, going back to a 19th century Scottish family bakers run by William Crawford in Leith Edinburgh. To bring back a bit of tradition and heritage to the UB stable Crawfords has received a bit of a face lift. Gone are the two tone purple wrappers that so distinctively graced many a corner shop or petrol station biscuit selection to be replaced with a large red device looking rather like a horizontally elongated fairy cake bearing the name Crawfords two crossed ears of something and the legend "Baking family biscuits since 1813". So its a bit of a pity that this weeks brand new offering from Crawfords were baked in Spain.

So what do we have here? Well we have reviewed both the white chocolate and the milk chocolate packs. Now both rings have very much the air of something you would find in Christmas selection tin, and are a bit of a departure from the traditional biscuits we are used to from Crawfords. The biscuits themselves are pleasant enough. The chocolate coat is not overdone and their small size means that you are going to probably pop them in your mouth whole. However they are also a bit forgettable just like that nameless chocolate coated shape in the Christmas tin. I would see these playing quite an important role in the plates of biscuits you get given at hotels that offer conference facilities and want to create a slight air of opulence.

So what's going on with the family bakers getting biscuits from Spain? Well UB are a big operation and its got a whole bunch of bakeries in Spain. So in one pack we get both extremes an invocation of tradition and a demonstration of a pan-european conglomerate. However, this does appear to be a interesting new direction for the UB biscuit machine, and its going to worth keeping an eye on.

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ANZAC biscuit

Friday 25 Apr 2003

We couldn't miss the opportunity to review ANZAC biscuits on the 25th April, ANZAC day. Dating back to 1915 the ANZAC biscuit is the stuff of national pride and tradition for both Australians and New Zealanders, whose forefathers ate them in the trenches during the Gallipoli campaign of WW1.

Now its a bit of a tricky beast to pin down. There are several explanations for how the biscuit came to be, from soldiers making simple biscuits from their rations in the trenches, to a sort of military specification super hard biscuit able to withstand global trips, to housewives back in Oz and NZ making them as part of the war effort. I suspect that all explanations are true, and certainly account for the differing types of ANZAC biscuit. The military one was a square of hard unyielding floury stuff, with either 9 or 15 holes depending on who you believe. The second sort was much more the sort of thing you would want to find in a parcel from overseas, and is the type we are reviewing here.

Unibic bake their ANZACs in Reservoir Victoria, Australia, and proudly display that for each pack sold they donate 6c to Australian veterans. The more popular ANZAC recipe includes flour, oats and desiccated coconut in equal proportions as well as butter sugar and golden syrup. This results in a wholesome and high roughage biscuit which many Australians insist have toe nail clippings and the like in, although it seems both unlikely and futile to attempt increase its fibre content. Unibic seem to have tinkered a little bit with tradition to make their ANZAC a bit sweeter than those baked in war time, and probably a bit less abrasive. Also the coconut doesn't intrude as it so easily can. The pack has stirring stuff on it like "Even today we should never lose sight of the purpose of these biscuits, because we should never lose sight of the real meaning of ANZAC".

We have greatly enjoyed tucking into our ANZACs this week, they certainly hark back to a simpler age of biscuit eating, and definitely taste home baked. We just wish that the in-fighting amongst the Aussies and Kiwis about who really invented the ANZAC and who really makes the proper ones will not be directed our way after this review. In the interests of fairness friends who have recently returned from a trip to NZ told us that particularly liked the ANZAC biscuits they ate there.

Thanks to Simon Smith for shipping the ANZACs to us.

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