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Arnott's Spicy Fruit Roll

Monday 1 Sep 2003

As the small children say at the start of the little films in the Tellytubbies "Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello". This week we are off to the great Southern Land again courtesy of veteran ace biscuit hunter Simon Smith, who recently sent us a bumper pack of Aussie biscuits with a special emphasis on fruit. Now you all know the importance NiceCupOfTeaAndASitDown attaches to the the whole fig roll genre, so when our pack of goodies contained Arnott's Spicy Fruit Rolls there really was only one possible out come, a head on assault by the entire team on one small pack of biscuits.

Now Arnotts are Australia's number one biscuit supplier and their products can be found in 96% of Australian homes which is a few percent more than have a telephone. Like most biscuit companies of some repute, there is a Scottish connection and Arnott's was founded in 1865 by a Scott, William Arnott. Known outside of Australia for the Tim Tam, Arnotts produce a wide and impressive range of products, many of which are sold for export. The recent acquisition of Arnotts by American food giant Campbells Soup, who also count Pepperidge Farm cookies amongst their brands, was greeted with much mistrust and consternation in Australia. The Australians are fiercely proud of their own produce, and some were quick to exploit the situation by producing alternate Australian and thinly veiled clones of the Arnotts flagship Tim Tam biscuit, claiming the moral high ground of Australianess. This was of course quickly stopped through legal action, but it goes some way to demonstrate not only the level of feeling but also how it can be manipulated for commercial gain.

In the UK there was almost blind panic when Nestle took over Rowntree Mackintosh, whose brands KitKat, ToffeeCrisp etc were cherished by the British public. Dire predictions of our chocolate bars being replaced by unknown Swiss ones abounded. The actual outcome was that it became easier to find KitKats around the world. Given Arnotts leading place in the Australian market the only sensible way forward would be to drive the export market for Arnotts products or who knows, even start making Arnotts products under license overseas. Either of these sounds good to me for raising the profile of some very nice products.

Oh yes Spicy Fruit Rolls. Well the fruit a whopping 45% content consists of mixed vine fruits and citrus peel, however, we are not told what the spice is as it only merits a 'Flavourings' on the list of ingredients. I would hazard a guess at Clove and Cinnamon, and the overall effect is vaguely yuletide. The biscuits were quite big 58x35x14mm, and cut before baking. The crust was fairly crisp compared say to a Jacobs fig roll, certainly more so than generic open ended fig rolls of Lyons. Fifteen to a pack was no defense from the biscuit assault they suffered from us and they are now but a pleasant memory.

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Bahlsen Crumblys

Monday 25 Aug 2003

Its rare to come across something in the biscuit world thats really not like anything you've ever had before, very rare indeed. So its with a great deal of genuine excitement that we bring you something new this week from Bahlsen and their pan european biscuit operation, and just starting to become available in the UK. Its also brilliant to see jam and lemon curd taking a front seat in biscuitry although inevitably chocolate is there to keep them company.

We have all three Crumblys pictured alongside from top to bottom, Chocolate and Hazelnut, Lemon and Blueberry. Each biscuit is like a little flan case made from crisp buttery biscuit. The well is filled and then covered with more little bits crumbly biscuit. Made in Balhsen's french facility, and clad in very French packing. Despite the rough ride we normally give the French's attempts at biscuits, they are truly world leaders in the small tart department (insert your own amusing joke here!). So on unpacking the Crumblys and finding their true nature I was expectant of something well executed and as always with Bahlsen continental in flavour.

I wasn't disappointed, the Lemon or Citron flavour, really did have that authentic French Tart au Citron Taste, with the buttery biscuit base providing the perfect complement. Now I love a Lemon Curd tart, but a Tart au Citron has its own distinct balance of fresh lemons, sugar, eggs and butter. The Lemon Crumbly was aligned with its compatriot. The crumbly bits on the top provided a little bit of extra bulk and provide a defensive shield against anybody thinking about direct assaults on the fruit filling.

Next came the Blueberry or 'Myrtilles' in French. Again an excellent fruit flavour. Blueberries can be a bit hard to pin down, and if all you've ever had are blueberry muffins then you won't have a clue what they taste like. Try a Blueberry Crumbly then you'll know.

Finally and also interestingly came the Choco-Noisette, or chocolate and Hazelnut. Out of the three this was the only pack with Italian in the languages on the back. Make of that what you will, not having visited Italy I don't have the context to interpret the particular subtleties of this pan european biscuit roll out. Anyhow, again a very nice biscuit and very much that Nutella type flavour so all in order there. The Wife not being a big fruit eater picked on these instantly as her favourites.

So now for the bad news, you might have to wait to next year before you can get your hands on these. They will be around in a few stores starting about now, but not the big supermarkets. Also if I had my way they would be twice the size.

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Tesco's Finest Soft Eating Orange and Cranberry Cookies

Sunday 17 Aug 2003

Well you might think with a title as long as that there would be little left to say about this week's biscuit of the week, however, I'll have a go. As we mentioned in this months newsletter, Tesco's have been adding some new biscuits to their Finest range. After the recent austerity of the Morning Coffee and Bickiepeg review I thought it was only fair if we pushed the boat out and tried something a bit different. This is fairly much the antithesis of the Bickiepeg being both aimed at adults and designed to be soft to eat.

Now when something gets called a 'Cookie' in the UK we do it with good reason. The reasoning here is that the classic limp and barely cooked sort of texture of the American cookie is being portrayed here. There are various subliminal messages that are carried with this type of cookie texture, such as they were so impatiently awaited that they were removed from the oven as soon as they could have remotely been considered cooked, to be devoured probably whilst still hot. The second and very related one is that the mixture tasted really good raw, so baking is just a way of firming it up so its not so sticky. Those cookie shops in shopping arcades/malls that fill the surrounding air with the smell of baking, by and large knock out some very sickly barely cooked dough in a bag. It is not with out some irony that our local one is right next to the shop that sells clothes for the larger lady, both shops seem happy with that arrangment. The cookie can be made even more sickly by scaling it up to the size of a dinner plate covering it in nasty gak-in-a-bag icing and then presenting it to some poor unfortunate office worker as a birthday surprise.

Luckily Tesco's have seen sense and produced something here that uses the power of Orange and Cranberry to balance out any potentially overly sweet taste. Orange oil, peel and some lemon peel all provide a vivid citrus backdrop against which fairly large pieces of Cranberry are placed plus a few raisins. This provides plenty of interest, enough even to stop you scoffing them down with out a thought. The cookies, all eight of them were all fairly much individuals and again this is usually indicative of a premium product.

To complete the whole alure of the product Tesco's have put a serving suggestion on the pack, which I regret to say I didn't heed. The suggestion is to take six of the cookies and build a small leaning and somewhat out of focus tower, next to which one places three Cranberries and two slices of Orange. Then take the remaining two cookies and break one in half and place the whole lot in the foreground so that they are in focus. Hoorah! for serving suggestions how would we get by without them.

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