|Tuesday 14 Oct 2003|
|Well a couple of weeks back I was asked to do a bit on the telly about chocolate biscuits giving an overview of the whole genre in seven minutes, and for effect I investigated the percentage chocolate content of many biscuits. For those of you who like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit there are a few heavy weights around today that in sheer chocolate content would have made even the Club biscuits of yore blush. McV have their chunky choc bars at 67%, but way out in front are our old friends Foxs with their super indulgent Creations range, one of which had a mind boggling 79% chocolate content.
Now before we go any further lets clear the air a bit. I've never made any secret of the fact that I don't much like vast amounts of chocolate on a biscuit. Right at the low end of the scale, the 24% to 30% chocolate domain of the various half coated biscuits lies harmony and balance. Cross over the 50% boundary and the chocolate can quickly drown out any contribution that the biscuit content has to make to flavour. So if a manufacturer is going to enter the murky waters of the very chocolately they really need a good plan to differentiate their product from the next lump of chocolate on the shelf.
With the Creations range Foxs have set about to make some unique and high quality biscuits that are as visually striking as they are choco juggernauts. We picked just a few of the species available from a Foxs Creations selection tin to illustrate this. The octagonal marbled chocolate whirl has been in the range from the start, and is a stunning piece of biscuit design that combines white and plain chocolate on a cocoa flavoured biscuit in a very original and contemporary way. The strawberry dream sundae is like an escapee from a box of Milk Tray. Under its thick crust of milk chocolate is a core of sweet pink strawberry cream pinning down a hopelessly out maneuvered piece of shortcake. The Nut Swirler pitches a hazelnut biscuit against a generous slab of dark chocolate, which again dominates the partnership. Finally we choose the Jaffa Viennese as taste wise this easily had the most personality of the whole collection. The soft gooey orange filling was nicely complemented by its milk chocolate lid whilst the viennese biscuit could actually be appreciated for its own qualities being only half covered.
Much of the rest of the tin used coloured foil, in red, purple, silver and aquamarine to enhance some otherwise visually identical biscuits. It would be nice if slapping coloured foil over things to enhance their allure worked for other everyday objects such old cars, out of date PCs or tropical fish. Wrapping your tatty old angel fish up in smart purple foil would certainly draw your eye to them and put the neon tetras noses out of joint.
So if you are a frustrated chocoholic who likes to pretend that they enjoy biscuits then Foxs certainly have something for you. If not then keep an eye on the range as Foxs continue to produce some innovative and premium products some of which are sure to tempt you. As for which one had 79% chocolate, it was the shortcake ring.
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|Sunday 5 Oct 2003|
|Well our recent tea tour to Cornwall gave us the chance to sample Cornish Clotted cream teas, a must for any visitor to the county, or country if you're from Kernow. We would, however, have been very remiss if we hadn't had a crack at the flagship biscuit of Cornwall the Fairing.
Baked in Redruth by Furniss (est 1816), packs or tubes of Fairings can be found in any shop in Cornwall that could remotely sell something sweet and edible, which makes for a fairly high percentage of them. Redruth also seems to be the operational base for Roddas the clotted cream barons, which might be a useful piece of information to know. Ok, its not important, but if you ever find yourself on a TV game show and that comes up as a question, it won't seem so trivial then.
Fairings are a close cousin of the Gingernut, however, some of the ginger has been replaced with cinnamon and mixed spice to give an a flavour that is in some ways similar to a continental cinnamon biscuit like the Speckaloo. Fairings should be quite hard and brittle, with a reddish golden appearance caused by the sugar and syrup caramelising during baking. The inside remains paler, whilst the surface has pleasingly rustic fissures caused by their rapid rise in the oven.
The Wife decided they were good dunkers, and being of quite substantive size they held their own during some concerted efforts to thin out their numbers. One word of warning, much in the manner of a Foxs Crinkle Crunch they will quickly go stale if left to fend for themselves. So eat them in one go or find a tin to keep them in.
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Bodam Carlsbad Spa Wafers
|Wednesday 17 Sep 2003|
|Czechoslovakia, with its historical and beautiful capital Prague, home of good king Wenceslas, attracts throngs of visitors, many of which indulge in its lovely beer, which stems from a brewing tradition that predates that of nearby Bavaria. In fact Budwiser is a Czech beer brewed to strict beer laws laid down in the middle ages. The upstart American Budwiser is a about as far as you can get from the proper Czech stuff being made as it were with rice and apparently according to recent advertising not requiring much in the way of maturation as its not been made with sensible beer ingredients. Anyhow, apparently the Czechs also have wafer or 'oplatky' thing going on, which we have been alerted to now on several fronts.
We recently took delivery of two consignments of Czech wafers some Zlaté wafers made by Opavia now owned by Danone, and the second some traditional Spa wafers made by Czech producer Bodam. The spa wafers had already been opened so we thought we would dive straight in.
How big are these wafers? Well the small black blob in the picture is a 10 pence piece, which hopefully gives you an idea what a 190mm wide wafer is like in the flesh. As for the taste, its predominately that of a wafer. A thin gritty middle layer contains some dried up sugary stuff in which small particles of hazelnut have met their end, much like minute daphnia caught between a microscope slide and coverslip and doomed to desiccation. A faint taste of cinnamon struggles to hold its own above the sugar and vanilla. As is frequently the case with wafers, I'm put in mind of eating packing material, which I once foolishly did to see what it tasted like. It was some of those things that look like corn puffs, and these were made of some form of starch. No doubt they were full of toxins like fungicide and rat poison. They tasted like unsweetened wafers.
It would appear that these traditional wafers are baked fresh in some places and so maybe have a special charm that factory produced wafers can't approach. I don't know I'm really just trying to say something nice about wafers right now. Still next time you are in Prague munch down a few spa wafers with your demi-litre of Staropramen and see if the local built ones are something to write home about.
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