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Kölln Cakes

Friday 23 Jan 2004

Last year we covered Brandt Hobbits from Germany, and with that particular shipment of merchandise from Tom Winter came a pack of Kölln Cakes, which were a species unknown to me. In common with a great many things in Germany that go by the name 'Cake', they are really rather obviously in our eyes, biscuits. Tom writes "Kölln is 'the name' in Oat flakes in Germany. The back of the packet reads: 'Dabeihaben isst alles' This is a play on 'Dabeisein ist alles' (participation is everything) slogan used by a charity lottery. The gist of the wordplay is 'having them with you eats them all'." Yes, hilarious wordplay indeed.

So what of these cake biscuits, how do they fair? Each is well presented in terms of its graphics which show a big ship, boat or something, and a sort of tower perhaps, or it might be a series of receding potting sheds stacked up. The year 1820, and the name of Peter Kölln, who bought his horse powered grain mill in 1795 are also present. Its probably a safe bet that our biscuits origins date back to 1820 then. Each biscuit is individually wrapped in its own cellophane sachet, with a little nick cut in one end so that we might easily open it. I've tried several and found that just a small corner seems get torn off still leaving the biscuit trapped inside the remaining 96% of the pack. There must be a technique to this.

Some people who must have the technique are the four individuals in the lifestyle shots on the back of the pack. One who is playing golf appears to have a Kölln cake sticking out of their glove, held in place by paranormal forces, Photoshop, or maybe a wire. I get quite irritated by little nylon labels in such items of clothing. This chaps golf swing appears to be unaffected by a fairly large (56mm x 83mm x 8mm) 25 gram biscuit jammed in there.

Another chap has one lodged in a strap thing round the front of his peaked cap, effectively holding the germanic snack over his right temple. I'm assuming he is some form of public servant, possibly directing traffic, however, strapping biscuits to his head may only serve to erode his position of authority. Or perhaps he's got the right idea and we should all proudly strap our mid morning snacks to our heads, using special head gear. This might be tricky for those of you who enjoy a yoghurt.

My initial taste impression wasn't favourable, putting me in mind of a dark mealy shortbread, with piquant notes of rabbit and guinea pig food. However, the Kölln cake proved to quite substantial. I then realised on my second attempt that the unfamiliar tastes and aromas were from the use of honey in the recipe. Once I was aware of this the flavour became much less alarming. Indeed by my third Kölln cake I actually grew fairly impatient with the bogus wrapping system as I was looking forward to strange shortbread. So all in all once I had stopped laughing at the initally odd taste I settled into the pack quite nicely.

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Happy Faces

Friday 9 Jan 2004

Apart from our own run ins with the media, biscuits have being doing well in the both the press and on TV in the last 12 months. Coronation Street and Eastenders have both tried to make tea drinking scenes more realistic, with the inclusion of plausible biscuit asides such as Audrey Robert's recent 'There's some nice Gingernuts I've been saving', or Pauline Fowlers more direct 'I've got some chocolate biscuits'. PC Plum in Balamory on CBeebies, regularly demolishes a plate of Miss Hoolies' Custard Creams, and they even had an episode where he tried to track down his favourite biscuit. It was also a great treat to see BBC Three's 'Two Pints of Lager and a packet of Crisps' feature biscuits strongly in their Christmas special. There were two musical numbers featuring biscuits and a packet of Mini-Jammy Dodgers provided a pivotal element in the plot. At one point a giant Happy Face biscuit about 2ft in diameter crashes off a car bonnet. Fantastic. Inspired, I resolved to make the Happy Face the first biscuit review of 2004.

Immediately, I ran into a slight logistical hitch, in that the pack I purchased but a week or two earlier with the intention of reviewing at some point had been compromised. Nanny Nicey insisted that the younger members of staff had forced her to open them, whilst the younger members of staff denied all knowledge of this version of events. Either way there was only half a pack left. So I was forced to quickly dispatch them, in the name of science/tea/jam, and it was off to Tesco's to buy two more.

I must admit to being somewhat ignorant of the Happy Face, which is very lapse of me. As you may know, I've been banging on about jam for the last few months and the lack of it. It quickly became evidentto me that the Happy Face is a shining example a Jam and Cream sandwich biscuit. A very good sign is that the pack has little pictures of raspberries all over it, and yes, it is real raspberry jam, no apples and plums in disguise. You can certainly taste the difference. The jam sits like a little nugget surrounded by a ring of cream filling. The effect of the filling being viewed through the eye and mouth holes of the face creates teeth and eyelids. The picture on the front of the pack is a little off in this regard as the faces have top teeth rather than bottom teeth. The biscuits themselves, 45mm in diameter, are simple smooth shortcake type of affairs, which hold their face graphics well enough. Altogther we have observed 5 types of faces which is very good going for a pack of ten biscuits.

A little while ago whilst waiting to do a spot of TV I found my self sitting next to a wine 'expert' from the US who was of the opinion that it was a lot of hoo haa that wine should be drunk at the correct temperature and allowed to breath etc. Now I have to say that being surrounded by studio of food and drink lovers, this chaps theories were met with some very stoney poker faces. When it comes to biscuits, ask any Aussie and they will tell you that TimTams are best eaten fresh from the fridge. Coming back to the Happy Face, it would seem to suit a fairly warm environment as its jam is liable to become a bit glassy at low temperatures, even snapping in two as it's bitten. It can also be liable to break away from the biscuits completely, leaving you with just a lump of jam to chew, which is no bad thing. However, when the jam is pliable, the whole biscuit works in concert, and is very good indeed.

So all in all the Happy Faces have been very well recieved in the NiceCupOfTeaAndASitDown HQ, not only with the younger members of staff who have started to eat them using spoons, as this seems to be the messiest possible approach, but also by me. Maybe I need a thermometer to go with my lovely new biscuit ruler, for measuring ambient jam temperatures.

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Nabisco Nutter Butter

Wednesday 31 Dec 2003

Recently Biscuit Enthusiast Mandy took a trip to New York, and being a forward thinking type of person she acquired two packs of the most extreme examples of American biscuits (cookies yes, yes..) she could find. So I thought we could round out 2003 with a look at these peanut shaped articles.

Now obviously anyone with a nut allergy would best avoid being in the same room as these things. Just in case you thought you might get away with it the pack assures us that these biscuits are 'Made with real peanut butter'. How one would go about producing fake, or virtual peanut butter and what you would use to make it is beyond me. No doubt such a thing could be made at great cost using some amazing form of food engineering out of soy beans, but 'real' peanut butter is probably a fraction of the cost, and doesn't require a 30 million dollar development program over 5 years. So 'real' peanut butter it is then.

Just in case we still weren't convinced about the credentials of the peanuts, its also pointed out that Planters peanuts have been used. Planters was founded in 1906 by an Italian immigrant and fronted since 1916 by Mr Peanut sporting a cane and wearing a monocle and top hat with 'Mr Peanut' written on it. Merging with Nabisco in 1981 its inevitable that we should have some kind of joint offering from the two product lines.

If you were thinking that this is just some esoteric little oddity from the States then think again. Over 1 billion of them are consumed each year, that's well over 15 thousand metric tonnes, as befits the 9th best selling biscuit in the US.

The biscuits are fairly long at 74mm and are arranged in a sandwich configuration. A 1mm deep layer of sweetend peanut butter made from peanuts, corn syrup solids and hydrogenated rapeseed, cottonseed and soybean oil, adheres the two 5mm deep biscuits. The biscuits themselves have some rolled oats in them and were actually quite crispy with the distinctive peanut husk design being faithfully rendered on each one of them.

I actually like peanut butter so I was keen to try these. None the less I was pleasantly surprised that the peanut flavour wasn't too strong. The biscuits themselves were generally passable, and if it hadn't have been for the Peanut butter would have probably made their way quite happily in the world. So taken as an ensemble, we have a not overly sweet crispy sandwich biscuit with a slightly gritty and mellow peanut flavour. Whether Mandy chooses to eat the pack she brought back for her self after reading this, remains to be seen.

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