The Biscuit Page
These are stories about cookies/biscuits written for the blog Encounters With Remarkable Biscuits.
If you have been keeping up with the gripping story of biscuit tasting at the lodging establishment of a recent Meet At Malvern, first, a deep curtsy for doing so, thanks! It began with three intrepid tasters sampling the goodies provided by this very blog for our enjoyment, thanks again! After a rocky start, more tasters seated themselves at the table, ready to offer opinions in exchange for getting to eat the test subjects. The attractive blonde on the left side of the table wearing the scarf was strictly there for eye candy, she did not taste. Here is what the newcomers had to say about the two brands:
L-Cakey, (spelling by phonetics) jammy (same SBP) not marmalade, considered a plus
R-As biscuits go, one of the best (Ah a British taster steps up!)
D-Sponge with really bad orange, I have issues with Jaffa, rubbish, wrong, not a biscuit
L-Quite dry, needs to dip
R-Oaty granola goodness (This is a ringer for the blog, methinks!)
D-Fine without dark chocolate, great
And now for a personal note….
The contents of several of the packages available were nibbled in the utmost effort to find the true meaning of British, or European biscuitry. We went into this with an open mind, and we were hungry at the time, a big help in determining goodness. There was one true winner for this writer, it tasted delicious, leaving us wanting more when the packet was empty.
According to experts, this is not a premium brand, but rather a store brand, Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference All Butter Stem Ginger And Oatflake ….what’s this? Cookies???? Nonetheless, the buttery, crispy texture and ginger flavor was like heavenly manna to the innocents abroad.
It begins. The official tasting by a few of the Meet At Malvern crew that is. First up is Jaffa Cakes, said to be a favorite of The Head Honcho himself. It might be that HH has entirely different sorts of taste buds than the test subjects for here is what they had to say:
Y-Sickly sweet gunge (unsure of the spelling on this word, but phoentically correct.)
G-Atrocious, rubbery, like stale twinkies. Wrong, similar to toe jam. This removes the excuse of staleness as the problem with a previous taste taste done in the US.
Uh oh. Looks like the panel is not amused by these biscuits. Let us try another round, this time Dark Chocolate Hobnobs by McVities:
Y-Sawdust With chocolate
G-No taste after chocolate
E-Couldn’t find the taste, searching for taste (she is so cute!)
These opinions were dully noted by this scribe, who herself chose not to taste these two offerings after the pronouncements of the others were recorded. Can you blame her?
Next, more tasters join the fun and a wrap up.
The Orange. Frances
The results are in! After Traveling For Biscuits to England recently, and tasting the above sampling that was so generously provided by the Commissar and Convenor of EWRB at our temporary place of residence, the Sorority House, a new understanding of British, make that European cookies has been achieved. The selections shown in the image above were swirled, chewed, swallowed and contemplated in order to ascertain a clear winner. There were heated discussions about the findings. Stay tuned for the details as to what was said about which by the participants.
The Orange. Frances
The lengths, or distance some people will go for a biscuit boggle the mind. This fabulous blog has opened new doorways to the wonderful world of baked goods enjoyed by Europeans, in particular those living in the islands of the United Kingdom. There seems to be much more to the culture of biscuitry there than to the store bought, mass produced counterparts across the pond in the United States, cookies. Curiosity finally got the better of my friend Gail and me. Our tickets are purchased and we will be flying over the big blue body of water to get a taste for ourselves of these fine confections. We hope for a Hobnob, wish for a …. is there one that begins with the letter W? You can fill in the rest of the list, for you know them so much better than we.
As a side trip, we will also be traveling to some sort of fabulous garden type thing in the Malvern Hills. Two innocents abroad is what Gail is calling the journey, intrepid travelers say I, or possibly two innocent broads taking the trip of a lifetime. All for a biscuit. We are ready to take the big bite, are the biscuits ready for us?
The Orange. Frances
There is a special place here, a secret place, to hide food from others in the household. The hiding of food began long ago, when there were four always hungry young’uns looking for treats beyond their allotted snack time and after dinner desserts. Appetites would be spoiled, not to mention the rationing system of fair equal shares for each would be sent into a chaotic free for all if cookies and such were openly displayed. It was for their own good.
Of the most treasured items hidden, Mother’s Little Helpers, chocolate Cadbury eggs, available only during Easter were the number one treat, squirreled away for a stolen moment of pleasure while children were napping or at school. Ah, special times indeed. And funny too, for sometimes those chocolate creamy yolk and white filled confections were forgotten, only to be stumbled upon during the search for a special cup or bowl at the back of the cupboard. No matter how many months had passed, the foil wrapper would be gently peeled, oftentimes sticking to the chocolate, and the egg shoved into the whetted mouth when one of these treasures was discovered. Ah, those were the days.
Now the children are all gone, we are the pathetic empty nesters, without the pitter patter of little feet unless one counts the fur covered padding of Kitty and Hazel, our two cats. Now there is no legitimate reason to hide goodies. Or is there?
What does this have to do with the topic of biscuit/cookie encounters you might be asking yourself? It started at Christmas, when our large family descends here, each bearing gifts and baked goods. The dining table is spread with plastic ware, cardboard shoes boxes lined with waxed paper and metal round tins, all filled with cookies. It is our tradition, the baking of enormous amounts of cookies for the holiday noshing. We eat and eat and eat until we are sick to death of looking at these cookies, and besides, they are getting stale. The guests leave, each packing a goodie bag to take home. Still there are scads of cookies, although they have been condensed into fewer and fewer containers. We cannot go into the kitchen without eating a cookie, and we seem to have to go into the kitchen way more times in one day than previously thought. The solution is to package the cookies into freezer bags and stow them in the freezer. Somehow putting things into the freezer is like sending them through a gateway to another dimension as far as our housemate is concerned, irretrievable and invisible. Only I, the Lady of Larder hold the key that can unlock this fortress of foods, in his mind anyway.
Time passes. There have been additions and subtractions in the freezer compartment of the fridge since the holidays ended. Sliced turkey and ham, bags of peas and corn, frozen puff pastry, blueberries, small bits of home made pesto from the basil harvest and home made ice cream from The Hop all have hidden the bags of cookies. Let’s move things around and have a look see at what is available: powdered sugar covered Russian tea cookies, minty chocolate cookies dipped in melted chocolate with sprinkles, peanut butter fudge and peanut butter chocolate meltaways make up the inventory.
One of each set on a plate will quickly thaw at room temperature, given the high fat content. A quilty pleasure to help make the winter more bearable, perfect with a warm, steaming beverage. All the sweeter for having been secreted away.
The Orange. Frances
From the google search of the phrase:
English Oxford Dictionary Definition Of Biscuit (this is the link)
Dictionary: bis·cuit (bĭs’kĭt)
n., pl., -cuits.
A small cake of shortened bread leavened with baking powder or soda.
A thin, crisp cracker.
A pale brown.
pl., biscuit. Clay that has been fired once but not glazed. Also called bisque.
[Middle English bisquit, from Old French biscuit, from Medieval Latin bis coctus : Latin bis, twice + Latin coctus, past participle of coquere, to cook.]
A baked flour confectionery dried down to low moisture content. The name is derived from the Latin bis coctus, meaning cooked twice. A 100-g portion provides 400-500 kcal (1680-2100 kJ). Known as cookie in the USA, where ‘biscuit’ means a small cake-like bun.
[BIHS-kiht] 1. In America, biscuits refer to small quick breads, which often use leaveners like baking powder or baking soda. Biscuits are generally savory (but can be sweet), and the texture should be tender and light. 2. In the British Isles, the term “biscuit” usually refers to a flat, thin cookie or cracker. 3. The word biscuit comes from the French bis cuit (“twice cooked”), which is what the original sea biscuits aboard ship had to be in order to remain crisp.
…Oh there is more, much more. So much more that my eyes crossed, twice, trying to get to the bottom of the page without glazing over. Glazing, isn’t that about donuts? We won’t even go there. Click on the link to read for yourselves.
Let it be said that the problems this American is having over what is, and what is not a biscuit according to the British blog readers are systemic to the differences in definition as explained so thoroughly confusingly by so called authoritative sources.
But the pursuit to understanding remains untarnished.
(But taste testing is more fun.)
The Orange. Frances
Hours and hours spent, wandering around in circles, searching, make that lusting for a biscuit that would make my toes curl in that special way described by the British and their baked good love affaire extraordinaire. Bites have been taken, oh so many nibbles in hopes of finding THE ONE. Well, ladies and gents, it has been found.
A recent discovery was made that many European biscuits are for sale right here in my small village, right here at the very grocery store that supplies the comestibles for our family on regular forays. No need to travel to the big city for stale lesser thans. Perusing the shelves for that special combination of wafer and chocolate, we stumbled upon the Midor Famosa, real Swiss, real good. Premium wafers with hazelnut filling and swiss chocolates. Serving size is three cookies costing one hundred and seventy calories. We spend our calories like money, trying to get the most taste value for the expenditure. Fiber, vitamins, protein all are considered offsets to the calories. The serving offers one gram of fiber, two grams of protein, no vitamins and the sugar and fat content will be veiled from consideration.
Ready? Get set. Bite.
The mouth juices are swirling in ecstacy, the brain is delirious as the hazelnut filling coats the inner cheeks. Chewing is done at the slowest rate possible, for we must make this moment last and last. The ratio of chocolate and filling to wafer is weighted heavily towards the soft cocoa mixture. Not at all dry, this cookie need not be dunked, but could be with little decrease in pleasure. Immediately we count out the numbers. Nine wafers in total, there will be three days of enjoyment with this as our mid morning snack. Two more are quickly gobbled before the package is tidily rewrapped and put away for the next day.
Day two finds us watching the time in anticipation of hazelnut goodness. Opened, three selected, reclosed.
Day three finds us feeling slightly quilty for not sharing this divine treat with our husband, our mate, the person with which we have shared more than thirty five years of happiness and sorrow, in sickness and in health. He is at the computer, stoic as always. The package is shown, the rave review revealed. A wafer is offered, to share in this joy after previous taste testings he was required to participate in were less than joyful. He takes one and sticks the entire thing in his mouth at once without a word. Oh well, we will enjoy our two left with the customary twenty three chews per bite, as instructed long ago by a wise grandmother.
But what is this! There is only one left in the pack. As I am making whistling wheezing squeaking noises, without turning from the computer screen he admits that he had already eaten one earlier. But still he took the sweet offering by a generous spouse without a word while she extolls the qualities found in this delectable goodie, as though it is newly discovered. I believe I am owed some calories.
The Orange. Frances
Would you care to take a trip to our local US grocery store to see the wares on offer? Hop in the gas guzzler, buckle your seat belt and off we go. On a sunless winter day, the bright lights of the food selling establishment are dazzling. First thing into the automatic doors, we need to use the hand sanitizing cloths available in a pop up container to tidy up the cart handles from germy adult hands and slobbering toddlers that have used the vehicle before us. A thorough cleansing is carried out and the used wipe is tossed into the proferred trash receptacle. We sail past the flowers and potted plants, this is not a gardening post after all, but there might be one to come from this expedition. A couple of quick snapshots of the pretties and a few of the produce bins which are so colorfully arranged. The camera is not normally brought along on these frequent excursions. Would you mind standing behind me to obscure this clandestine operation? A large trenchcoat with a belt buckle camera would be much less obvious than the Canon on the mini tripod. We better make this quick before confronted by a store manager. Around the bend, past the bakery and deli, the fancy cheeses and breads, we find ourselves on the packaged cookie aisle. This is not a row we normally travel, but since when did Oreos have so many different varieties? And how come they get such a large portion of the display? How much do they pay the store for this prime bit of real estate? Enquiring minds…, oh never mind. Let us move on and see what else can be found.
Aha, the imported section. There are the beloved Bahlsens and Walkers among others. Some of these have been tasted already, and we just loved every bite! Oh those British biscuits are without peer in the world of cookies! Enough superlatives cannot be said about them! Ahem. It is nice to know that there can be future taste testings with fresher fare than was bitten before. Several of these draw our attention, do you have any recommendations? Do you know these? Besides what is seen in the above image there are Bahlsens First Class with dark noir, Bahlsens Afrika with dark noir, Carr’s Ginger Lemon Cremes, and … oh it seems one jumped into the shopping cart. Well, let it stay and we will give it a go later. I want you to see something else here. Let’s move on to the refrigerated cases.
Next to the dairy case, in between the milk products and the eggs are wedged the American biscuits and slice and bake cookies. Very few homemakers make their biscuits and rolls from scratch anymore, there just is not time with jobs and family duties begging for every minute. The fresh from the oven taste can be replicated with these premade ready to bakes. Sweet or salty, many varieties are here and well priced. The cookies are especially convenient, letting one bake just a few and resealing the pack for later use. A real time saver for these busy days.
Ah, the Nestle Toll House brand. This company sets the bar high for chocolate chip cookies, the favorite home made cookie of most Americans. The recipe printed on the back of the package of chocolate chips, we skipped that baking supply aisle with flour, sugar, nuts and chocolate among other things, is the stuff of legend. There simply is nothing superior, although some cooks like to tweak the ingredients ever so slightly. The one featured in the photo is filled with melty chocolate. Now someone has been doing some marketing research. A college education put to good use.
Well, what did you think of the grocery store? This is typical for a small town like ours. Larger cities have much fancier stores, with much more beyond food for sale. There are also the big box stores with discounted prices and less fancy stuff, more bulk packaging, cases of cookies rather than single boxes. The store we visited is somewhere in between. It is just the right size and they carry everything needed to feed my family well and frugally. There is plenty of fresh produce, displayed attractively and well priced. It is close to my house and rarely too crowded as long as we avoid the just picked the kids up from school crowd in the mid afternoon. Lots of crying children and stressed mothers then, not a good time for leisurely pleasure shopping. It is hoped that this taste of life will better illustrate the experience of cookie buying in the US.
The Orange. Frances
BB, before blogging, there was extra time to putter around the household. Notebooks were compiled with cutsie pootsie clip art as the new fangled computer was experimented with. The color ink cartridge was drained, so only black ink was available, making silhouettes the way to go as cover sheets for the various notebooks to hold our tear sheets from magazines based on subject matter. With index tabs and spine labels. The recipe book is by far the go to among these concotions of information. Commissar your honor, honour, isn’t that little kitty too adorable? How about the little petticoat peeking out from under the apron. I look just like that still, even as a grandmama.
Let us peek inside. The book.
Bits and scraps of paper with recipes scribbled on them are held neatly in plastic jackets, better to not smear flour and butter on as the right recipe is culled for the days cookie baking. Many have been discarded over the years, but these remain. The best of the best. Let us explore them further.
Ah, Magic Bars. Many of these recipes came from the days of our employment in the accounting department of a large oil company in Oklahoma. The ladies would often bring baked goods to the office, and the recipe would be provided upon request. As a young woman, just starting my own household, all recipes and cooking pointers were welcome. They also taught me to crochet, even though I was the only left handed one among them. A more generous group would be hard to find.
This is the oldest one, from 1961. It was found in between pages of a cookbook that had belonged to my grandmother. We have made the brown candy, better known today in the US as pralines. Very delicious, nearly pure sugar with pecans.
Notice the pink card that this recipe for No Bake Cookies is written upon. It is a key punch card, for those too young to remember such things. Before there were bar codes that could be read by computers, back in the day, there were little holes punched into cards like this that represented a document of some kind. There were large rooms full of young ladies who would hit the keys that made these holes, the keypunch room. Trays of these cards would go to be read, added and printed out onto computer runs, large sheets of paper with holes running down each side. The total would be checked against yet more papers of numbers. If there was a discrepancy, still more large rooms of young ladies would check each card against the run to find the error, the run room. We were awash in little pink cards, as you can imagine. If one would write quite small but legible, always a plus in the accounting biz back then, recipes would fit.
The best has been saved for the grand finale. Written on a larger unpunched keypunch card, the Kentucky Bourbon Balls were far and away the most popular confection ever made. Fondant and nut balls were soaked in Bourbon and allowed to cure for several days, in a shoe box lined with waxed paper. Then they would be frozen on a cookie sheet. The fine art of dipping these into melted chocolate over a double boiler was finally mastered. Now one could use a microwave to melt the chocolate in a glass quart measuring cup, or do it in the old school method. Just so you know, a couple of these goodies would have you singing Oklahoma while you were looking for the error on the computer run.
The Orange. Frances
While out and about, shopping for chocolate goodies for family and other guests, the name on this package was recognized as one mentioned in a previous post and/or comment on the Encounters Blog. It was snatched right up and tossed lightheartedly into the cart.
Back at the house the wrapper was studied. The expiration date was good, it should be fresh. The first ingredient listed was chocolate, another plus on the grading scale of plus and minus used here for all things of importance. Fiber-two grams, protein-two grams, calcium-two percent of the daily requirement, iron-ten percent. This was positively a health food. Let us skip the calories, fat and carbohydrate numbers for they are irrelevant, as is the portion size.
How thoughtful of the manufacturers to show us how to break this bar apart too. They think of everything, those German biscuit makers. But there’s the rub, is this a biscuit or a candy bar? Shall we give it the taste test? Let us open the package and give it the once over.
Following the helpful instructions on the packet, a section was broken off. The chocolate looks like the high quality stuff. The marzipan looks to be the right consistency and color. It smells chocolatey.
Mmmm. Chomp, chew, chew, chew, continued for nineteen more times. My grandmother taught that each bite of food should be chewed twenty-three times. That rule is followed religiously to this day. It does make for some slow eating, but each bite is truly savored.
The results of this taste test give the Ritter Sport dark chocolate with marzipan high marks. If one likes marzipan, one does, and this is made with 100% finest marzipan, it says so right on the label, and if one likes dark chocolate, ditto, since these are the two ingredients in this confection, one will agree with the tester. Bring on the next goodie!
Just thinking. In the USA cookies/biscuits are crumbled and crushed and mixed with ice cream. Cookies And Cream and similar types are extremely popular flavors at the grocers and shops. We are the co-owners of an ice cream shop in Asheville, North Carolina called The Hop. The number one most requested and biggest selling ice cream flavor is called Mocha Oreo, a blend of coffee and crushed chocolate cookies with a white creamy filling between them. It has been written that in the UK, Oreos are the only American cookie sold. Maybe you have tried them, but they are not our own personal favorite by a long shot. Home made cookies take that honor. But back to the ice cream.
Our son and his wife are our partners and they run the ice cream shop. Daughter in law Ashley makes all the ice cream herself, tweaking the recipes and experimenting with interesting flavor combinations. In the fall, pumpkin ice cream is a big seller. She even has made beer ice cream, using a distilled syrup from a local brewery in town. I suppose if you add enough sugar to anything…. well, it is very popular. The ice cream machine is our most important piece of equipment. It makes five gallons at a time, filling two tubs that are placed into a larger freezer to harden before being hand dipped for the buying public.
Are the British biscuits ever mixed with ice cream, commercially or in homes? Just wondering.
Finishing up the taste testing of these twelve varieties of biscuits (See part one for the entire list and part two for the tasting results of the rest), finds us nearly carbohydrated out. Even dividing the packages into two groups of six, after the first or second bites of crumbly dry cookies, we never wanted to set eyes or teeth on another one of any type. However, there were some clear winners. Let us get right to the brilliant diatribe offered by testers, M, W, G and F.
M-Dry. No real taste.
W-True digestive aid. One taste and you are through eating.
G-Forget the cookie, just scape the chocolate off.
M-Apricot toe jam-same cookie as the berry filled, still not great but liked the spice cookie flavor
W-You can change the filling but I still don’t like this biscuit
G-Bad chocolate, just wrong, I don’t like this one
F-Yuck. And I love apricots.
M-If you like bad milk chocolate, you will like this, however, this one gets extra points because it calls itself a biscuit. Still not a tasty biscuit, but a biscuit.
W-Dry, stale chocolate shell and wafer. Okay.
G-No! Wrong, wrong taste like a really cheap cookie.
F-I liked this one. Must be really hungry.
M-Like store bought chocolate chip cookies with the chips
W-Kind of like Pillsbury slice and bake
G-Love the crunch, hate the orange. Needs more chocolate.
F-A little too chewy, not bad.
M-Finally a great butter cookie, but can’t taste the honey. What is a sultana?
W-Tastes like it was made in America
G-Love the butter taste and the fact it is made with oats.
F-Very buttery, good.
M-Good mint, good wafer
W-Like girl scout cookies
G-Needs better chocolate
F-Pretty good actually!
So. A couple of things need to be mentioned here, for the sake of honesty. After the first night of cookie tasting, we could not bear to go through the torture again, so M volunteered to do all the tasting and write all of the reviews. His rendition of W was pretty close to what he probably would have said. His rendition of G, his wife by the way, made me laugh. He must think all she cares about is chocolate or something. He left the F on each sheet blank, to be filled in by the true F, me. I really did like both of the Arnott’s offerings, but my number one favorite was the Mints. In fact, I ate the whole box. These win the Big F award.
We now feel a stronger kinship to the mother country across the pond. It seems perfectly understandable that eating cookies or biscuits if you like, is an associated memory, wrapped up in nostalgia for people, places and moments in time. Pure taste testing is not really what the extraordinary encounters with biscuits blog is about, it seems to me. Remembering happenings in our lives that included certain brands of confectionary goodness are painted as happy or sad, depending on the circumstances surrounding them. I get it. For now all of these biscuits will be remembered with the filter on the lens of the fun we enjoyed with friends that certain weekend.
The *croun* in the earlier tastings was referring to the packaging of the Daelman’s Dutch caramel wafers. When the top was opened to expose the treats inside, the upper edges were scalloped to suggest a crown. Very clever.
Allrighty then. The taste test has been completed. The results are in, and they may surprise you. The packages were split into two groups randomly. The four adults, two male, two female would take a bite of each selection and write their thoughts on the communal post it note. There were glasses of water to cleanse the palate between each tasting. One among us was a former restaurant reviewer, he will be referred to as M. The rest of us go by the aliases of W, G, and F. Let’s get to it without delay.
M-Not bad. Middle surprising, looks like toe-jam, but tastes better
W-Tasteless with a hint of Gel
G-So wrong- what is that texture?
F-Liked the filling
M-Yuck. I spit it out.
W-A Cadbury disgrace
G-A Kraft product?
F-Okay-liked the shape
M-Little dry, not enough butter, needs lard.
W-Dry, no taste. Where’s the Scotch?
G-Tasty when I got past the paste taste. Love the domino shapes
F-Okay. Attractive gold plastic serving tray
M-Like the cookie-get rid of the chocolate
W-Like the chocolate-get rid of the cookie
G-I prefer the chocolate
F-Chocolate was the best part
W-I just don’t understand biscuits
G-My fav-better chocolate and cookie
F-The best-good chocolate
M-I like it! My fave so far-burnt sugar pre-chewed wafers
G-Needed to be crunchy
F-Tasted caramel-croun, liked packaging
Well, as you can see our panel of expert biscuit judges are a group with diverse taste buds in their mouths. They are also a bunch of smart alecks, the mens anyway. We do not know what word F is trying to use on biscuit number six with *croun*. Even with the magnifying glass, this is what has been written. She was not imbibing strong spirits at the time either. Maybe there was a crown on the package? Stay tuned for the answer to this burning question and the remaining six biscuit results with a final wrap up. Heart stopping, feverish excitement will have you sitting on the edge of your seat to see which cookie gets the coveted Big F award as the favorite.
Feeling so left out by all of these wonderful biscuit encounters, it was decided that we would search high and low at grocers and specialty shops for the wonderful delicasies to taste for ourselves. There won’t be romantic memories of sweet times gone by involved in this posting, neither parts one or two. This will be a scientific taste test. First the goods must be located. Our local markets were woefully short of stock in the foreign foods sections. Lots from Mexico however. A trip through the larger city of Knoxville, Tennessee, USA recently took us to the World Market, a purveyor of imported foods and merchandise. Jackpot! The shopping cart was loaded with one each of every biscuit from across the pond available. These are not little individual lunch box sized cartons, but each contain a dozen or more of the sweets. Here is the list of what was found. The descriptions, if any were what was written on the front of the packaging, followed by the country of origin. In no particular order, just as they were withdrawn from the shopping bag:
!. Dean’s Oat Biscuits-Sultana and Heather Honey (Scotland)
2. Arnott’s original chocolate coated biscuits with a chocolate cream center (Australia)
3. Arnott’s Mint Slice chocolate biscuits (Australia)
4. Cadbury Finger originals-cookies covered with Cadbury milk chocolate (UK)
5. McVitie’s Digestives-dark chocolate-tasty wheat cookies half coated in plain chocolate (UK)
6. Daelmans-the original Dutch caramel wafers-delicious wafers filled with sweet cream caramel (Holland)
7. Dean’s shortbread fingers (Scotland)
8. Schuhmann chocolate coated spice cookies with apricot filling (Germany)
9. Schuhmann chocolate coated spice cookies with berry fruit filling (Germany)
10. Gille Galletas de Narahjas-orange oat crisps (Sweden)
11. Bahlsen choco Leibniz-dark chocolate-butter biscuits and dark chocolate (Germany)
12. Walkers Ginger Royals-luxury ginger shortbread with smooth, dark chocolate (Scotland)
Well, there you have it. What about this motley crew? Are there any warnings before these packets are opened and my family is exposed to the contents? All had a date stamped on the wrapping of 2010 except the Arnott’s Mints which we purchased for half price. They should still be edible even though the date was April of 2009. That was just for selling, right? Eating can take place later with safe results. Safe but perhaps stale. We fully expect all of these to be on the less than fresh side of the aisle. Are there any recommendation? Eat this one firsts? Don’t dare bite into this ones? We have never tasted any of them before, being biscuit virgins. Stay tuned for the findings by our impartial panel of family members.
They are a good source of calcium, iron and zinc for healthy growth and development. So says the promo on the website for Arrowroot biscuit/cookies. These are even called biscuits in the States, being a little too hard, read like concrete, to fit into the cookie category. When it was noticed while reading the sidebar of this fabulous bit of literaryness that The Tenuous Purpose of this blog includes wishing for an archive of Arrowroot, a little tinkling bell of remembrance rang out in the growing out cinnaberry cerebrum. Arrowroots were recommended by the paternal grandmother of our first born child, Chickenpoet when she grew to be able to sit in the wooden high chair stuffed with pillows to keep her little self upright, as she was teething. Sore red gums needed something soothing and nutritious to gnaw on as the pearly whites broke through. One of these store bought baked goodies was placed on the tray within reach of grasping little fingers. She spied it, grabbed it and straight into the slobbering mouth it went. The idea seemed to be that since this cookie was tough as a brick it would not break off and choke the little darling even with copious amounts of saliva digesting it in hand. True enough, there was no need for a Heimlich Maneuver. However after a thorough cleansing of said child and a little rock a bye to dreamland, the fancy wooden high chair neglected to clean itself of the Arrowroot paste with which it was now covered.
Fast forward a few days. Since the high chair was not really used for feeding yet, the babe was still on a liquid diet at this tender age, the Arrowroot goo had been allowed to set up and cure, becoming a nearly permanent fresco on the heirloom quality chair. When finally it was discovered that the chair’s previously smooth tray, seat, back and legs were now bumpy as a gravel path in the garden, the task began to chisel it back to pristine condition. After all, this was to be used several times a day by the precious person in our care, it had to be perfect. Ah the naivete of a young mother concerning her first born. After many attempts trying to clean the chair with the standard soapy arsenal, it was taken outdoors for a spray with the garden hose. Wetting down the entire thing to soften the biscuit sculptures and scraping each surface down with a plastic cake icing tool did the trick.
The three subsequent offspring were allowed to chew on rubber toys, ice filled teething rings and their own hands and fingers. No Arrowroot was offered up, for with four to keep up with there was no longer the luxury of time to run the high chair through the car wash.
In the foreign land known popularly as the United States, there is a class of biscuit-cookies like no other. These delicacies cannot be purchased in stores or shops. They are only for sale during spring and can only be had by dealing with young girls in uniform. Are you curious yet? Do you know what these might be? What product would use underage females in such a way in this day and age of child protection laws and helicopter mothers? This is something with which I have the most intimate knowledge for I was at one time not only the leader of such a group of young ladies, aged eight through twelve years of age, but a leader also of the cookie-biscuit sales force, the Cookie Mom.
The organization is called the Girl Scouts in the states, the under ten year olds are called Brownies. How appropriate. My two female offspring were heavily involved in these goings on and I was their troop leader. The largest fund raiser for the troop activities is the cookie-biscuit sales. Each troop was required to sell a certain number of these sweet treats and prizes were awarded to the girls who sold certain quotas. Order sheets were to be taken door to door for neighbors, friends and relatives to fill out how many boxes of each kind of several varieties they would like, to be delivered and paid for at a future date. The numbers would be tallied, the boxes assembled and distributed by the Cookie Mom and the money collected by the girls. Sounds like a piece of cake, doesn’t it?
Young girls collecting money, personal checks taken only as a last resort, door to door. What could be more wonderful? The cookies themselves vary from year to year with a couple of regulars, Thin Mints and Shortbreads always offered. The price steadily rises while the number of cookies per box steadliy shrinks. Surprisingly there are still many folks who will cheerfully pay for these sugary tooth breakers, remembering when their own little darlings were selling them or even when they themselves were part of this height challenged sales force.
Looking back through jaded eyes, it all seems outrageous now, if not some kind of child abuse. But for several years we had cupboards filled to the brim with boxes of Tagalongs, Do-Si-Dos, Thin Mints and Shortbreads, my personal favorite for dunking in tea or coffee. There are cookbooks with recipes to use the cookies as basis for other desserts. They also freeze well. For anyone who was affiliated with this enterprise knows that the parents of the girls end up buying the majority of boxes.
The list of cookies was obtained from the all knowing Wikipedia:
Thin Mints: Thin, mint-flavored chocolate wafers dipped in a chocolate coating.
Peanut Butter Sandwiches/Do-si-dos: Peanut butter filling sandwiched between crunchy oatmeal cookies.
Peanut Butter Patties/Tagalongs: Crispy vanilla cookies layered with peanut butter and covered with a chocolate coating.
Shortbreads/Trefoils: A traditional shortbread cookie made in the shape of the Girl Scout trefoil logo.
Samoas are also called Caramel deLites.Caramel DeLites/Samoas: Vanilla cookies coated in caramel, sprinkled with toasted coconut and laced with chocolate stripes.
All Abouts/Animal Treasures/Thanks-A-Lot: : Shortbread cookies dipped in fudge and topped with an embossed thank-you message in one of five languages, including English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and Swahili.
Lemon Chalet Cremes: Cinnamon sandwich cookies with lemon creme filling.
Cinna-spins Introduced in 2008 by ABC Bakers, Cinna-spins are cinnamon-flavored cookies that come in 100-calorie packs. Cinna-spins are shaped like miniature cinnamon rolls. Retired and replaced by Daisy Go Rounds.
Daisy Go Rounds: Very similar to Cinna-spins, this cookie replaced them for the 2009 sale. They are advertised as low fat and also come in 100 calorie packs. They are cinnamon flavored and shaped like daisies. These cookies are only available from ABC Bakers.
Sugar Free Chocolate Chips Introduced in 2008, they are small sugar free cookies.
Dulce De Leche Introduced in 2009, these are Latin caramel cookies.
Lemonades Round shortbread cookie with lemon icing.
Do any of these sound like the English type biscuit?
Inquiring minds want to know how the British commonwealth’s term got switched at birth in the US. We do not know the answer to that question but here is what we do know.Packaged, purchased biscuits are not something about which we in the US wax poetic. There are no romantic stories about sharing the last crumbs, childhood memories about advertisements or strongly held notions of which brand is best. None of it. The recipe below makes what we refer to as biscuits.
Let us begin with the training of a young southern girl. There was not much training in fact, in any of the culinary arts, except one, the baking of from scratch biscuits. Why home made is called *from scratch” is a mytery. This was the only kitchen training received at my mother’s apron strings. Wash your hands well and let’s get started. Using the old text, printed 1965, copyrighted 1896, , from whence all things culinary were learned upon leaving the nest, we turn to page 311. Quick Breads, Biscuits and Coffee Cakes, the heading reads. First on the page, Baking Powder Biscuits.
The shortening may be all butter or margarine, all lard or other cooking fat or oil, or half of each. Lard makes very flaky biscuits, for richer biscuits double the amount of shortening.
To serve piping hot, bake and serve in a glass pie plate.
Split leftover biscuits, toast lightly, butter and serve for breakfast or tea.
Sift into a mixing bowl
2 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons tartrate-type baking powder or 2 teaspoons “double-action” type
1 teaspoon salt
With fingertips or a pastry blender or fork, work in
2 tablespoons shortening
With a fork, quickly stir in
2/3 cup milk
Add more milk, little by little, until the dough is soft and light but not sticky. (Flours differ so much that it is impossible to tell exactly how much milk you will need.)
Turn out onto a floured board. With floured hands, pat down or knead about 20 strokes until smooth. Roll lightly 3/4 inch thick. Shape with a biscuit cutter or roll out into an oblong and cut in diamonds with a knife. Place on an ungreased cooky sheet, close together for soft biscuits, 1 inch apart for crusty ones. Prick with a fork.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Makes 12 to 15.
There is no other way to have a biscuit worthy of the name than to make it yourself. Or you will never snag a husband.
My favorite way to eat the fresh out of the oven baked good is with real butter and honey and/or maple syrup, warm. Thinly sliced ham on a buttered biscuit is a southern tradition, but not my cup of tea. There is also chicken and biscuits, with the chicken pulled apart and simmered in a stew like recipe served over split biscuits. Another favorite way is with browned loose pork sausage and a white gravy. These are all easily found at most restaurants and homes where people still cook their own food in the southern United States.
Cookies are similarly best eaten warm right from the oven also, but that is a totally different basket of fish.
But to feel a part of the larger whole, we once ordered from the UK some plum jam and Duchy biscuits from the larder of Prince Charles. The jam was really good.