• The Tenuous Purpose

    This Blog is built - not, as some might expect, on a flimsy whim but on a strong and single minded principle.

    That principle concerns Biscuits and their position in the world.

    We are really very keen on biscuits.
    As are many of you out there.
    We think.

    We wish to create an archive of Arrowroot, a backlog of Bourbons and a catalogue of Chocolate Fingers. Anybody can contribute an entry - or dispute somebody else's - provided they are not dull.
    Even Americans who perhaps don't really have the heritage of biscuitry that we are fortunate to have here.

    Or maybe they do and we are unaware of the full glory of the cookie.

    We realise that this whole subject is admirably and concisely dealt with by that excellent and unbeatable website A Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down. Our feeble efforts will be as the kicking of a gadfly in the face of their wisdom and experience but we hope that we may have a small contribution to make.

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  • The Synod of Biscuitry

    James Alexander-Sinclair of Blackpitts
    Gardener, Blogger, Journalist, Lecturer etc, etc. Much of his life is spent loafing around other people’s gardens issuing directives and generally cluttering up the place. However, like the great Mr Kipling, he does (occasionally) make exceptionally good gardens. (Although even Mr Kipling messed up a bit with the Carrot and Walnut Mini Classics.)

    Mark Diacono of Otter Farm
    He does sterling work growing many inappropriate plants in Devon. He dedicates a great deal of time and effort nurturing a plethora of plants that are (mostly) totally unsuited to our climate. His is a life of such extreme eccentric dedication that to start a Blog about Biscuits seems perfectly normal. He treads gently in the footsteps of people like the great William Buckland,a professor of Geology who claimed that he could tell location by tasting the local topsoil.

Dunk food takes the biscuit

Hail Dunkers is a new biscuit on the supermarket shelves, specially made for those who like to dip something crisp and dry into something hot and wet, and suck on the resulting gunge.

If that sounds crude, then I make no apology, Dunking is crude. At least it is regarded as crude by a hefty minority of the population. According to a Mori poll taken earlier this year, 52 per cent of us think that it’s ‘all right to dunk’, while 38 per cent regard the habit as ‘socially unacceptable’.

The young (15 to 35-year-olds), it transpires, are more inclined to dunk than the old, with the over 55s branded ‘least likely to dunk’. This comes as no great surprise, when you consider the prevalence of dentures among the upper age bracket. Dunking is not denture-friendly.

The geographical epidemiology of dunking was also considered. The survey revealed that the concentration of people who will not stoop to dunk is particularly high (54 per cent) among the genteel Scots (who are also inclined to hold their saucer in one hand, their cup in the other, and cock their little finger when they sip their tea – a body language which leaves no hands or digits free for dunking).

Like so many polls, this one sadly leaves the really interesting questions unanswered. For a start, the survey is only concerned with whether or not people dunk.

This assumes that all dunkers are the same – which is, of course, nonsense. For a start, dunkers must choose their biscuits. There are those who dunk only one sort, and those who are promiscuous. Other variables include time, depth and frequency of immersion.

Number-crunchers like me want some harder facts about the wet biscuit-munchers. This I my suggested list of questions for the next major poll on Britain’s dunking habits:

1. What biscuits do you regularly dunk?

2. What biscuits would you never dunk?

3. How much of the biscuit is dipped in the drink?

4. How long do you leave it there?

5. Do you dunk before every bite, or do you intersperse drinking with dry biting?

6. Do you eat the soggy crumbs left at the bottom of your cup?

7. If the soggy end falls off, do you scoop it out with a teaspoon and get it straightaway?

Such imponderables aside, we must consider the future of the newcomer to the biscuit shelf, Prewett Food’s designer Dunker. With so many exponents of the activity at large in the UK, a biscuit specifically designed (ovoid, no less) for dunking, sounds, on the face of it, like a cunning marketing wheeze. I have my doubts.

My own theory – which I have no intention of asking Mori to investigate by poll – is that regular dunkers (I don’t mean the new biscuit, I mean those who dunk) are by nature very conservative people. The act of dunking – rendering sloppy and amorphous, and eventually disintegrating – a biscuit that was only moments before, crisp, pristine and complete, is about the most rebellious thing that most of them ever do. To dunk, for them, is to commit an act of anarchy.

Such defiant gestures are not undertaken lightly; in particular, they are not undertaken with unfamiliar biscuits. Dunkers have their favourite biscuits, and they are not likely to switch overnight to some new-fangled, Johnny-come-lately brand.

The only way in which Dunkers (and now I am talking about the biscuit) can succeed is if they prove to be so far superior, when hot, wet and soggy, to other biscuits, that a single trail will convert even the most die-hard dunker of Digestives, or the most avid Ginger Nut nutter.

With this faint possibility in mind, I have conducted a comparative dunking of the new pretender with five household-name biscuit brands known to be among the nation’s favourites for dunking.

The points of comparison are those I consider to be most salient to dunkers everywhere (even if they’ve never actually thought about it). They are: the speed with which the liquid is absorbed (some knowledge of this is essential for good timing of your dunk); the pleasantness (or otherwise) of the consistency of the totally saturated biscuit; and the advisability of dunking the biscuit in coffee as an occasional alternative to tea (which is, of course, the primary dunking beverage).

To dip or not to dip? And for how long? The good dunker’s guide to the perfect coffee break

SOA = Speed Of Absorption
CWS = Consistency When Soggy
CWC = Compatibility With Coffee

Dunkers (Prewett’s)

SOA: Fast
CWS: Retains some crunch, which is sugary rather than biscuity. Never goes completely soggy, even after three minutes immersion.
CWC: Good. Unsweetened coffee helps to counteract the biscuit’s excessive sweetness.
Verdict: Good for a couple of dunks, but ultimately too sweet. Dunkers who like their biscuits to become completely soggy are likely to be disappointed.
6/10

Rich Tea

SOA: Medium slow
CWS: Totally soggy – smooth and creamy, melts in the mouth.
CWC: Takes on plenty of coffee flavour, as its own taste is mild and bland.
Verdict: A fine dunker. With good timing (about five seconds immersion), it can be eaten when slippery and wet on the outside and still a tiny bit crunchy in the middle. Which is nice.
7/10

Digestives (McVities)

SOA: Medium fast
CWS: Soggy, but retains some granular texture (the nutty bran from the wholemeal flour) can still be caught between the teeth).
CWC: Good, if you don’t mind the saltiness (see below).
Verdict: A classic for dunking which is above criticism. The Digestive is saltier than most other sweet biscuits, which I have a problem with. Millions don’t.
8/10

Garibaldi (Crawford’s)

SOA: Fast
CWS: Totally soggy and wet, but for the middle layer of jammy, water-resistant currants.
CWC: Currants and coffee are not a great combo – best stick with tea.
Verdict: An acquired taste – for speciality dunkers only.
4/10

Ginger Nuts (McVities)

SOA: Medium slow
CWS: A pleasant granular texture even when completely soggy.
CWC: Excellent, and the bases, in fact, of a rather fine pudding: ginger biscuits soaked in strong coffee and sandwiched together with whipped cream.
Verdict: A truly great biscuit, whether dunked or not. Particularly good after a very short (three second) dunk, when they are wet but still crunchy.
9/10

Bourbon Creams (Crawford’s)

SOA: Fast
CWS: Dunk an inch for more than ten seconds and it is guaranteed to fall off when you bring it back to the horizontal.
CWC: The chocolate combines with coffee for a delightful mocha effect.
Verdict: The creamy bit in the middle adds a whole new dimension; it melts, thereby allowing a deeply satisfying technique of combined dunking and licking.
7/10

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

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25 Responses

  1. HFW – a man with remarkable foresight, who, sixteen years ago, could see far beyond the immediate horizon, a fascination with biscuits so intense that it is only now the subject of this rather strange blog.

    Needless to say, the new kid on the block (Prewett’s Dunkers) appear to have fallen by the wayside – at least they are no longer available to purchase via mail order.

    p.s. I’ve always preferred to dunk in cold liquid – does that make me odd ?

    • I’m amazed to see that nobody seems to blow the crumbs from thier biscuit before the dunk! (absolutely essential with Hobnobs). I confess that one recieves the strangest of looks from fellow diners in a respectable cafe or restaurant while happily blowing my Hobnobs before divebombing them into my tea! This really is an important retual however, because, when the dunking ritual is over, you are still able to enjoy the rest of your cuppa, without choking on a mouthful of soggy crumbs.

  2. I have to disagree with Hugh on the CWC of the Rich Tea. Maybe it’s just because of the name but the flavour combination just doesn’t work for me.

    I would say that, in general, the best CWC is oat based biscuits although I do agree that the mocha effect of the Bourbon is excellent.

    Simon, I think that you may be in a very small minority with cold dunking but I am willing to be proved wrong!

  3. Rich tea for me every time – the only biscuit for dunking

  4. Taking biscuit dunking to a whole new scientific level…BSc next.

  5. Mark Diacono BA BScuit
    Has a nice authorative look about it

  6. Rich Tea are perfect dunkers, as are Hobnobs, although one has to be quick with the latter if you don’t want a squidgy mess in the bottom of your mug.

    Sadly, my dunking days are over (statistically and literally), and thus I shan’t be testing out Mr HFW hypothesis on Dunkers.

  7. Mark,
    Since just about anywhere seems to be a university these days, why not the University of Park Farm? The Faculty of Biscuits headed up by Prof. HFW with BSc(uit) dunking characteristics could be the first course.

  8. I have held the belief for many years that ginger nuts are the best dunkers. It’s so nice to see my instincts proved correct by these scientific endeavours. Does that make me a biscuit idiot savant (emphasis in the idiot)?

    And I fear I may be in the 38% bracket as I find it impossible to dunk in public – it’s a bit like farting, best done in private and never owned up to.

  9. The thrill of the dunk, subjected to and reduced to mere science. How terribly disapointing. I can see the beauty in the BS(cuit) but surely dunking is an Art and as such as BA?? I am willing to be out voted, but one thing I cannot tolerate is cold-drink-biscuit-dunking! I find it wrong and it does no service to the said dunkee (ie. the biscuit), it’s the warm goo I desire, correction, the warm coffee infused goo…..Ummmmm. Ginger nuts can only be eaten with the maxium of intended joy when dunked into hot coffee, but I do love the thrill of timing my digestive just right….Ah, dunking, if everyone did it, the world would be a much more peaceful place (compulsory additive to the standard cirriculum?). Have you noticed biscuits are key to the table lay out at big political discussions?….

  10. A fascinating insight, but there is a glaring omission concerning chocolate biscuits.

    Might I humbly suggest the introduction of the CABI? This is the absorption speed required to soften the chocolate, whilst keeping the biscuit intact.

    This is essential knowledge for the biscuit dunker as it allows them to safely lick off all the chocolate without the biscuit breaking in the process.

    I would be proud to volunteer as a guinea pig in any resultant academic research programme.

  11. Has there been any mention of the “Tim, Tam, Slam” yet? It is the Australian way of dunking the practice of drinking a beverage by sucking it through a Tim Tam, an Australian chocolate-covered biscuit, with both of the ends bitten off.

    According to Wikipedia..

    Ideally, the inside of the biscuit should collapse but the outside should remain intact. Just before the biscuit falls apart, it is placed in the mouth. The thicker chocolate coating on the Double Coat Tim Tam offers a more stable structure to help ensure that the biscuit does not collapse prematurely – refrigerating them also helps to preserve the outside structure while allowing the inside of the biscuit to melt. The Chewy Caramel variety also has an advantage for performing the TimTam Slam since the caramel centre helps to hold the biscuit together for a slightly longer time. The practice is also known as Shotgunning a Tim Tam, in reference to Shotgunning beer. The Arnott’s company prefers the name Tim Tam Suck.

    So now you know. Sounds like an excellent idea to me and all we need now is some Tim Tams or perhaps someone could suggest a suitable alternative.

    • Arabella, I am so glad you have raised the subject of Tim Tams!!

      I have a packet with me right now ready to take to a work meeting. I’m hoping to teach my colleagues a thing or two about speed eating of the Tim Tam as once you suck up the tea the hold form for a few seconds but are beautifully soft on the inside and have to be devoured in one go. Although this could get messy I’m sure they will love it!

      Ryan

  12. The UPF Biscuit Faculty offers two routes:
    BA for the Artistic Dunkers
    BSc for the Study of Dunking

    Apply online for September 2010 entry at http://upf.biscuitfaculty.com

    Mandatory requirements:
    For the BA
    A Level – Biscuit Dunking

    For the BSc
    A Level – Applied Dunking

    Closing date for 2010 entries – April 1st 2010

  13. Tim Tams are like Penguins. I have tried that old trick many a time and it’s pretty good, only you end up with the whole darn biscuit in your mouth at once. My hubby is good at it. Diffenately one for a party or the solitude of your own home!! Can get messy!

  14. Im liking the courses karenwilde…I guess the BA means you sit around for two and a half years then do loads of dunking for half a year and get a 2:2 in dunking and go on to be a geography teacher

    And the BScuit you work really hard for half a year, get your 1st girlfriend just before easter, go on a work placement learning how the industry dunks, come up with an applied dunking thesis, change it four times, then realise you can’t get the funding for a Master, so coast through the last year, get a 2:2 and become a geography teacher.

  15. Indeed Mark.
    Why do you think there are so many Geography teachers? It’s not because there’s a plethora of tweed jackets with patches on the elbows – it’s because students get distracted by their navels (alcohol) and first girlfriends.

    If these distractions didn’t occur, Biscuit Dunking would be solving climate change, the economy, world hunger and peace in the Middle East. Tweed (with patches) would cease to exist.

  16. Biscuit dunking leads to becoming a geography teacher :-O. If my daughter hears of this, she’ll never let me dunk again. What is the term for a fear of geography teachers?

  17. Arabella, I’ve mentioned Tim Tams in an upcoming article in my ‘Around the World in 80 Biscuits’ series.

    I love them myself. The cocaine of dunking biscuits, but completely legal. You generally have to make sure you’re in a private place, possibly a darkened room. It is important that the tea is really piping hot. I can manage about 4 or even 5 in a sitting, before I get a hit.

  18. Peter Kay does it best (describing the art of dunking – don’t know about his actual dunking skills) I laughed till I cried.

  19. You missed out another contender in your side by side comparison: the Marks & Spencer Cookie Dunker. Despite being own-brand, thus requiring additional effort to procure, it is a truly awesome dunking biscuit, and in my mind is on a par with that holy grail of dunking, the ginger nut.

  20. I’m glad the findings of this study confirm my unofficial personal research.

    As an addition I suggest a Hobnob section! Which as a plain biscuit are a great dunking choice, but the experience is entirely enhance by the use of DARK CHOCOLATE Hobnobs!

    good times! 🙂

  21. I have to admit that I only dunk Rich Tea. Dunking liquids are coffee or diluted orange.
    It’s odd that I would never ever dream of dunking any other one.
    Must go and buy a packet of biscuits.
    Thanks 🙂

  22. […] has already bought us news of the Hail Dunkers biscuit, but sadly it has yet to find its way onto the shelves of any of my local supermarkets or […]

  23. Hi I found this site when i was searching bing for travle coffee mugs, I must

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