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 t
he 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bourbon Creams (Crawford’s)
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.