Camping Food (pt.1): Something Sweet

Biscuits… Cookies…”Biscuits”?  Breakfast bars?    Whatevz…  I like them. I have a sweet tooth, and I indulge it. I’m a 1950s kid, raised in America’s heartland, so they will always be cookies to me. Biscuits are what you get at Carl Jr’s™ with a sausage patty inside.

Once I got past that “Sugar-coated Captain Choco Blasters” stage of childhood, I discovered I far preferred the somewhat less sickly sweet european-style cookies. The ones that the British dip in their tea and do call “biscuits”… and of those, the type I like the best are referred to as butter cookies. Relax, the good varieties taste nothing like those cheap Danish ones that came in a blue metal tin, and that your grandmother always had under the Christmas tree.

I wanted to talk about the “good ones” a little bit as they are perfect additions to take along camping and hiking. Because they are in general quite crisp, they don’t melt and crush nearly as badly as most American cookies tend to do. You can put a few in a zip lock baggie, and have every expectation of them still being intact when you get to wanting one.

The closest US product to a butter biscuit is probably the Pepperidge Farm™ “bordeaux” cookies. [These we’re always my mother’s favorites, and I’ve been eating them since the 1960s].

Together with the chocolate-coated HobNobs and the Biscoffs, they are almost always up on the refrigerator here at the Château.

That last box from Nature Valley is certainly the odd man out… Those are pretty much breakfast bars that they have now chosen to call “biscuits”, and are certainly not recognizable as biscuits by our usual American standards, however, they are a pretty good cookie.

 

I’m sure most people are at least a little familiar with Pepperidge Farm™ cookies. They cost a bit more then Keebler’s and Nabisco, but I think that they’re infinitely better. Their “bordeaux” cookies are a classic take on a butter cookie. They are perhaps cooked a little darker than some other butter cookies, but they have a crisp crunch that melts quickly on your tongue. It’s hard not to eat these like potato chips. There is a certain quality to them that reminds you of a very crisp graham cracker… but not at all the same flavor. The “bordeaux” are a much more adult taste.

The Nature Valley™ Biscuits [here in blueberry flavor] are found in the breakfast food aisle at the supermarket, but they eat far more like an American cookie. They have the same crispness and crunch as all these others. Interestingly, the blue stripe on the box has the very curious phrase, “Naturally flavored with other natural flavorings“. Seems like something out of the Department of Redundancy Department, but WtF? They are pretty good. The blueberry flavor comes across light but distinct and there are actual bits of dried blueberries in the matrix; they have a nice texture that probably derives from the fact that they are made of a combination of wheat flakes, oats, and barley… not your average cookie dough here. Maybe that is why they chose to refer to them as biscuits. I find the texture and flavor reminiscent of a mouth full of Wheaties™.

McVities is an old mainline British/Scottish baking firm established in the early part of the 19th-century. They make an incredibly wide and very wonderful selection of cookies. They were the the first to develop what is called a “jaffa cake” [this is a sponge cake ” cookie with a spoonful of marmalade [or other jam] on it and a chocolate-dipped top. It Is a dear familiar to any British child]. They have Ginger Nuts which are like a hardtack ginger cookie with a 50 year shelf life and an incredible snap of flavor.

I believe a lot of what makes the McVities cookies unique is their use of golden syrup, another British product, whose closest American relative is Karo syrup. Golden syrup however is actually derived from cane and I think is closer to molasses but without molasses’s heavy richness.

Of all the McVities offerings, my easy choice favorite is HobNobs. Introduced only in the 1980s, these are a combination of rolled oats and whole wheat with a milk-chocolate coating on one side that is reminiscent of Cadbury’s… It is the kind of chocolate that melts all over your fingers almost instantly [when you take some camping, the trick is to put pairs of them chocolate sides together… a lot less mess that way]. These have an interesting texture that comes across like really good whole grain bread that has been toasted crisp… but that has a bit of added sweetness… AND that chocolate covering. They are ridiculously good.

Biscoff” has apparently become something of a generic/varietal name. They seem to be made by a number of different companies, but are nearly identical no matter their source. I believe that the originals were actually made by the European company Lotus Foods. They have come to people’s attention over the last few years because they are given out of snacks on a number of airlines. Delta even has them branded with their own logo. If you look them up on the Internet there are a lot of different suggestions as to just what they taste like. Some people find a hint of cocoa, or ginger, others describe them as a browned butter cookie. One elegant review by Francis Lam in Salon magazine said they were cookies that “taste beautifully and comfortingly of warm spices, caramel, and wheat”[…if you already like Biscoff, you really have to go read this review].

The truth is that they apparently only rely on soy flour, oil [not butter], and cinnamon for their unique flavor. The rest of the ingredient list is not particularly complex. The bottom line, as you know if you have them, is that they are delicious. You can dunk them in your coffee, you can spread them with nut butters or jam, you can eat them plain, and Lam claims that if you put a little lime juice on them they taste just like key lime pie! That’s some pretty good mileage for any cookie.

I know that everybody has their own favorites of things to take along as little luxuries when they go camping. These are a few of mine.

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