Arnott’s Shortbread Cream – Mango and Cream

August 1, 2017 at 15:41 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Arnott’s have been busy again, with more ‘Twisted Faves’. This time they have taken the Shortbread Cream, and made it mango flavour.

I love mangoes. They herald the arrival of summer; sweet, luscious and decadent. I like all varieties, although I’m especially keen on the R2D2 variety (that’s not what it’s called, but I can never remember the real name), and the more recent ‘Kerrygold’. The junior Chillikebabs like them too, and we often share a mango after lunch, popping it our into a hedgehog to endless delight.

Mrs Chillikebab doesn’t like mangoes. She says they smell of wee. So how will these biscuits fare? Sweet and luscious, or lavatorial?

Sad to say, they don’t hit the mark. Mango is a tricky thing to do in a biscuit, as that fresh zinginess is pretty hard to recreate. It seems Arnott’s have fallen into the all too common trap of making something too sweet and cloying, without any bite or fragrance. You have to search quite hard to get much mango flavour from these; they are just a bit sickly, with a slightly artificial tang. Tellingly, when I put the packet out in the kitchen at work, there were three or four biscuits left at hometime. This is a rare occurrence, so these are not really doing it for anyone it seems.

Sorry Arnott’s. It’s a nice idea, and good on your for having a try, but these I’m afraid are only getting a three out of ten.



December 9, 2012 at 11:09 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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sao biscuit packetWhy is a Sao (or ‘SAO’, as it is written on the packet) called Sao? Does it have anything to do with the mysterious Catherine Sao? Is it a reference to the Salvation Army? Myths and legends abound, but the real history is shrouded in the depths of the disappearing ‘SAO’ page from Arnott’s website.

sao biscuitSo what is a SAO? Well, it’s a cream cracker, plain and simple. Cream Crackers were invented by Mr Jacob in 1885, so it’s a bit of a stretch to call the SAO ‘the original’, even if it does hark back to 1906. Cream crackers, of course, have no cream in them – but apparently trading standards were more lax in 1885 and you could get away with that kind of thing. They are quite airy, dry biscuits that really do need a topping on them – ideally something with some moisture. A plain SAO is a dry affair, indeed I have vague recollections of competitions to eat such a biscuit, plain, with no water, as fast as possible. It’s not as easy as it sounds, let me tell you, even for an accomplished biscuit eater such as myself.

I have now put such juvenile pursuits behind me, and enjoy my SAOs topped with cream cheese, avocado, tomato slices and the like. When partnered with such luscious ingredients, the SAO is very agreeable, although the preparation time does really move it away from the ‘snack’ genre and closer to ‘meal’.

I’m going to give the SAO five out of ten.

Custard Cream

March 7, 2011 at 11:13 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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The Custard Cream is a classic biscuit. Available everywhere, from every manufacturer, they have been around since Victorian times. According to the BBC, they are the UK’s favourite biscuit. They are definitely not Australia’s favourite biscuit, however – this honour belongs to the Tim Tam. Nevertheless, I’m sure Arnott’s sell quite a few Custard Creams, as they seem to have lots on the shelf at my local supermarket.

The first thing you notice is just how long the packet is. It’s a full thirty centimetres long, and because it is quite slender it feels even longer than it is.

The second thing you notice is the design on the biscuit. It follows the ISO standard Custard Cream template (part of the vanilla-flavoured products specification, ISO reference 3493), with a diamond in the centre with a pattern of lines ending in circular sworls radiating outwards. The words ‘Custard Cream’ are also present, along with an ‘A’ for ‘Arnott’s’.

They are quite crumbly, so care has to be taken when eating them as they can create a lot of crumbs. The two parts can easily be broken apart to reveal the vanilla-flavoured cream centre; however doing this is a real breach of etiquette and not recommended in polite company.

They taste like custard creams. Crumbly, sweet biscuits with a vanilla flavoured cream centre. There’s not much more to say about them really. They are quite nice – definitely one of the better varieties of custard creams, although the degree of international standardisation for custard creams means that there isn’t a huge variation between manufacturers.

A solid six out of ten, I think.

Tim Tam Black Forest

February 27, 2011 at 16:50 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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The Black Forest is a dense, fir tree forest in southern Germany. It is famous for two things; its giant earthworm and for its cake. The giant earthworm Lumbricus badensis, found only in the region, grows to lengths of sixty centimetres, and lives in burrows up to three metres deep. The cake, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, is made with chocolate, cream, sour cherries and kirsch liqueur, and lives on 1970s dessert trolleys.

I think it is safe to say that Arnott’s took their inspiration for these biscuits from the cake, rather than the worms – indeed the pack notes that this is a ‘dessert inspired biscuit’, and includes a small picture of perhaps the actual dessert that was used as the muse.

As such, the regular chocolate cream filling of the regular Tim Tam is replaced with a combination of white cream and cherry flavoured fudge, with the fudge down the centre of the filling with cream either side. The pack artwork implies that this fudge is quite liquid, and spills out enticingly perhaps even in the manner of a liqueur. However, the cherry filling is actually quite chewy, with a consistency closer to soft toffee.

The major disappointment with these biscuits was the chocolate coating. The pack artwork suggests that it might be dark chocolate, which I thought would add a degree of sophistication. However, it is in fact milk chocolate – but oddly not the same chocolate that is used on the regular Tim Tam. It is I think slightly darker, and actually strikes me as being lower quality, although this may be an artefact of the rather sweet chewy filling interfering with the palate. The other disappointment was that there seemed to be no kirsch; a mandated ingredient in a Black Forest cake, according to the Deutschtortegesetzgebung. I suspect this is because of the outcry when Arnott’s last tried marketing an alcoholic Tim Tam, the Tim Tam Tia Maria, which was subsequently withdrawn from sale.

I’m not really sure about these; they do have a kind of retro appeal, which I suppose is the point. However, they just don’t quite work; something is lacking. (Indeed, two whole biscuits are lacking, as for some reason you only get nine in a pack, as opposed to eleven in a regular pack.) I’m going to give these a six out of ten.

Orange Slice and Assorted Creams

January 1, 2011 at 16:05 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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The assorted cream selection pack consists of the Monte Carlo, Shortbread Cream, Kingston, Delta Creams and Orange Slice. ‘Five of your favourites’, as the pack proclaims, although I’m less sure. The Delta Cream, for example, isn’t a great biscuit. The Lemon Crisp would be a much more worthy contender; however I suspect that its lemony goodness might taint the other biscuits in the pack. Such are the difficulties of putting together a selection like this.

The real excitement of a selection is, of course, the ability to move from biscuit to biscuit as fancy takes you. It always feels a bit rude to not sample at least one of each biscuit at each sitting, but this is somewhat complicated by the fact there are a different number of each in the pack. There are a full eight Shortbread Creams, for example, but only four Kingstons. I’d like to think this imbalance is the result of endless research into the optimal ratios for maximum satisfaction, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s to do with the fact that Kingstons are more expensive to manufacture.

As Orange Slices are the only biscuit not already covered elsewhere, I thought it would be worthwhile taking a good look at this biscuit. I am assured that you can buy whole packets of Orange Slices, although I’ve never seen them anywhere. In any case, who would buy a whole pack of them? For some reason a biscuit called ‘Orange Slice’ just starts out behind the eight ball. It’s a bit like the coffee creme in a chocolate selection; you just have this gut feeling that it’s going to be a disappointment.

There is supporting evidence for this too, as in general it’s the Orange Slices that are left at the end of the Assorted Creams. The Kingsons are the first to go, then the Monte Carlos and the Shortbread Creams. Sometimes a solitary Delta is left until the end, but usually it’s the poor Orange Slice that has to endure this ignominy. Indeed, I’ve even seem packs where all five of the Orange Slices have been left when all the other biscuits have been finished.

The biscuits are patterned with an elaborate design which hints at orange blossom and ripe fruit; it also has a dividing line that looks a little as if the biscuit is designed to be divided into two and shared. This is a purely decorative effect, however, and indeed the dividing lines on either side of the biscuit do not line up. Needless to say any attempt to break an Orange Slice in two will result in a lot of crumbs and several uneven pieces.

So what is the Orange Slice like? Well, the biscuit has quite a high bake making it a bit harder then you expect (this is also what makes it impossible to break neatly in half). It actually crunches quite satisfactorily to the bite, and is more substantial in terms of mouth-feel than you might expect. The orange-flavoured filling is quite tangy, and not too sweet. It does have a slight hint of that strange ‘dirty’ taste that for some reason seems to bedevil orange flavoured confections, but it’s not at all pronounced and only a minor fault. For the most part the tangy orange flavours come through quite nicely.

In summary, the Orange Slice is a much nicer biscuit than you expect. It’s like the slightly geeky looking guy at the party that you try to avoid, but when you get to know is actually rather good company, but just a bit shy. So next time there is a pack of Assorted Creams on offer, why not jump straight on in there and go for the Orange Slice? You might be pleasantly surprised. I’m going to give this a seven-and-a-half out of ten.

Monte Carlo

October 1, 2010 at 21:56 | Posted in biscuits | 2 Comments
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Monte Carlo. A name imbued with decadence and romance; casinos and royalty, James Bond and Formula One. Just how have Arnott’s distilled this heady mix into biscuit form?

The Monte Carlo is a ‘jam and cream’ biscuit, and is a remarkable feat of biscuit engineering. On first inspection it seems like it has some sort of pink cream filling. However, you soon discover that actually that is a layer of sticky jam wrapped around a regular cream interior. I have no idea how they achieve this; I sort of imagine them making round balls of jam-coated cream, and then squashing them between two biscuits. The jam is really sticky; it gets into your teeth and adds a kind of chewiness to the thing which is somewhat unexpected.

I actually think this is a companion biscuit to the Iced Vovo. The Iced Vovo is a kind of throwback to British high tea, and this is the same. It’s an attempt to distil a jam-and-cream Victoria sponge cake* into biscuit form. I guess the ‘Monte Carlo’ thing is to give it a kind of continental sophistication – like taking English tea in the Hôtel de Paris. Like the Iced Vovo, its all rather fussy and overdone; this is a blowsy biscuit that is really trying too hard. It features some up-market ingredients – but only in trace quantities. The jam, for example, does contain raspberries – but is mainly apple, with raspberry not featuring until after such additives as food acid. The biscuit part contains honey, but way down the list along with raising agents and the like.

In terms of re-creating the experience of eating a Victoria sandwich cake, however, Arnotts have excelled themselves. Victoria sandwiches are rather heavy, sickly affairs that make you feel a bit ill if you eat too much. The Monte Carlo re-creates this perfectly; there are twelve in a packet (a refreshingly even number), but your correspondent had to admit defeat after just seven – and the last one was really ill-advised and brought back memories of eating too much cake at parties.

I’m going to give this a four out of ten. Clever engineering, but not a great biscuit.


*For those interested, here is the recipe for a Victoria sandwich. Note it is important to only use British Imperial measurements; if you use metric equivalents or any kind of electric beaters the cake will not work properly.

Cake ingredients
8oz butter or margarine, softened
8oz caster sugar
4 eggs
8oz self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder

For the filling and topping
4 tbsp strawberry or raspberry jam
5oz butter, softened
10oz icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk

Grease two 8 inch cake tins and line the bases with baking paper. Set the oven to 350F.

Tip the cake ingredients (butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and baking powder) into a large bowl and beat vigorously for about two minutes with a wooden spoon.

Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and level the surface with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 25 minutes, until risen and golden in colour. The cakes should be springy when lightly pressed. Leave the cakes in the tins for a few minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the tins and turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool.

To make the filling, beat the butter for the filling in a large bowl until soft. Add half of the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add the remaining icing sugar and one tablespoon of the milk and beat the mixture until creamy and smooth. Beat in the milk, if necessary, to loosen the mixture.

Spread one of the cakes with the jam, then a thick layer of the buttercream filling, and then put the other cake on top (top upwards) and sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve on a doily.

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