Shapes Light and Crispy – Sour Cream and Chives

December 8, 2016 at 20:15 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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shapes-light-and-crispy-boxShapes. It all seems to be about Shapes in biscuit-land at the moment. New Shapes, Original Shapes, New-but-now-original-again Shapes – it has been dominating the biscuit community for months.

And into this maelstrom comes yet another Shapes variant – the ‘Light and Crispy’ range. I snapped up a box to see what they were like.

Well, you will remember some time ago when we started on this whole ‘savoury biscuit’ thing. At that time, I was nervous about the whole cross-over with ‘savoury snack’ thing. When does a biscuit become a snack? Well, it might just be with Light and Crispy Shapes, as these are definitely dipping a toe into the waters labelled ‘snack’, if not going for a full swim.

shapes-light-and-crispy-biscuitsThey are very light (which, I suppose, given the name is hardly a bad thing), thin, crunchy ‘biscuits’. Yes, the packet still has them labelled as ‘biscuits’. So that’s OK then. You can very easily shovel several at a time into your mouth, which to me is a definite sign of ‘snack’. And when you eat them, they crunch down quite quickly.

For all that, they have a nice enough texture, and the sour cheese and chive is pretty standard for the genre. Nothing stand-out, but quite pleasant. As a snack. I’m going to give these four out of ten.

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Shapes – Cheese and Bacon (New)

November 5, 2016 at 19:37 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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arnott's shapes bacon and cheese flavourThere’s an old saying amongst chefs; if you want to give something that is otherwise a bit bland instant appeal, simply add cheese and bacon. There’s something magic about that combination of fat, protein and salt that is just irresistible. But do Arnott’s capture this irresistibility with the Cheese and Bacon shapes?

Of course, the controversy is still still raging about the ‘new’ Arnott’s Shapes. I covered this new Shapes debacle last time when I looked at the Barbecue flavour. Almost half a year on, the backlash continues; social media is still alight with negativity about the new flavours, and Arnott’s have actually had to re-introduce the original Pizza flavour in an attempt to prevent street riots and the like.

Cheese and Bacon is not a flavour I have previously tried, so I have no idea what the original ones tasted like. So in one way this is a kind of more pure review, untarnished by sentimentality.

The biscuits themselves are dusted with flavouring, and appear to have flecks of bacon embedded in them. With no bacon listed in the ingredients, however, I’m fairly confident these are just coloured bits of – something. Perhaps it’s best not to ask too many questions.

And they taste sort of cheese and bacony. Salty, cheesy, savoury. Not too sweet (a fault which bedevilled the new Barbecue flavour). Nice texture. Not a classic, but pretty good. Suitable moreish. So for these at least, I’m going to give the new flavour a thumbs up with a creditable five out of ten. Those with experience of the original Cheese and Bacon can unload below in the comments…

Shapes Barbecue – New And Improved

August 29, 2016 at 16:19 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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shapesboxesIt’s taken me a bit too long to catch onto this, but there has been a veritable social media frenzy going on recently that dwarfs even gossip about failing censuses or the latest from The Donald. Yes, it’s the reaction to Arnott’s ‘New and Improved’ Shapes.

Shapes are, of course, a range of savoury snack biscuits that boast the unusual feature of having ‘flavour you can see’. Except that, in the new version, apparently you can’t.

Arnott’s have launched a whole new range, including new and improved version of some of the classic flavours. However, I guess to hedge their bets, they are also still making the original version of two types – BBQ and Chicken Crimpy. So, when I saw both the original and new on sale at the supermarket, I bought a packet of each to do the definitive taste test.

But before we get to the comparison, let’s take a look at a few choice comments on Arnott’s facebook page.

shapesfb

Oh dear.

And on twitter?

shapestwit

Hmmm.

So what prompted Arnott’s to change this iconic snack – which has been in production for over 50 years? Well, apparently people were complaining that they wanted more flavour on their Shapes, and that the flavour wouldn’t stay stuck to the biscuit. Pesky stuff that visible flavour. I must admit, reasonably tuned into to the biscuit world as I am, this was not an issue I was aware off. Indeed, for many people having the flavour fall off is kind of the point, as it means the last biscuits in the pack accumulate the flavour that has dropped of the ones above. And then, at the end of the pack you get the pleasure of running a finger inside the pack to collect the dregs of flavour that remain. The whole thing could have been designed to deliver a gradually-increasing dose of Flavour You Can See, culminating in that last, luscious hit of salt and monosodium glutamate. But apparently this way of enjoying Shapes was passé, and a redesign to get more flavour, more consistently on each biscuit was required.

shapesbiscuits

This redesign was about more than just the flavour adherence mechanic, however. It was also about the flavour itself. Changes to the recipe were made, which somehow also yields the New And Improved versions an extra health star. Looking at the nutrition panels on each box, it seems pretty much everything is the same, except the new ones have less salt and more sugar.

Anyway, enough of all that. How to they compare? Well, you can read about the original ones here, as I looked at them some time ago.

Compared to the originals, the new ones have a slightly lighter, more open texture, which actually I quite liked. However, things are not so happy in the flavour department. The new ones are clearly much sweeter (that extra sugar), and amazingly even more artificial tasting. Besting the originals on artificial-ness was a big ask, but the Arnott’s team have managed it. Overall, the new flavour is not very nice. Too sweet, to cloying. It’s hard to eat a whole box of these in one go; they get sickly. The originals, by contrast, are highly addictive and are gone in a flash.

Having drawn my own conclusions, I put out the two types in different bowls next to each other in the office. The Original flavour bowl was empty in about 10 minutes; an hour later there were still some left in the ‘New And Improved’ bowl. So clearly my co-workers agree with my assessment.

So will Arnott’s relent? Will they retire the New And Improved, and quietly revert to the originals? In the meantime, I’m going to give these New And Improved BBQ Shapes a 2 out of 10.

Arnott’s Chicken Drumstick Shapes

July 13, 2016 at 16:04 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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shapes chicken drumstick boxAnother day, another savoury snack biscuit to try. These are Chicken Drumstick flavour, although they are unaccountably shaped like cola bottles.

Arnott’s make quite a variety of Shapes, in all sorts of, erm shapes. And flavours – although many of the flavours kind of blur into each other. Truly I think if they switch round the packaging not that many people would notice – ‘chicken’ flavour tastes much like ‘BBQ’ flavour tastes much like ‘pizza’ flavour and so on.

This makes for somewhat problematic reviewing. I mean, a strawberry Tim Tam is clearly quite a different beast to a mint one, so there’s plenty to say. But for these – well, it gets a bit harder. They are a savoury snack biscuit. They are too salty, taste rather artificial, and are very addictive. Oh, and they have flavour you can see. Whatever that means.

To be honest, I’d steer clear of the whole regular Shapes thing, and go with the ‘shapes chicken drumstick biscuitsExtreme‘ range (which actually aren’t ‘extreme’ at all, just more tasty).

I’m going to give these a four out of ten.

 

Postscript
I
 wrote this post before I realised that Arnott’s had revamped their whole shapes line – to considerable controversy! Anyway, this review is now somewhat historical, as this is one of the flavours that was discontinued. I intend to come back to the Great Shapes Controversy very soon!

Arnott’s Shapes Extreme BBQ Ribs Blast

September 30, 2015 at 20:19 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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shapes extreme boxWe live in a world of immoderation. Everything around us is super-sized, extra-strong, ultra-intense. Marketers of the world conspire to convince us that their product will deliver that life-changing experience, even as we plug the mundane details of renewing our car insurance or buying a sandwich.

For the most part, Arnott’s avoids such excesses. Lemon Crisp packets are not labelled ‘OMG! Unbelievably addictive!‘. Ginger Nuts do not proclaim ‘The strongest biscuit in the world!‘. No, Arnott’s like some throwback to a more genteel time, prefer to be more understated, allowing the qualities of their products to speak for themselves.

Of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average‘. ‘Exceeding the bounds of moderation‘. Thus the dictionary defines the word ‘extreme’. And it seems Arnott’s have gone all out with this new Shapes Extreme range to do just that.

The packaging is riotous. The language is hyperbolic – ‘intense’, extreme’, ‘blast’. What on earth is all this about? It’s like seeing your grandfather at a rave party.

I have to say, my curmudgeon meter was dialled up to eleven on this one. These were going to be terrible. I could just sense it, and I took them to the checkout like some portent of doom, only buying them because of the paucity of alternative options at the servo where I stopped in a mad rush.

The fact that I was taking them to an orchestra rehearsal made it even worse. They were my contribution to supper; a supper that is enjoyed by a distinctly conservative, largely retired, and somewhat blue-rinsed collection of amateur violinists. Oh well, I thought, I suppose the trumpets might like them.

Somewhat embarrassed, I opened them in the break and sampled one. Shuddering slightly as I lifted it to my lips, I closed my eyes and took a bite.

and….    and…..

Where was it? Where was the tongue-stripping acid, the tang of monosodium glutamate, the flabby biscuit no more than a second-rate delivery mechanism for all that ‘extreme’?

shapes extreme biscuitMy god. They were actually good. Really good. Crispy and light, with a lovely texture. Flavoursome and savoury, with just the right balance of sweetness, unami, salt and spice. In some extraordinary way they reminded me of a really good naan bread in an Indian restaurant; which sounds weird but might make sense if you try them.

This was something extraordinary. Even more extraordinary was that everyone agreed. Retired solicitors queued up to get more. The double bass player who rarely speaks was heard to remark ‘mmmm, these are nice‘. They were gone in seconds, with me barely being able to grab the last few to take a picture for this blog.

So there you are. Never judge a book by its cover and all that. The only way these are ‘extreme’ is in the ‘extremely delicious’ sense of the word. Go and buy some. You won’t be disappointed. I’m going to give these a nine out of ten.

Arnott’s Shapes – Cheddar

September 1, 2015 at 17:28 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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arnotts shapes cheddar boxIt’s been a while since we had a savoury biscuit review, so when a packet of Cheddar Shapes happened into the Chillikebab kitchen I thought it might be worth a look at.

They are small, rectangle biscuits, quite crunchy, sprinkled with cheesy flavour.

Hmm, not sure there’s much more to say really. So instead, let me draw your attention to another cheesy change. I still eat a lot of Cheds, and back in 2012 when i reviewed them, the pack clearly stated ‘a crisp cracker with a baked on cheddar cheese flavour

arnotts shapes cheddar biscuitAt some point, however, that changed, and it now reads ‘a delicious real cheddar cracker, sprinkled with pecorino cheese and oven baked until crisp’. Pecorino cheese, eh? Now, I eat a lot of these biscuits, and I’m pretty confident that the recipe hasn’t changed. Was there always pecorino cheese in there? Did someone just realise, and decide the sex up the marketing? The ingredients just say ‘cheese (16%)‘. Which, I have to say, is a pretty good percentage. Cheddar Shapes can only muster up 14%. Although how much of that is actually cheddar is open to conjecture.

I’m going to give these a five out of ten.

Shapes – Chicken Crimpy

February 23, 2014 at 19:30 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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chickencrimpyboxWell, here we are with another Shapes review, despite your protestations and howls of derision. However, in my defence I will say that these ones come in a box, and are much larger. indeed, they are more reminiscent of Jatz than of the rest of the shapes range.

They also feature the ‘flavour you can see’ line, but I have to say I’m confused by this. There is no ‘flavour’ to be discerned on these biscuits (unlike the Barbecue Shapes, for example). I suppose you could argue than pretty much anything comestible has ‘flavour you can see’, in the sense that you can see it is an edible item which presumably will taste of something. Perhaps Arnott’s are merely reassuring us that these biscuits are not invisible.

chickencrimpybiscuitThe biscuits have scalloped edges (hence the ‘crimpy’, I suspect), and are about four centimetres across. They are crunchy, and for all the world taste like plain biscuits for cheese sprinkled with a lot of chicken salt. Perhaps that’s what they are. Given the saltiness, I’m not sure they would go with cheese very successfully, but they did dip quite well into a guacamole salsa that I had in the fridge.

I’m going to give these a five out of ten.

Shapes – Barbecue

February 16, 2014 at 13:30 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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bbqshapespackIs this a step too far, I wonder? I have begged your indulgence to write about savoury biscuits, and you have responded magnificently,with an overwhelming response asking for cheesy reviews. But this? Sold in a bag, and clearly not meant for putting with a cheeseboard? Well, dear readers, let me know what you think as we step into the dangerous waters of the savoury snack biscuit.

There are a number of things about these that Arnott’s are very keen you should know. Firstly, they are ‘baked not fried’. Well that’s alright then. Clearly slathering fat all over something and then putting it in the oven, rather than merely dipping it into hot oil is to be applauded. After all, potatoes baked in duck fat are practically a health food.

The other thing is that they have ‘flavour you can see’. This seems strange to me. Personally I prefer flavour you can taste. Maybe it’ one of those post-modern things, like paintings you can hear. I looked at the flavour long and hard, but didn’t really get any hint of barbecue – more pencil shavings or bits from the dust-pan. Nothing to suggest burned sausages or parrafin lighter fluid.

bbqshapesbiscuitsTo eat, though, you do get some flavour. It seems the flavour is not just for looking at after all. The biscuit is crunchy and quite OK texture-wise. The flavour is of the generic ‘barbecue’ type, which is to say it really has very little to do with barbecues, and a whole lot to do with monosodium glutamate. Salty, spicy and slightly sweet tasting with a chemical edge that strips your tongue. Oh, and very addictive. The packet will be gone in a flash.

Of course, they are terrible. Artificial, gimmicky and lacking all depth and subtlety, But, for all that, they do deliver on expectations for the genre.

I’m going to give them a four out of ten.

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