Crunch time: What is Britain’s favourite biscuit?
- Credit: c5
The best biscuit, George Harrison and Yoko Ono's digestive ding-dong and a recipe for Prince William and Kate's biscuit wedding cake
It's crunch time for biscuits as a definitive poll is held to decide which is the nation's favourite teatime treat: is it the chocolate digestive, the Hobnob, the jammy dodger, the Bourbon?
Biscuits began their life as a humble snack for sailors made from flour and water – an easy way to deliver carbohydrates to men at sea, albeit one that not many of us would queue up to sample in today's world of sweet biscuits.
The ship's biscuit, or hard tack, was baked up to four times to ensure it would last on board and sailors would soften biscuits in brine before breaking them up on their forearms and eating them (the symbol for biscuit in sign language is still a hand cupping an elbow for this reason).
There are references to Richard the Lionheart setting out from English shores in 1190 with biskit of muslin – a mixed cornmeal made of barley, rye and bean flour – and ships at the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588 had a daily allowance of 1lb of biscuit a day. By Nelson's time, biscuits were still an essential part of a sailor's diet and remained so until canned foods were introduced and bread became Navy issue in the mid-1850s.
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Channel 5's Britain's Favouite Biscuit (Tuesday December 19, 9pm) puts to bed the big issue of the day, namely what the nation loves to dunk in their tea the most – and while its at it, there are also facts (the 7.5 million ginger nuts made every day would stretch from Carlisle to London, making that particular journey far more palatable than normal) and Wagon Wheels HAVEN'T shrunk over the years. Apparently.
We also revisit Beatles Biscuit Gate, a row which broke out amid tension between George Harrison and Yoko Ono. With tensions running high in the studio due to Yoko's continual presence – and Paul McCartney, Harrison and Ringo Starr not being her biggest fans – a row broke out over a digestive biscuit.
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Yoko was recuperating after a car accident in a bed set up in the studio by John Lennon and, when she felt hungry, she crept out of the bed and took a biscuit from a packet that Harrison had left on his guitar amplifier. Harrison was livid. Rightly so: biscuit theft is the lowest of the low.
• The word biscuit comes from the Latin words 'bis' meaning twice and 'coctus' meaning baked – biscuits used to be cakes which were dried out in ovens and therefore were baked twice
• In the 17th and 18th centuries, sponge fingers were handed round at the end of lavish meals to be dipped in sweet wine as a final hurrah. It's thought to be this process which inspired that other marvellous British concoction, the trifle
• Every year the average household crunches through 103 packets of biscuits
• There are 4.4 million digestives – both plain and chocolate – which are consumed each day
• Manchester is the biscuit eating capital of the UK with a staggering 96 per cent of people eating at least one biscuit a day – hot on their biscuit-chomping heels are people living in Yorkshire, then the East Midlands and then the south-west
• After the War of Independence in America, British versions of words were often shunned and so biscuits became cookies or crackers and the word 'biscuit' became the new term for what the British would call a scone
• Sesame Street's Cookie Monster has a British cousin called the Biscuit Monster
• Bourbons were first brought out in 1910 and were named after the European Royal House of Bourbon, which ruled France in the 16th century – the Bourbon biscuit was the first ever biscuit eaten on the Moon by Edwin Aldrin
• Think you know how to eat a chocolate digestive? Think again: recent breaking biscuit news from McVities revealed that its Chocolate Digestives have the chocolate at the bottom of the biscuit and not the top
• Digestives were, in fact, given their name because they were designed to aid digestion
• A 2009 study revealed that biscuits are responsible for a huge number of accidents every year ranging from dunking-related mishaps involving scalding tea. The most risky biscuit of all is the Custard Cream
• Scientists have revealed the best way to dunk a biscuit is horizonally – this leads to as much as 10 times the amount of flavour being released into the mouth
• Prince William and Kate had a chocolate fridge cake made from Rich Tea biscuits for their wedding cake (and we have the recipe)
• National Biscuit Day in 2018 is May 29 – so there's plenty of time to get planning your celebrations
Chocolate Fridge Wedding Cake
A 300g packet of Rich Tea biscuits
170g golden syrup
400g plain chocolate
140g raisins (if possible, soaked overnight in four tablespoons of whiskey or rum)
Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and gently smash them into pieces with a rolling pin until they are a mixture of chunks and crumbs.
Put the syrup, chocolate and butter in a pan and heat gently until melted. Stir in the broken biscuits and the raisins.
Scrape the mixture into a 12 by eight inch tin which has been lined with clingfilm and press down well. Refrigerate until set and cut into pieces.