Saturday, May 5, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Australian Cookies

     This week we're headed way across the globe (Flat Earthers be damned), all the way down to Australia.  I just recently discovered that either I've been unobservant, or my local Shop Rite grocery has recently decided to stock a fair amount of foreign-made cookies, or both.  And, once more, there's the common cultural difference in the name of today's product.  America's "cookies" are Australia's, and several other country's "biscuits."  So we're talking about the sweet, individual-sized pastry desserts.  Specifically, I was able to find two varieties of Tim Tams, which are made by the Arnott company.
     The Arnott bakery was opened in Newgate, New South Wales, Australia, by a William Arnott, a Scottish immigrant, in 1865.  The Arnott company is a colossus in Australia--it's the leading producer of biscuits there, and the second largest producer of snacks across the board.  Almost all of their foods are either sweet biscuits (cookies), or else savory biscuits, which are more like crackers to Americans.  Arnott's exports to over forty countries, including New Zealand, the U.K., Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Tahiti, and the U.S.  They were bought up by the American Campbell's Soup company in 1997, although their products are still Australian-made, using mostly Australian ingredients.
     Tim Tams were developed by Arnott's director of food technology (yes, that's a real title), Ian Norris, in the late 1950's.  Norris had taken a trip to England, and there he encountered Penguin biscuits, made by McVities (see my May 13, 2017 post for more info on this company).  He vowed that his employer could make a better version, and so development began.  By 1964 Arnott's started selling Tim Tams.  The basic Tim Tam biscuit consists of two malted biscuits sandwiching a chocolate cream filling, and then all of this coated in another layer of chocolate.  Popular flavors include the original, white chocolate, dark chocolate, caramel, honeycomb, dark chocolate with mint, and chocolate with orange.  There have been scads of limited edition flavors over the years, such as red velvet, chocolate brownie, toffee apple, and banana.  A couple of these were controversial, since they were flavored with, and contained, trace amounts of Kahlua and Tia Maria liquor.  (The company pointed out that because the amount of alcohol in the cookies was so tiny, a person would need to eat an almost impossible number of them to feel any effects.)  Furthermore, a cheese (and chocolate?) version is sold only in Indonesia.  There's also a fun activity to play with the cookies, called the "Tim Tam Slam," or the "Tim Tam Shotgun," or even the "Tim Tam Suck."  To do it, a person bites off the two ends of a Tim Tam biscuit, and then uses the result as a straw to slurp up either a hot drink like coffee, or a cold one like milk.  Additionally, before she was a movie star, and two-time Oscar winner, actress Cate Blanchett appeared in some famous Tim Tam television commercials, in which she was given a never ending supply of the biscuit by a genie.  Finally, in case readers are curious about the strange name, Tim Tams are named after a horse--the famous one that won the Kentucky Derby in 1958.*
1) Tim Tams original biscuits:  These are rectangular in shape, about 6 cm by 3 cm (or about 2.5 inches by 1.25 inches), brown in color, and chocolate covered.  The two malted biscuit layers had a nice crunch, reminiscent of a Twix candy bar, I thought.  The filling was tasty, too.  Overall I liked these, thought they were good.  I would buy these again.

2) Tim Tams chewy caramel biscuits:  This kind was the same size, and color as the originals.  The significant difference was, of course, the caramel which was part of the filling between the malted wafers.  I liked this sort, too--in fact, a little more than the original.  But I've enjoyed caramel flavor in general, so this is not a shock.  Another solid cookie, that I'd eat again.

     So, as you can see, I quite enjoyed these cookies/biscuits.  And I will try to pick up any different flavors if I can.  I'd also like to find the English Penguin biscuits, to see if Ian Norris really did improve on them.  Other similar products include Choccy Slams and Temptins (in Australia), and Chit Chats in New Zealand.  It would be fun to try all these different chocolate covered biscuits and see which one I think is the best.  I'd also like to try the Tim Tam Slam, although given my distaste for hot liquids it'll have to be used with cold milk as the drink.

*  Tim Tam's story is a little sad.  He won the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness, in 1958.  And he narrowly missed winning the fabled Triple Crown, finishing second in the Belmont only after breaking a bone in his leg.  Fortunately, he recovered from his injury, living until 1982 as a very successful stud.

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