Oh, lovely Devon
Where it rains eight days of seven
Dear H sent me this English nursery rhyme to remind me of why I purchased my wellies.
I had always had a bit of a romantic dream of living or in the least escaping to the English countryside. Withnail & I, an English cult film about two Camdenites who “vacation by mistake” to a ramshackle country cottage only to find country living to be a bit more difficult than expected, has remained my all time favourite film for a solid decade, so a good part of me is trying to fully embrace this time in my life. So when it isn’t raining and incredibly windy and freezing, long walks have happened, though that’s not saying much. I do enjoy the multitude of clever fencing at the entrances and exits of the public pathways that are actually just farmers fields.
The majesty of Devon’s rolling hills cannot really be transmitted through iPhone photos, but they look a lot like this once you’ve found high ground/smashed through a shrub.
Despite the seemingly constant precipitation, I cannot say I thought there were pockets of England like this, which when driving through these lowland dips where all the water collects feels (to a Canadian keep in mind) like entering a tiny rainforest. A chilly, mucky rainforest that makes you want to slosh home for a nice cup of Bovril.
Of course, my ass couldn’t have predicted how bizarre Devon is either. Running away from London gave me hope of literally running. Breathing in the big city was almost too much for me, so pulling out my five fingers was not an option, even armed with an inhaler. The country, I thought, would be a grand place to get my heart rate going again. Never did I imagine all roads to wee St.Ann’s Chapel would look like this:
The only thing more terrifying than walking these roads are car rides down them. Amazingly, I think the only thing the single shop across the road does not sell is a safety vest.
They do however sell all the things that one would require to make traditional British goodies. God. Dammit.
So aside from
working reading my way through several savoury cookbooks like Heston Blummenthal at Home on loan from the head chef, and reading 1Q84, the temptation to recreate these treats only for the sake of doing so is driving me insane.
Which means even though this is supposed to be an Italian resto, I’m not really learning much about Italian anything, so why not expose you, dear readers of mine to my interpretation of some terribly unhealthy British sweets (and maybe a pasty, gotta make some of those).
First up, the McVitie’s HOBNOB. Cause, you know, they are high in fibre.
Hobnobs are a line of oatmeal
cookie biscuits that includes the Hobnob, the Milk Chocolate coated Hobnob, the Hobnob Chocolate Creams (small Hobnobs filled with cream), so basically whatever you can do to an oatmeal cookies biscuits the Scottish company have been doing since 1985. McVitie’s also produces a mean Gingernut.
A Hobnob isn’t a regular oatmeal cookie. It is very dry and short in texture, as though it were designed to be dunked in tea. It is very possible that they are made this way so that they soften up a day or two after they are opened with the damp that works its way into everything.
In order to recreate the dry, compressed biscuit with the “oaty nobbly” surface, I altered my gooey oatmeal cookie recipe. This recipe calls for butter, something Hobnobs do not contain, but swapping it for veg oil gives it more of a homemade taste.
Bitch’s Hobnob Biscuit
140g Whole grain flour
150g Quick oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
100g White sugar
112g Butter, cold and cubbed
25g Golden syrup or Honey
Combine the dry, then rub in butter until the texture is sandy. Add egg and golden syrup and mix until it forms lose crumbs.
Line a baking tray with parchment, cover with an even layer of crumble, pressing down to keep it together. With another piece of parchment on top, roll with a pin or press with another tray until thin and compact.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180/350 for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, press the biscuit carefully again to compress it. Cut into rounds, compressing more if needed. Let cool.
I used Galaxy chocolate because it was the only milk chocolate the shop has that isn’t the Happy Shopper brand. Personally, I find galaxy to be too sweet (at 25% cocoa solids). If you can find 35-40% milk choc, go for it. The flavour will be far more…grown up and less…straight from a plastic sleeve.
Yes, those little lumps in the galaxy chocolate were even more apparent when I melted it. Booo! No need to temper, Hobnobs aren’t dipped in superb chocolate, just don’t over heat it. I added some oil to help the viscosity.
A dinner fork yielded a passable but not ideal marks in the coating (dipping forks are recommended) but running a finger through the chocolate as it set looked better.
My Hobnobs aren’t perfect like McVities, but I think the perfectionist in me is slowly freezing to death or perhaps just hibernating in this chilly Devon kitchen. If only I had ground coffee. Tomorrow, a trip to the big city…to a town of 5,800. Weeeeeee………
Update: Wiki says HobNobs were available in Canada as of Nov. 2012.