Sunday, 4 December 2016

Schlute Kirsch Lebkuchen (TKMaxx)

Last year I was obsessed with plain Lebkuchen, but this year it's the turn of the jammy, chocolate dipped variety. Thus far I've tried the Lambertz version, but then I spotted this curious Kirsch version from a company I've not heard of before in TKMaxx.

I don't make a regular habit of buying food from the discount retailer (mainly because it's actually more expensive than most supermarkets) but I've recently made a habit of checking my local branch because I've discovered that they regularly stock Jordan's skinny syrups- and they're much cheaper than I can get them online.

Now that TKMaxx have their Christmas foods in stock I'm finding it even harder to make my was to the syrup shelf without being distracted by the continental treats -and Kirsch Lebkuchen sounded just to good to resist. At £1.49 for 100g bag they're more costly than the Lambertz version, but they sounded so much more exciting and I felt that the extra expense was justified.

Have any of you tried Schlute's products before? Their website leads me to believe that the company are a quality German manufacturer of biscuits, waffles and pastries who use only "old, tried and tested recipes and exquisite ingredients" and "carefully selected ingredients".

"Juicy gingerbread with fine apple-cherry-fruit filling (18% and plain chocolate (28%).

Gah. The bag obviously hadn't been looked after on its travels. Unlike the Lambertz Lebkuchen, most of the hearts were smashed. I certainly wouldn't have been happy if I'd received them a present in such a questionable state. Still, I hoped that the taste would make up for their sorry appearance.

Alas! Compared to the Lambertz versions, these were pathetic. The gingerbread was fairly well spiced but was noticeably less soft and more tough -which in itself wasn't a deal breaker. Add poor quality chocolate and so-so jam into the equation however and you're left with a pretty disgruntled Amy. I was hoping for a lovely, black forest vibe (or at the very least a good quality German gingerbread) but these missed the mark entirely -especially as the jam was distinctly lacking in the Kirsch department. Perhaps I should've read the bag before I'd bought (or even tasted) the hearts, as then I would've realised that the ingredients includes 10% apple pulp and just 1% morello cherry juice concentrate. Very misleading.

I can't blame Schlute entirely for my experience with their Kirsch Lebkuchen though, after all I have no idea how long these have been kicking about the TKMaxx system (but they were in date until April next year) and I also imagine they looked far prettier when leaving the factory floor. 


Saturday, 3 December 2016

NEW! "The Best" Gingerbread Muffins (Morrisons)

When you think of gingerbread do you think of Bonfire Night, Christmas or neither? Either way, the warming spice definitely comes out to play during the latter months of the year, and these Gingerbread Muffins have graced Morrisons' stores since the end of October. I'm still going to include them as a Christmas review though due to their very festive decoration!

I had a very hard job in Morrisons trying to find a pack of muffins without broken (and therefore sad looking) men on top. In fact there wasn't any and I even asked the department manager if there was any intact muffins out the back, but unfortunately I wasn't in luck. He said that they might have a delivery in the next couple of days, but I was too impatient to wait. At £1.50 for 2 muffins they're at the more expensive end of the supermarket muffin range, and I was a bit reticent about forking out for them given my previous experience with Morrisons "Signature" lemon & raspberry and marbled chocolate muffins in the summer. I knew they'd play on my mind if I didn't buy them though, and I refuse to have a snacks I wish I'd tried last Christmas list next year.  

"2 Ginger flavoured muffins with a gingerbread flavour filling, topped with toffee icing and a chocolate decoration."

The muffins weren't particularly light but neither were they notable heavy. They were however a beautiful dark golden colour, and smelt very gingery, which I took as a good sign. Slicing the first in two (for photographic reasons) bared the injection of sauce that ran through the middle. It wasn't particularly obvious, especially given that it was a translucent affair, but there didn't seem to be a huge amount of it. I wondered if it was going to be a similar experience to Tesco's Toffee Apple muffins where the sauce had oozed into the cake itself. I sure hoped so. 

I was expecting the muffin to taste like McVites Jaminger (sorry Jamaican Ginger) cake, but it was less sticky and more fluffy. Unlike Morrisons' previous muffins, this was jam packed full of flavour too, offering warmth in every mouthful. The sauce was disappointing though, it didn't really shout gingerbread, but was more of a super-strength spicy drizzle. Such a shame really because the icing was superb, and complemented the flavour of the muffin well with it's buttery sweetness. If Morrisons had only filled the Gingerbread Muffins with the toffee icing, or a custard instead, I'm sure they'd have been on to a sure fire winner. 


Friday, 2 December 2016

Festive Menu Chocolatey Banoffee Pie (McDonalds)

I don't make a regular habit of eating at McDonalds, but as soon as their Christmas menu was announced I knew I'd have to make a trip there for my Thursday train dessert night.

There's apparently been a public outcry at the loss of their mincemeat and custard filled Festive Pie" this year but, to be honest, it didn't phase me as id never even bothered to try it. The replacement was far more exciting in my books anyway. I've spoken many a time on this blog about my love of Nutella & banana toasties (as well as my obsession with anything banoffee: peanut butter, biscuits, flapjack, muffinswhey protein, rice name it!) so you can imagine my glee when I heard that McDonalds were going to be selling warm chocolatey banoffee pies. This week has certainly been the coldest yet this season, and so I was really looking forward to my treat after lectures last night -especially as I was going to cycle the 2 miles home when I got to the other end at 10pm!

I ordered using the new touch screen menus (since when has McDs been so fancy?) and paid the £1.19 for my chocolatey banoffee pie. Isn't almost everyone scarred from burning their tongue on their hot apple pies as a child? It was certainly something that came into mind when waiting for my order to appear at the collection point.

"A hot crispy pie filled with a thick Banoffee sauce and a delicious chocolatey sauce."

I needn't have worried though, by the time I'd left the fast food restaurant and popped across to the station, the pie was still just about warm  and nowhere near scalding temperature -a good job considering I'd got blisters on my lip thanks to my impatience with molten custard the night before. The train was late and so I got stuck in right there on the platform (hence the awful photos, sorry)! It was smaller than I remember the apple pies being -doesn't everything seem to have shrunk nowadays though?- but just as golden and crispy as ever.

The flaky pastry tasted primarily of oil, although I didn't mind it as it brought back nostalgic memories. The pie was well filled, with two different coloured fillings, which I assumed represented the separate chocolate and banoffee flavours.

Both sauces were yummy in an oddly comforting fashion. The banoffee was more like a sweet banana than actual toffee, although it actually tasted completely natural (I think I expected something reminiscent of foam sweets). As for the chocolate, it wasn't up to Nutella standards, but was thick, gooey and had a good -albeit very sweet- cocoa flavour. Both flavours worked in harmony, and some bites offered more of one sauce than the other, which made it all the more interesting to eat.

The taste, warmth and texture leans towards the perfect winter pick me up; exactly what I needed when starting to flag and in need of a sugar bomb. McDonald's Chocolatey Banoffee Pie isn't the most refined snack, but it is good old fashion junk food at its finest. If you're a chocolate and banana fan it's well worth trying a warm pie before they disappear after Christmas.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Turkey & Pigs In Blankets Festive Sandwich (M&S)

Happy advent all! Have you opened the first window of your advent calendar yet?

It's fair to say that I've got into the festive Sammie spirit this year. Well on Mondays I have at least; it's the one day I'll stump up the money for a meal deal thanks to O2's £1 Boots offer. Every week I make sure that I get into my local branch early enough to grab their Turkey, stuffing and redcurrant sauce Sammie -and it's just about the only thing that gets me through a 3 hour session with the world's worst lecturer that afternoon.

There's another festive sarnie that I keep hearing about however, in fact my best friend Nat and fellow foodie Zoe both messaged me on the same day and told me that I just had to try Marks & Sparks Turkey & Pigs In Blankets sandwich. It certainly sounded tempting, after all pigs in blankets are the very best part of Christmas Dinner (I'm not even entertaining anyone who disagrees). The trouble is, it's just so damn expensive, and I'm reticent to spend the equivalent of 12 full size bars of Galaxy on two bits of bread and some filling -especially as I know which I'd enjoy more!  Fortunately I left lectures on Tuesday at M&S reducing time and spotted the famous sarnie for £1.05. At that price I just had to try it, if not only to just know whether it lived up to the high praises it had earned from my amigos.
"British pork sausages and smoked British bacon, roast British turkey breast, cranberry chutney, spices mayonnaise and spinach on sage and onion bread."
The first thing I noticed was just how thick the bread was. I'm used to medium cut bread with Boots, and Warburtons Protein Bread at home, so I wondered how I'd get my severely clicky jaw around the Sammie. Luckily, I managed it somehow.

The bread was soft, and I found that the sage and onion flavour was a wonderful nod to the traditional Christmas stuffing. I expected cocktail sized sausages in the filling given that it's a pigs in blankets sandwich, but instead they were full size bangers. I'm not moaning here, as a sausage lover (oo-er) I was more than happy to get more meat for my money. They were succulent and well flavoured too, working in harmony with the many pieces of streaky bacon.  There wasn't much of the turkey in comparison, but I didn't mind too much -I really would've had to dissect the sandwich to eat it if it had been even thicker.

The cranberry chutney was lingering somewhere in the background, a good job really because the flavour can often be overpowering, and the meat was (quite rightly) very much the star of the Sammie show. As for the other sauce -the 'spiced' mayonnaise- I could barely notice it, which was a slight shame considering the stuffing mayo in Boots' Sammie is my favourite element.

All in all, this was a pretty damn good festive Sammie, and it was very filling too -which I would've especially appreciated if I forked out the full whack at £3. It's worth noting that part of the profits do go to the homeless charity Shelter -but it's only a measly 5%- surely you can do better than 15p Marks & Sparks, it is Christmas after all!


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

NEW! Christmas Millionaire's Shortbread (Waitrose)

Whilst I fully agree that the best tasting food isn't often the prettiest (homemade apple crumble anyone?) sight is the first sense we rely on when buying pre-packaged food. Ok, I'll be honest, I'm really just attempting to excuse myself here for the fact that just one glance at this golden white chocolate Millionaire's Shortbread on instagram was all it took to instil an innate need in me to track it down and try it for myself. Soooo pretty. So glittery. Surely so tasty...?

"A layer of salted caramel and white chocolate on all butter shortbread finished with milk chocolate and gold lustre."

The food gods must have also agreed that I definitely needed to try it too, for when I got to Waitrose all the Christmas Millionaires Shortbread were donning reduced yellow stickers, despite having a best before date of the 22nd of December. I paid £1.05 for the slice, but I can't remember how much the full price was, sorry. 

I ignored the instructions to keep it in a cool dry place, and popped the shortbread in the fridge to chill before opening. Later on I found that the knife easily and cleanly sliced through it, though I'm not sure I would've found the same if the caramel was at ambient temperature. The layers were each respectably ample; the thickest of which was -of course- the biscuit base.

The biscuit was beautifully rich and crumbly, offering the melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness that is synonymous with a great shortbread. The white chocolate, although beautiful, was less special. I'd love to report that it was gloriously creamy, but to be honest it was marred slightly by the milk chocolate swirl. The mixture of chocolates diluted the delicate flavour, and I wish that Waitrose had stuck to their guns and just used a good quality Belgian white chocolate.

Of course, the caramel has to be the star of any Millionaire's shortbread. Waitrose have been braver with this, producing a layer that was both sticky, smooth and definitely salted. Luckily they've got the salinity just right, any more and I'd have thought that Heston had stuck his oar in, but it was absolutely scrummy.

Millionaire's shortbread might not be the most traditional of Christmas snacks -but it's certainly worth buying one (or more) of these before they disappear come January. 


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Handcrafted Chocolate Log (Boots)

I've not held back when it comes to giving you my opinions on Boots' bakery style snacks. We've had the grim Cookie Dough Brownie, the awful Banoffee Flapjack and disappointing Red Velvet Cake Slice. More recently I've had better experiences however with their Carrot Cake Slice -which I've had a far few times since reviewing and am still quite happy with. Boots released a couple of Festive themed cake slices last month, at the same time as their festive Sammie range, and so I decided to take a punt as part of my Monday £1 meal deal on the Handcrafted Chocolate Log. 

"A chocolate sponge topped with chocolate buttercream, and a milk chocolate decoration."

I didn't have high hopes for the cake, not only because of my history with Boots' snacks, but also because I realised last year that I'm rather picky when it comes to Yule logs. Not even the highly exalted Tesco Finest Yule Log pleased my disgruntled tastebuds. Still, this little slice looked pretty and chocolatey, so I prepared myself to try it with fresh eyes.

I was forced to eat my hat. The cake was moist and soft, with a bold chocolate flavour that didn't border on bitter. I soon discovered an additional surprise too: the plentiful supply of dark Belgian chocolate chips which studded the mixture and added a lovely twist. The buttercream on top was also tasty, bordering on fudge-like in its thick, creamy softness. I had expected naff Kinnerton advent calendar quality from the fake 'flake' adorning the slice, but yet again I was stupefied and found it to taste rather good. Please don't get me wrong, we're not talking high end artisanal chocolate here, but it was crumbly, melted in the mouth, and left a pleasant aftertaste. Nom.

I'd certainly say that the Handcrafted Chocolate Log is as good as Boots' carrot cake, but there's just a couple of issues...

1) It's a YULE LOG Boots, so please don't be giving us that Christmas red tape nonsense.

2) I'm now faced with a weekly dilemma on a Monday morning: do I go for the Merry Mince Pie Flapjack or Chocolate Log to complement my festive sarnie?

I think I can cope.


Monday, 28 November 2016

Sante Cinnamon Star Cereal (Polski Sklep)

I don't know about you, but I certainly think that cinnamon cereal is distinctly lacking in the U.K. Sure we have curiously cinnamon and more recently the (distinctly under-spiced) Cinnamon Oat Crisp Cheerios, but that's about the extent of the matter. The only way I've known to get hold of other cinnamon cereals until now is to place an order from American import companies as the States have a vast array of the stuff including Cinnabon cereal, Apple Jacks and Cinnamon Toast Crunch -to name just a few.

It wasn't until my last chocolate mission in the Polish Delis that I decided to delve further into stores, and soon uncovered a plethora of interesting looking cereals that I've not seen before, one of which was this bag of 'Cynamonowe Gwiazdki' -which I (correctly!) guessed translates to 'cinnamon Stars'. At £1.09 for a 250g bag it wasn't bad value and I decided to discover what Sante's Smart Teens cereal is all about.

The little stars are made from a mixture of wheat, barley, oat and corn flours, whilst the remaining ingredients are sugar, honey, inulin (a watre soluble fibre), sunflower oil, cinnamon, molasses from cane sugar, sea salt and natural flavours -that's it. It was a welcome surprise to see a list devoid of strange chemicals and e-numbers that you can find on so many cereals, although there is 8.1g of sugar per 30g.

The combination of sweet, warming scent and golden coloured stars resulted in a bowl of rather festive cereal. My friend and fellow blogger Laura (of A Daisy Chain Dream) rightly pointed out last week that there's no christmassy cereals here in the U.K either, so perhaps this is the closest we'll get.

Texturally, the stars were crunchy, and passed the milk soaking test with flying colours. I could definitely taste the oat within the cereal mixture, but of course the main flavours were sugar and cinnamon -both of which were delicious.

I'm so pleased that I've found these cinnamon stars. Comparitively they're cheaper than Nestle's Curiously Cinnamon, yet equally delicious with less fat and salt (although as mentioned, they do have a slightly higher sugar content).

If you're a cinnamon cereal fiend then it's well worth a trio to your local Polski Sklep to pick up a bag or two!


*Comparative Nutritionals per 100g:
Sante Cinnamon Stars: 375kcal, fat 3.4g, sat fat 0.5g, carbs 75g, sugars 27g, fibre 7g, protein 8.1g, salt 0.23g
Nestle Curiously Cinnamon: 419kcal, fat 10.1g, sat fat 3.8g, carbs 74g, sugars 24.8g, fibre 5.2g, protein 5.4g, salt 1.11g