It’s hard to imagine having tea without biscuits (unless you prefer scones or cucumber sandwiches, you heathen). In America, we might call these cookies, but in Britain, a cookie is often a softer baked product or what most of us think of as “drop cookies”. In modern Britain, biscuits come in all shapes and sizes, with icing or jam as well as sweet or savory flavors. Enjoyed with tea, milk, or even soda, many of these are readily available in America at British food shops or the international aisle at your local grocery store.
1. Walkers Shortbread
Since 1898, Walkers has made shortbread, crackers, and other biscuits and presently is Scotland’s leading food exporter. The recipe for your typical shortbread biscuit is one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. Walkers advertises that their shortbread contains no artificial flavors, colors, or additives. The butter gives it a high fat content and a crumbling texture (as well as pure deliciousness). They can come in three forms, whether as round individual biscuits, pie-shaped wedges, and slab-like fingers. To this day, Walkers has won three awards from the Queen for their exports and the company remains in the control of the Walker family.
2. Jaffa Cakes
Named after Jaffa oranges, McVitie and Price have been making Jaffa Cakes since 1927. The biscuits tend to be small and circular shaped with a sponge cake base, orange jelly, and chocolate coating on top. McVitie’s offers Jaffa Cakes in several varieties of cartons, tubes, and snack packs, as well as mini-cakes in pods and re-sealable pouches. Over the years, the company has offered the biscuits in lemon, strawberry, and blackcurrant flavors. Additionally, Jaffa Cakes are available as mini-rolls, candy bars, and even as muffins. Surprisingly, each one only contains 1 gram of fat.
The term “digestive” for biscuits comes from the heavy amount of baking soda used in their recipes thought to aid in digestion. Made both by Cadbury and McVitie’s (amongst others), digestives are typically made from coarse wheat flour, sugar, malt, and other ingredients. Sometimes they may include whey, oatmeal, and milk. Digestives come in a variety of flavors whether plain, with caramel, or covered in chocolate. In a bit of a cross-over, sometimes people will treat digestives like crackers by adding cheese, and they will even appear in cracker selection packages. Digestive biscuits often form the base for cheesecakes.
4. Wagon Wheels
The history of wagon wheels spans the British Empire. Canadian Garry Weston created them at the age of 22 when he worked for his father’s business in Australia and introduced them at the 1948 Olympia World Foods Fair. As you might guest, the name comes from the Western wagon wheels with Wild West films rising in popularity after World War II. In the United Kingdom, Wagon Wheels are made by Burton’s, who claim on their website that people consume over 125 million worldwide. As for their makeup, they can best be described as s’mores in biscuit form, with the biscuit itself covered in a marshmallow layer and topped with chocolate.
5. Jammie Dodgers
Also made by Burton’s Foods, Jammie Dodgers are a shortbread biscuit sandwich with a raspberry jam filling. Burton’s advertising claims that Jammie Dodgers are the most popular kid’s biscuits in the United Kingdom and 40% of the year’s sales in 2009 were consumed by adults. Presently, Burton’s offers Jam & Custard as well as Banana & Toffee versions. Jammy Dodgers are also part of popular culture, with them being the favorite biscuit of Jonny Keogh on “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps”, the name of Rita’s ship in “Flushed Away”, and as a fake self-destruct button for the TARDIS on “Doctor Who”. (They also happen to be this writer’s personal favorite.)
What’s your favorite British Biscuit? Let us know in the comments!