18th September 2010, on the menu today...
Shortbread (Brands Reviewed: Walkers)
With a handful of ingredients (flour, butter, salt and sugar) and not single chocolate chip, cream fondant, jam filling in sight, an inexperienced eater could conclude that shortbread was rather dull. But how wrong a conclusion that would be since its sweet, buttery taste is a delight to the palette that has had so many I know hooked since childhood.
A grown-up biscuit. My first exposure to this biscuit was courtesy of the Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread pictured below which, with its smart lettering and graphics, made me instantly feel grown-up. I can actually remember my parents having friends over for tea and purposefully choosing the shortbread over the 'kiddy' biscuits my mother laid out for me just to try and fit in. However, this inevitably failed as I got bored with conversation and decided to treat our guest to a re-enactment of a Star Wars-like fight scene involving various Manta Force, Thundercats and Transformer toys!
Hmmm, the homemade stuff. Walkers Shortbread is an excellent commercial product that I would thoroughly recommend; however, homemade trumps commercial shortbread every time. Eaten after just being baked, the consistency of homemade shortbread is deliciously soft and crumbly; moreover, the buttery taste we know and love is greatly enhanced coming in wave after wave. Stunning stuff.
Biccie goodness. Biscuits are never going to be the healthiest things but I've come to realise that the shortbread has a few things going for it.
Firstly, shortbread is energy dense with a particularly high fat content making it an ideal snack for people on the move - shortbread has seen me through quite a bit of fell walking here in Cumbria.
Secondly, shortbread contains very few ingredients - as little as you are going to find in a commercial product - and of those most of them, if not all, are natural, wholesome ones. Moreover, the fat used is 100% good old butter and therefore you're not going to get any cheap low-grade fats, particularly trans fats.
Thirdly, its fat-rich taste is much more satisfying than other more sugary biscuits meaning you are less inclined to reach more another one - unfortunately temptation sometimes leads me to ignore what my stomach is telling me.
Front: Being Scottish, a smart tartan graphic features in the background with gentle red hues radiating a feeling of warmth and comfort. An equally smart, brand name design is displayed at the centre with white serif typeface inside a black box given a more sophisticated look via a gold outline. Shortbread fingers line the right-hand side of the packet with their almost golden appearance set off nicely by the darker background hues. Along the top, the 'Walkers' text is displayed in big bold white typeface given, again, a smart thin gold outline. The text is accompanied by "Product of Scotland" above and "Established in 1898" below to reinforce the heritage of the brand. Down the left, this brand heritage is further reinforced with a narrow piece of tartan wrapped around an oval emblem depicting a 19th century scene of a gentleman and lady.
Back: The tartan background features on the reverse of the design and is accompanied at the top by a box which, among other things, briefly tells the consumer about the quality, history and ingredients of the shortbread. Once again, serif typeface is used to maintain the smart look established by the front of the packet. Nice little touches like the signature of Joseph Walker alongside the quality guarantee make for a more personal feel. One thing I found amusing was the number of languages the ingredients list is featured in along the bottom...obviously they do good business abroad.
I don't know whether I prefer my shortbread dunked or undunked. If it is just out of the oven then it's definitely undunked since it will be beautifully soft and buttery already. However, when it comes to the likes of Walkers fingers, I am on the fence. Here's my analysis of the two preparations:
Undunked Walkers Shortbread fingers have a significant bite to them that I find very satisfying. Also, with continued munching, you get the pleasure of experiencing that characteristic buttery richness gradually develop to a full-blown wave mitigated only by a perfectly judged amount of sugary sweetness.
Dunked these shortbread fingers prove themselves rather sturdy stuff and, unless held in a steaming hot cuppa for a very long time, will still have a decent bite to them at the centre. Moreover, with dunking the shortbread is softened to a reasonable degree and, on eating, I find that a fuller buttery taste is quicker to hit the palette than when undunked.
History (as per the Wikipedia entry):
Walkers Shortbread is a Scottish manufacturer of shortbread, biscuits, cookies and crackers. The company is Scotland's biggest exporter of food.
The company's signature pure butter shortbread is baked in the Moray village of Aberlour, Speyside, to an original family recipe perfected by Joseph Walker in 1898."
"Walkers continued adding to its line of recipes, producing more than 80 products by the mid-1990s. By then, the next generation of Walkers had taken the leadership following the senior James Walker's death in 1987. The younger Walkers took up positions as co-managing directors, with each assigned specific responsibilities in the company. As such Joseph Walker directed the group's production, purchasing, and distribution operations, while Marjorie Walker handled the company's administration and finance. James Walker provided the company's public face, responsible for marketing and sales."
However, on 13 June 2006 Walker's grandson James Walker, announced that the bakery in Aberlour would be closing and turning into a research facility for the company.
The company has received the Queen's Award for Export Achievement three times, "the highest accolade given to British exporters." Walker Shortbread is also still owned and managed by the Walker family.
Fellow food bloggers: