HobNob biscuits

This is a favorite British digestive biscuit by McVitie's of Scotland, originally with a milk chocolate top, then a plain-top version was introduced to meet demand, then an orange-chocolate version, then a dark chocolate-top version.

Ingredients minus the chocolate:
Rolled oat (38%), Wholemeal Wheat flour (23%), Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Raising Agents (Sodium Bicarbonate, Ammonium Bicarbonate), Salt.
There you have it. Mostly oats. Held together with flour. They use vegetable oil, we'll use butter. They use HGCS, we'll use Lyle's Golden Syrup™. Why? Because we're against HGCS and we're for being Scottish right now, that's why.

Our flour is is 50% Egyptian Kemet flour, milled at home so it has everything in it including fat, and 50% AP flour.
 [Incidentally, the word K?M?T, which Egyptologists pronounce Kemet,  is the ancient Egyptian word for Egypt -- Land of the Black Soil, the country in the shape of a river and its delta, in contrast to Land of the Red Soil, the desert, everything that surrounds Egypt proper, that is, foreign lands]
* 8 oz flour, 1 cup, 50% whole wheat/50% all purpose
* 8 oz thick rolled oats
* 8 oz cold butter
* 1/3 cup refined white sugar
* 1/3 cup light brown sugar
* 1 Tablespoon Lyle's Golden Syrup
* 3 Tablespoons hot water
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

350℉ / 175℃ for 10 minutes or until lightly golden and NOT brown. These were baked for 9 minutes. The timer was set for 10 minutes, it rings with a minute to spare, the biscuits were removed before they darkened.

I processed cold butter into the combined flour. This would melt with the introduction of hot water.

I deemed my mixture too wet at this point so I reached into the bag of oats and grabbed a handful and mixed it in. Still too wet, so another handful. In this manner the firmness of the dough was adjusted with increments of rolled oats. See? That there is what you call biscuit-experience.

As you know, baking powder IS baking soda with its own self-activating acid. The extra baking soda here is to equalize the acid/alkaline of the ingredients. Besides, baking soda does more than just leaven, it helps keep cookies soft too. So that tells you, if you want dry crunchy biscuits then back off from the baking soda.

El Rey couverture single-source chocolate ↓ best in all the land. The land being Venezuela, presently being sorely mismanaged by a megalomaniac, or so I understand. 

Now, about that Lyle's Golden Syrup, which is very Scottish indeed. It is popular in Britain and you will see it all the time in British recipes, but it is a speciality item in the United States. I mentioned to the checkout lady that I doubted it could be all it's cracked up to be. She said, "Well, people seem to love it. We sure sell a lot of it."  I go, "Really?" She goes, "Yup." It can be a bit pricey in the US,  especially if purchased in a speciality shop which likely may be the only place you will find it. It is a byproduct of refining sugar so theoretically the same thing as molasses or any other treacle. But it is not a raw byproduct, it is further refined, and it does possess its own unique taste. Sampling it by itself, I would say that it tastes like a neutral light clover honey with a small fraction of maple syrup. Where does the hint of maple come from I cannot imagine, but it is there, and I can guess. I'll go out on a limb here and say I think the faint hint of maple syrup comes from being held in maple barrels.  So, feel free to substitute with with HGCS if you despise life and don't mind being a big fat cow, or light molasses, honey, maple syrup, or your own simple sugar syrup (1 cup water / 1 cup sugar dissolved), or any combination. After all, it's only a single tablespoon anyway. All of that for just that.

But what is the deal with the label depicting a sleeping lion with flies buzzing around?

Well, the lion is dead, not sleeping, and the dots around the lion are bees, not flies. Abram Lyle, the gent who started the company, one of the first sugar refineries in the world and largest in Britain to this day, was a religiously-minded fellow. The lion is a Biblical reference. 

Samson and the Lion

The Biblical story begins Judges 13:24 where Manoah's wife bears him a son and they name him Samson. The story progresses apace. The idea here is that God hatched a plan using Samson to kick serious Philistine butt on behalf of the Israelites. It reads as random ancient literature that was incorporated into Jewish texts, a force-fit if you like, to explain the Jewish experience in terms of Deity, there are big gaps in the story, and it doesn't always make complete sense. I would say, without being an accredited literary theologian, the story with its numerous glaring lacunae is reworked into a cautionary tale about the dangers inherent in mixing with goyem. It is a warning about the trouble you get into with foreign women. 

Right off the bat, after birth, with no intervening maturation or character development recorded from one chapter to the next, Samson goes into Timnath and sees a daughter of the Philistines. He comes home and tells his parents to get her for him, and his parents ask, "What? There aren't any local women good enough for you?" I'm paraphrasing here. Samson goes, "Nope." Every jew knows this would have been no small discussion, but it is elided in the Bible. They do not realize this is all part of the Lord's plan.

Judges 14:1   So they all go off together to Timnath to see about this woman, and at the vineyards Samson is attacked by a lion. The lion. Right then, the Spirit of the Lord comes mightily upon Samson and he tears the lion to pieces (rent the lion). This whole Spirit of the Lord coming upon him thing freaks out Samson a little bit and he keeps the episode to himself. 

Apparently, Samson was separated from his parents during the lion incident because Samson tore apart the lion without his parents witnessing the act. It's a story, a'ight? You gotta piece these things together. But you can see now that the lion pictured on Lyle's Golden Syrup rightfully should be torn to pieces, not looking like it's sleeping. Maybe that was too gross to show on a label. I cannot account for this discrepancy between the Biblical story and the Lyle's Golden Syrup label except for modesty. 

So they go on down to talk to the woman and it turns out she pleased Samson well and he decided he needed to marry her. 

Then he returns to take the woman, and along the way he sees the carcass of lion there in pieces, and,  whooooa! What? Hey! There's a beehive in the carcass of the lion! So what does Samson do? He takes some of the honey and eats it. Naturally. Then he takes more of the honey and gives it to his parents but he does not mention where he got the honey, and the Bible does not mention how he carried the honey except to say, "In his hands". Samson is the strong silent type. You will notice Samson is withholding any mention of the lion from his parents. This is important to the plot development. No mention of Samson being stung which is pretty much all I could think about. 

We're getting to the company motto.

Now Samson's father is involved in getting the woman for Samson. Samson prepares a feast, as was the custom of the day. All this is right there in Judges. The woman's party includes thirty companions. Samson presents the companions with a riddle to be answered within the seven feast days. If they answer then he'll give them 30 sheets of linen and 30 changes of garments, which is  like a whole new wardrobe each. And if they cannot answer then they'll have to give Samson 30 sheets of linen and 30 changes of garments, which is quite a lot of textiles.  They all went, "Fine, it's a bet. Bring it." Then, referencing the personal incident with the lion which only Samson knew about because he didn't mention it to anybody even his own parents, he posed the following riddle: "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." 

Tadaaaaa. There you go. That is the Biblical saying that arrested the attention of Abram Lyle who made it his company's motto.

Back to the Biblical story of Samson, incidental to Lyle's Golden Syrup label and company motto, the 30 companions could not answer the question within three days so they threatened Samson's new wife with burning down her and her father's house, and the story gets worse from there. The marriage didn't last. It gets very bad for the Philistines and Samson himself is pretty much a tragic figure. The story continues where I left off at Judges 14:16 


Emilie said...

The recipe looks great, and the story about the logo is fantastic!

cookincairo said...

This is fabulous. You are a fabulous writer and I love the story. I have yet to taste the syrup. Came across your blog post looking for an egg-less cookie for an egg-allergic child in my daughter's kg class, most of whom will be receiving chocolate chip (egg-ful) cookies tomorrow. Your hobnob recipe has saved the day and your syrup story has made my night!

Dionne Glover said...

I can't wait to try this recipe. I'm not sure where you are but in here in North Carolina, the Lyle's Golden Syrup is sold in my grocery store. Doesn't cost more than regular sugar. I'm going to make these this weekend.

Stacy and Anthony said...

When measured by weight (not volume), I used about 1 3/4c flour and 2c oats. I also subbed 1/2 T honey and 1/2 T maple syrup for the golden syrup and used a slightly higher proportion of brown to white sugar and added a bit of cinnamon. Dough consistency was perfect! Can't wait to eat them!

Ben Wallace said...

Thanks for this recipe! Is the 8oz minus the addition of two extra handfuls of oats? Also, were they crumbly like hobnobs or just crunchy? I've tried to make them in the past and they keep turning out too hard in comparison...

Chip Ahoy said...

Mine were chewy. I think.

Cookies like shortbread are crumbly, right? That is almost pure flour and butter (sugar and salt of course). For crumbly texture look at shortbread recipes and consider turning oats into flour by processing in a coffee mill or the like.

Milena said...

Had this bookmarked for ages and finally tried making them. Hobnobs are my favourite biscuit, but growing up in the US (half-English), didn't get to have them very much. I definitely didn't add enough oats-- followed your amounts pretty closely, but then I see you added more oats later, so obviously that was the right move. I sprinkled some rough sea salt on top before baking and that was lovely. Gonna mail these to me English Da for his birthday and see what he thinks. He prefers digestives, but I'd rather make hobnobs so I can eat all the ones that don't fit in the package. :) Thanks! By the way, I've been following your blog for years and it always makes my day better. Also it has the best (and most honest) title for a blog I've seen. Keep it up.
(Oh, and I couldn't find Lyle's Golden Syrup here, so I had to use a mixture of molasses and dark corn syrup :( :( :( Just not the same... but still turned out well)

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