Showing posts with label sandwich cookies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sandwich cookies. Show all posts

Friday, February 21, 2014

Five Grains Cream Sand Biscuits

When I shopped at the Daiso (100-yen shop) in Tokyo, I used to look at the cheap products on sale there and investigate their country of origin. On the packages, it often said very prominently, "PRODUCT OF JAPAN." I took this to mean that this item was manufactured in Japan. It turns out that saying something is a "product of (country)" has nothing to do with where it was made. It just means that the country it was marketed for is the given country.

I realized this after careful inspection of these cookies, which I purchased at Daiso Japan in Cupertino for $1.50 (156 yen). As an aside, I should note that I rarely buy snacks there these days because their inventory so rarely changes. These were the first new product that I was drawn to there in quite some time.

Getting back to the point, this says "PRODUCT OF JAPAN" just as I've written it here in all capital letters and right under it, it says, "Country of Origin: China". I have to wonder if the all caps is intentional. It's the equivalent of "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." It's not that I'm particularly troubled that my cookies are from China. I'm very egalitarian about such things, but I do think that it's a wee bit on the naughty side to label things as they are on the package.

Packaging aside, and as another aside, a recent study says that packaging matters a great deal to people so is it any wonder that I'm droning on about it, let's talk cookies. I was drawn to these because of the "five grain" aspect. Those grains are corn, black sesame seed, peanuts, oats and black soy beans according to the front of the box, but the first ingredient is actually wheat flour.

Note that ingredients are listed in order of volume in the recipe and, listed after salt, are black soybean, peanuts, and oats. That means there are fewer of those ingredients than salt. I'm pretty sure that means somoene tossed a peanut, a thimble of oats, and a black soybean into the vats and that there are trace amounts of them. Well, if these are insanely salty, then I may be wrong.

As it turns out, these cookies are not incredibly salty, nor are they super sweet. The outer biscuit is earthy and mainly tastes of black sesame with a whole wheat sense in the background. The vanilla filling doesn't come through much at all with the stronger grain flavors and it mainly adds texture. I think you'd have to unsandwich the cookie, eat half and place the filling against your tongue to get a sense of it, but I didn't bother to do that. I'm a purist and will eat it as it is presented.

This is an interesting cookie because it has a lot of flavor depth and feels more like a health food biscuit than a sandwich cookie. It still carries Oreo-level calories at 67 calories per (they are bigger than an Oreo though by about 25%). No doubt a lot of those calories come from the second, third, and fourth ingredients: sugar, refined palm oil, and shortening. Those make it clear that, while this may sound like a health food, it's got plenty of bad fats in it to spoil the whole grainy goodness. Still, this isn't a blog which concerns itself seriously with nutrition when it comes to snacks. I'm not complaining and merely noting that the multi-grain nature is not related to these being nutritionally sound.

As someone who actually prefers brown bread to white bread and stronger, earthy flavors to the blandness of white flour, I enjoyed these. I'm not sure if I'd buy them again, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out. The fact that the black sesame dominates is an enormous plus for me. If you enjoy whole grains and black sesame, then you may want to give these a try.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Lottesand Black Cookies

When I saw this box on display at a Korean market, the English sign in front of it said, "Black Sandwich Cracker". This intrigued me because what is pictured on the box resembles a knock-off of an Oreo cookie, not a cracker. I wanted to know if the contents of the box actually were cracker-like confections and it only cost me 50 cents to find out.

When I got home and started looking more carefully, I saw that these are made by Japanese snack-making power house, Lotte. In fact, if you peruse the Korean web site, you'll see that there is substantial product overlap between countries including Ghana chocolate bars. I think that products produced for both countries are essentially identical. However, I could not find a chocolate sandwich cookie (or cracker) option on Lotte's Japan site. Perhaps they threw in the towel in that market and gave in to Oreo.

The main benefit of these cookies for me over Oreos are that they are sold more cheaply and in a smaller package. The first time my husband and I bought a standard size package of Oreos after returning to America, it took four months to eat it all. The second time, it took longer and we had to throw the rest away. It's just too much cookie for a couple of people who aren't gobbling them down like a crazed 8-year-old.

Of course, a 50-cent box is unlikely to live up to the greatness of Oreo, right? Well, maybe... The truth is that these were very good cookies. The bitter chocolate cookie exterior was flavorful and had a good texture. It lacked some of the fatty, crumbly nature of an Oreo, but it did not go anywhere near "cracker" territory. It was a more than serviceable cookie with just enough cream to make it interesting without making it too sweet or cloying.

Frankly, for my tastes, these were better than a standard Oreo, but I'm guessing those who are into double-, triple-, and whatever multiple numbers of "stuffs" they enjoy in Oreos will find the filling amount paltry and insufficient. It truly depends on how sweet you like your cookies. Oddly, the calorie count is not enormously lower despite the lesser sweetness and white stuff. The cookies are 45 calories each, but are smaller than an Oreo.

I wouldn't say that one should bust a gut scrambling down to the local Korean market (I got these at a place called "Super Kyo-Po Plaza"), but I'm guessing you could get them at any Korean market... provided you have access to one. I certainly would buy them again if I wanted to have an "Oreo" cookie around. They're not "better", but they are different in a way that suits my tastes (and pocketbook) better.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Furuta Green Tea Sand Cookies

Shortly before I returned to the United States, the Oreo cookie, perhaps the world's most famous sandwich cookie, turned 100 years old. The concept of two cookies with some sort of sweet filling between them likely pre-dates the venerable Oreo by centuries as it seems natural for someone to see a couple of plain cookies and think about how it might be interesting to put some honey, jam, cream, butter, or other sweet filling between them. However, the processed packaged sort of sandwich cookie is a product of our modern age and bless the person who invented them. I haven't found even a bad sandwich cookie that I hated, though I've certainly had a few that I didn't exactly love.

As I've mentioned before, having grown up poor, I never ate Oreos. We had store brand cookies. You know, the sort that you used to buy in industrial sized packages for about a dollar. Each plastic package had enough empty calories to keep you energized but malnourished for weeks. Of course, my mother didn't buy those cookies all that often because, you know, poor folks back in my day didn't do that too often. We were too busy poaching deer so we'd have meat for awhile or stealing a Christmas tree from the distant areas of some poor sap's farm. 

At any rate, I love sandwich cookies, but I rarely buy packages of them for one big reason. They are almost always calorie-dense. My husband and I bought some peanut butter Oreos when we were still on the San Juan islands because Japan doesn't sell peanut butter and chocolate sweets and the idea was so marvelously American that we had to indulge. Unfortunately, the package, which was a "regular" one, took us a little over a month to consume. Both of us are still a little taken aback by the way in which it's hard to buy very small portions outside of convenience stores and their supposed "snack packs". When I checked the nutrition information, I noted that each peanut butter Oreo was a whopping 71 calories. For that price, I could enjoy three vanilla meringue cookies or an entire piece of most types of fruit. 

Still, sometimes, you have to spoil yourself (as Ned Flanders says), and you have a craving for a sandwich cookie with its crispy outer planks and creamy inner filling. And sometimes, you've lived in Japan for a long time and are "homesick" for its flavors and decide that green tea sounds pretty damn good right now. Such was the case for me when I found these at the Daiso Japan for a $1.50 (120 yen). The box contains 10 somewhat largish (a bit bigger than an Oreo) sandwich cookies and they come with the bargain calorie count of 51 calories each. They're also fortified with Calcium and that may provide you with some comfort if you're the sort of person who feels the need to nutritionally justify your junk food consumption (I'm not). 

Most people feel that the sandwich cookie succeeds or fails on the cream filling, but I'm actually more about the quality of the outer cookies. Sure, the cream is important, but if the cookie is bad, that makes the filling irrelevant. It's like a good cup of coffee. It doesn't matter how great the cream you use is. If the brew is not good, the experience is ruined.

Fortunately, the cookie exterior on this is very nice. It has a nice snap with the right amount of fat-induced flakiness. It either has a good carmelized sugar flavor or is made with brown sugar because it definitely has that sort of edge to it. The ingredients do not specify anything other than "sugar". It probably helps that they are made, at least in part, with whole wheat flour and their is a small hint of earthiness rather than the flat blandness of white flour.

The filling is a bit scarce, but that's okay because it carries just the right balance of green tea bitterness with some sugary sweetness. The only thing which could be better is some more textural decadence with more fatty interior, but I'm not complaining. These are solid cookies on every front, though they absolutely don't carry the sort of over-the-top sweetness that Oreo cookies do. The best thing about that is that there is nice flavor depth. You can taste the cookie's quality's as well as the filling. I'd definitely buy these again. Though I can't say I'd want to keep them on hand at all times, I'm not sure I can say that of most of the things I enjoy. If you're a green tea fan, they're absolutely worth a visit.

Note: If you can't access these any other way, I found them online at a place called eFood Depot for $3.95 a box. They're a little expensive there, but for those determined to try them (especially serious green tea lovers), they're likely worth the price. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sugar Butter Tree Sand

The tagline under this poster advertising "Sugar Butter Tree Sand" says, "the cereal sweets". I like how they use the definite article in English, as if they need to differentiate it from all of the other cereal sweets as the one and only. 

There is a category of snacks and sweets in Japan that I haven't really seen in the United States which this particular snack falls into. Granted, I've been back in the U.S. for only two months and I've spent that time largely on one small island with two stores in the San Juan Islands, but I'm not sure that I'm wrong when I say that there is a layer of snacking in Japan that lies between what you buy at the local market or convenience store (like a KitKat) and what you buy in a department store (e.g., Godiva or Leonidas chocolates). The closest I can come to something akin to this in the U.S. is the Whitman's Sampler, though that's probably a low-rent purchase compared to the sort of mid-priced, elegantly packaged type of food that is sold in Japan. In general, I'm talking about the sort of thing you might buy for someone else, but are unlikely to buy for yourself and which is not a regional souvenir food gift.

My feeling is that this level of snacks exists because of the way in which gift-giving operates in Japanese society. There is a fairly big niche market which does not exist in American culture because they lubricate their social relationships with nicely wrapped parcels containing atypical delights. If you visit your in-laws or have a reunion with your childhood piano teacher, these types of snacks are one of the more appropriate offerings. The "Sugar Butter Tree" line (by Ginnobudo) falls into this category. They aren't pedestrian, but they also aren't high class. They're just right to show respect, but not to embarrass the recipient or the giver with an ostentatious display of a big label or an indication that you inappropriately spent a lot of money based on your relative statuses. No, you save ostentatious displays of wasted cash  for your valued clients or sucking up to the boss.

Image taken from Ginnobudo's site, because my infamous issues with taking pictures of light/white food ensured that my picture pretty much sucked.

It's important not to confuse the nice packaging and the high price tag with some sort of amazing gustatory experience. I've had a lot of these types of snacks and they are surprisingly pedestrian in their tastes. In fact, one of the reasons I wanted to review the "Sugar Butter Tree Sand(wich)" cookie is that it really is a classy, modified version of a Rice Krispies treat. It lacks the marshmallow component so it is not gooey and sticky, but it does taste an awful lot like a version of said cereal with a white chocolate filling that packs a sweetness punch. The crispy cookie planks are even slightly soft like the infamous cereal treats. There is a funky flavor to them which I might identify as fake vanilla, but I think is actually something about the white chocolate used in the filling.

My husband bought a box of 10 of these cookies and it took us a very long time to eat them. It wasn't that they weren't relatively decent as a snack. It's merely that they weren't all that spectacular and, at about 80 calories each, we often felt we'd rather "spend" those empty calories somewhere else. Still, I think that curiosity seekers and Rice Krispies treats fans who can't get their fix in Japan may want to give them a try. At the very least, you could buy them as a hostess gift if you go to a Japanese person's home as they'd likely fit the bill without embarrassing yourself or the host.