Ms. Pie and I do agree on one thing: the cookies she brought back from UK chain Marks & Spencer are totally unremarkable.
This may sound like a 180-degree reversal of my previous position on British desserts. However, I’d like to clarify that the Anglo-treats I most covet are the refrigerated kind (chocolate mousses, trifles, sticky toffee puddings, and the like). Not the ones you find in the cookie aisle.
BTW, M&S is a UK department store chain as famous for its cotton undies as its range of ready-made sandwiches (although poorly conceived combinations like “cream cheese with strawberry and grapes” give me pause. I hope that flavor got phased out). Their groceries are pretty pricey, more so than your average Tesco, Safeway, or Sainsbury’s. So you’d think their cookies would be decent. You’d think.
Here’s what we tried:
Jaffa cakes: These are named for Jaffa oranges. They’re a spongecake with a layer of orange (or another fruity) jelly, coated in chocolate on one side. I used to eat these by the boxfuls in college. I guess my palate has evolved, because now there’s half a bag that’s been sitting in my pantry not getting any less stale.
“I refuse to eat them, because I do not believe that orange marmalade and chocolate belong together. In this case, two great tastes make me want to barf,” commented my pro-pie counterpart.
Er, if you’re still curious to try them, you might be able to find them at your local grocery store under the Le Petit Ecolier brand.
Oat biscuits: I’m guessing these are M&S’ version of McVitie’s Hobnobs, a fibrous oat-based cookie from the company that made Prince William’s groom’s cake. The texture would make you think were made by Metamucil if they were in American grocery stores. These were ok-tasting with a glass of soy milk. But they need more butter, lard, bacon grease—something to make them taste less healthy. Maybe M&S should take a cue from McVitie’s by offering a chocolate-coated version.
Wafer curls: Due to my lactose intolerance, I usually steer clear of milk chocolate. So I left this one entirely up to Ms. Pie: “I love flute cookies, where there’s a thin layer of chocolate within a buttery and flaky rolled cookie. It’s crunchy and slightly salty and then full of delicious chocolate—like a chocolate pie in cookie form. But then Marks & Spencer had to try to improve on perfection by dipping the whole thing in chocolate, thus smothering the delicate nature of the dessert. Don’t try to do over-the-top, Britain. Leave that to the Americans, who know how to engage in excess without killing flavor.”