Tagged: 4stars

Ricotta-filled Long Doughnut – European elegance in snack form

Ricotta-filled long doughnut – $4.50 from Petit Espresso, Lower Ground Floor, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney

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Yes readers, it’s been a long time between posts. I don’t know if it’s the weather, or the shorter days, but I feel a startling lack of snack inspiration lately. Even my favourite little BBQ Pork Pie hasn’t been filling me with joy. This week however I once again felt the urge to venture forth in search of new snacks, thanks to the worlds greatest bicycle race, and Gabriel Gaté, a man whose passion for eating rivals even that of my own. It’s fitting also that this week sees the first ever stage wins by an Australian team, and the Maillot Jaune worn on the back of a hardworking Aussie. To honour this significant moment, I depart from my usual Asian snacks and venture to continental Europe, and Petit Espresso.

This snack purveyor can hardly be called a shop, being a small corner of an arcade in front of which some enterprising person has placed a glass booth and an espresso machine. Not being a coffee drinker, I had paid little attention to this nook as I ambled past each day, assuming it was a coffee stand with the appropriately standard array of stale pastries. But one day while spinning to avoid a group of schoolchildren on smartphones, I turned my head and was surprised by what I saw: the glass booth contains all manner of elegant European treats, including chocolate éclairs, cannolis, and filled donuts. I wiped a small string of saliva from my face and moved closer.

One snack in particular caught my eye, a unique beast that I have so far failed to identify, so comment away if you know the name. It’s made of sweet doughnut dough, spiralled into a long bar shape with a tunnel through the centre. The tunnel is filled with your choice of chocolate, custard or ricotta, and dusted with icing sugar. Not quite a doughnut, or éclair or longjohn, but some sort of delicious doughy hybrid. This week I opted for the ricotta version, and was delighted by what I found.

The dough is a fairly standard doughnut recipe, sweet, not too chewy, the perfect starting point for an afternoon treat.  The structure of the doughnut can be described in a word – solid. One might expect that a completely hollow tube of dough would be brittle at best, but biting into the doughnut leaves the structural integrity satisfyingly intact. The spiral formed tube is also aesthetically pleasing, with evenly formed lines and subtle ridges, obviously the work of a master pâtissier. The ricotta filling is a superbe, smooth and creamy, and just enough sweetness added without compromising its dairy nature. Writing this has made me so hungry, I might just go and purchase another one right now. 4 stars.

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Originality – Excellent

Execution – Excellent

Value – OK (Excellent if you manage to snag one for $2.50 after 4:00 pm)

Overall judgement: 4

Peanut Swirl – May contain traces of maggots

Peanut Swirl – $2.40 from Breadtop, plenty of locations all over greater Sydney (except for Sussex St which has closed)

 

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This week sees us return to Breadtop for a Peanut Swirl. Now right from the start this snack has me in two minds. On one hand, I do appreciate the literal naming of snacks (see the Sascha Pork Floss Roll), but on the other hand, I can’t stand this new trend of turning verbs into nouns (or vice versa, as my good friend Bernard Black would agree). This time it’s going to come down to taste, so lets potter along in order to learn more about this snack shall we?

Firstly a few warnings. Those of you with nut allergies should not attempt a Swirl, and perhaps should even stop reading this review now, as recent research has shown that even pictures of nut based products can cause a mild reaction in some anaphylaxis sufferers. Additionally, the unique appearance of the swirl may require a bit of a leap of faith from new eaters, who could be forgiven for thinking the roll was covered in maggots, but anything more than a cursory glance would show that this isn’t the case (or at least that the maggots are now dead, providing an additional protein boost).

The Swirl starts as many similar snacks do, with a sweet bread roll base, which in this case is twisted prior to baking to give the swirled appearance. Next the base is covered in a unique nut mixture, unlike anything I’ve eaten before. It’s more pastey than crushed nuts, more crumbly than peanut butter, but is somehow reminiscent of both – no mean feat. On top of the nuts comes another swirl, this time of custard, adding a splash of colour to an otherwise fairly brown snack. Finally comes the small white worms populating the top of the Swirl, which luckily are nothing more than extruded noodles of milk powder paste, adding a welcoming crunchy finish.

The peanuts really are the heart of this snack. The unique sweet-yet-savoury flavour and crumbly-yet-smooth mouthfeel are a triumph, recalling features of many childhood snacks while still retaining a refreshing modernity. The subtle layering of flavours and textures completes what is a very satisfying afternoon treat. Minus half a point for the noun/verb thing though. 4 stars.

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Originality – Excellent

Execution – Excellent

Value – Good

Overall judgement: 4

Smarter than the average Cheese and Bacon Roll

Cheese and Bacon roll – $2.00 from Barby, 2 locations in Haymarket (Sussex St and Market City)

Barby are renowned for pushing the envelope when it comes to snacks (see the Perfect Roll), so it was with some trepidation that I purchased the innocuously named but outrageously shaped Cheese and Bacon.

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A perennial favourite at Vietnamese hot bread shops all across suburban Australia, the humble cheese and bacon roll has filled the stomachs of school children and shift workers alike for nearly four decades. For many, this is probably their first foray into the world of hot bread snacks. In their search for snack market domination, Barby have combined the familiarity of the cheese and bacon roll, with the uniqueness of an small vase of flowers, to create what could be the perfect gateway snack for new eaters.

Eating the roll took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.  Firstly denial – This can’t be a cheese and bacon roll, it just cant. It looks like an explosion! Then anger – What? Where’s the hidden boiled egg or chocolate chips? This is just a plain roll! It’s not fair! Then  bargaining – I’ll give anything for a tiny bit of pork floss, some corn, anything. Then depression – It’s over, it really is just a cheese and bacon roll. I don’t know why I even bothered to buy it. And finally acceptance – Actually, this makes a lot of sense. It looks like mushroom, but tastes just like a cheese and bacon roll. It’s going to be OK. This reaction is not uncommon, and is known in snack circles as the Five Stages of Grease.

When I reached the fifth stage, and accepted the roll for what it was, I found myself eating what is possibly the best cheese and bacon roll I’ve ever had. The bread is flawlessly soft, like a blanketing of powdery snow on a misty morning. A light crust on the outside holds the roll together, without adding chewiness. The bacon and cheese to bread ratio, a common downfall of the traditional variety, is just about spot on. Finally, a light smear of sauce and a sprinkling of herbs add the finishing touches and provide a welcome colourful variety to the protruding top.

Barby have succeeded here, in making a snack that doesn’t look out of place next to the Pork Floss Sushi Roll,  but at the same time is approachable and familiar, like the Salvo’s brass band at Christmas. But beware! – you’re on the edge of a slippery snack slope, soon you will be salivating for something more adventurous, and Barby are ready to show you just how deep the rabbit hole goes. 4 stars.

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Originality – Excellent

Execution – Excellent

Value – Good

Overall judgement: 4

Sacha Pork Floss Roll – Literally

Sacha Pork Floss Roll – $2.80 from Breadtop, plenty of locations all over Sydney (except for Sussex St which has closed)

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There was a time before I knew of Breadtop. I don’t like to think of those times, they were dark years, but sometimes I reminisce just to see how far I’ve come. It was a stormy afternoon all those years ago, when I dived into a shopfront to avoid the splash of an oncoming bus. I looked around, my day was brightened instantly when I saw I was in a snack shop. A small, square looking treat named Sacha caught my eye, and the rest, well, you know the rest.

One of my favourite things about the Sasha Pork Floss Roll is that it’s literally* a roll, the first I have come across in my regular snack perusals. If you’re lucky enough to be at a Breadtop on Sasha-day then you’ll see the bakers start with a large flat piece of bread dough, which is sprinkled liberally with pork floss, then rolled up like a log, coated in corn kernels, sweet chili sauce, cheese and parsely. The log is then baked until crisp and cut into lengths for adults and children alike to enjoy, and enjoy it they do.

The Sacha is a different beast to that other pork floss treat, the Pork Floss Sushi Roll. The addition of melted cheese adds a whole new world (don’t you dare close your eyes) of textures, as the eater is greeted with a crunchy crust on the outside, delving down to the depths of chewy cheese below. Again, the corn adds an important burst of freshness and life, but has an almost quiche-like element to it thanks to the oven baking. The sweet and salty pork floss provides the solid flavour base upon which the snack is built, and the clever spiroid layers of bread ensure textural and visual variety the whole way through the roll.

If the roll has a downside, it’s in the consistency. As a regular consumer of Sacha’s, I notice that there is a significant variation in quality across the pieces on a tray. For those of you playing along at home, I suggest these two simple tests to ensure maximum snack value. Firstly, look for the pieces that are more of a square shape. Due to the rolling process, the ends of the roll are slightly tapered, providing less room for filling and topping, and are to be avoided (such as the one pictured, an unfortunate failure but was the last one left). Secondly, compare the weights of at least 7 or 8 pieces before choosing one. Use the tongs provided to pick up a piece, feel the weight in your hands, then place the piece back on the tray, sorting according to estimated weight. You might need to check two or three more times to ensure you get the order right, but you can’t rush these things. Following these simple tricks should ensure you net a prizeworthy Sacha every time. 4 stars.

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Originality – Excellent

Execution – Average to Excellent (learn the tricks to maximise your chances of a good one)

Value – Good

Overall judgement: 4

* N.B For those of you born after 1990, the word ‘literally’ does have a specific meaning and is not just a big word one can use to make one’s story less mundane. Those who misuse the word should literally have their left hand removed and replaced with a thesaurus, giving them lifetime access to an array of other more appropriate adjectives.