It’s apparently frowned upon by the upper classes (who probably do it in secret when the butler’s not looking), but for the rest of us it’s a time-honoured British tradition which makes life that little bit better!
I am, of course, talking about the fine art of dunking a biscuit in your tea, or coffee, whichever takes your fancy. In this blog we’ll look at some of our favourite ‘dunkers’ – biscuits which lend themselves well to a quick dip in the hot beverage of your choice as a tasty guilty pleasure.
But first, we need to look at the art of dunking itself, though some insist it’s a science. I kid you not, proper white-coated and impressively qualified scientists have spent long hours in labs rigorously testing various biscuit types and brands to discover their optimal dunking time. It’s an academic quest for the perfect balance between soaking up enough liquid yet remaining structurally intact for the precarious journey from mug to mouth.
A quick trawl of the internet will reveal there are more surveys, 'top 10s' and 'definitive guides' relating to biscuits than almost any other subject. Maybe it’s a British thing – we do love our biscuits. And it seems each survey yields different results, not to mention the heated arguments over whether a Jaffa Cake can be called a biscuit. That’s one for another day.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. We all have our favourite biscuit and our top dunker. Confession time: when I was a young lad growing up in Yorkshire the local youth club sold, among other things, mugs of steaming hot Vimto and Twix biscuits. A happy union of the two was inevitable and has created a lifelong guilty pleasure. Until you’ve dipped your Twix into hot Vimto, then sucked off the melting chocolate and caramel beneath, you just haven’t lived. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!
Mastering the art of dunking takes some practice. Just how long you can dunk before your biscuit crumbles and drowns to become a sloppy sludge slurped from the bottom of your mug is determined by many factors; your biscuit of choice, the heat of your beverage, the stillness of your hand and the angle of the dangle, to name but a few.
A word on technique now. You might want to sit to the table to dunk so the inevitable splashes and occasional collapses can be easily wiped up afterwards. If not that, then drape a tea towel on your frontage to protect your finery from soggy biscuit blots. Minimising travel from mug to mouth reduces the risk of saturated biscuit collapse between the two. Dunking in private (even in secret) avoids the disapproval of non-dunkers… then again, who cares?
So here, in no particular order, are 10 top dunkers and reasons why they really do deserve a quick dip:
Rich Tea: The 1980s' advertising slogan claimed “a drink’s too wet without one”, and who could argue with that? Plain and perfect for dunking, try two back-to-back for added strength and structural integrity.
Chocolate Digestives: Whether milk or plain chocolate, it’s consistently one on Britain’s favourite biccies and only gets better with a quick dunk to soften that thick chocolate coating.
Jammie Dodgers: That layer of hard raspberry jam cements the two shortcake biscuit discs firmly together and provides added stability for the dedicated dunker.
Bourbon Creams: There’s something irresistible about a freshly dunked Bourbon. They’re a biscuit tin staple and ideally suited to a dip in the drink.
Shortbread Fingers: These are the perfect shape for dunking and their thickness means you can risk sustained submersion. Once soaked they really do melt in the mouth.
Custard Cream: A traditional rival to the Bourbon, the venerable Custard Cream has stood the test of time. The cream layer allows for slightly drawn-out dippage, but don’t overdo it!
Malted Milk: With a creamy malted flavour these not-too-sweet biscuits make a good dunker, but will quickly disintegrate in a hot brew. Probably another to double up on, back-to-back.
Golden Crunch Creams: These circular sensations are crumbly when dry but boast excellent absorbency when dipped, and that middle layer of vanilla cream holds it all together nicely.
Milk Chocolate HobNobs: With an oaty texture all their own, HobNobs have become a firm fixture in Britain’s biscuit lexicon and dunking a chocolate-coated one is a melting moment to savour.
Original Digestives: If you don’t have a sweet tooth or a mania for melted chocolate, you’ll go a long way to find a better biscuit for sheer dunkability than the old faithful that is the original and unadorned Digestive.