Writers’ Biscuits: an ongoing research project *mumbles, mouth full*


I have been conducting a long-term, and entirely selfless, piece of research. On Writers’ Biscuits.1

Which of all the small, sweet and carby snacks available are best suited to the writing life? To give that tiny lift and bit of a helping hand when energy and inspiration fail at mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or midnight. (Though probably if it’s failing at midnight writers are turning to other options e.g. alcohol or sleep.)

Writers are fuelled by coffee2 – sometimes tea – and snacks. If your thoughts run like this: ‘I’ll write 100/200/500 more words/I’ll finish writing this chapter/I’ll finish re-reading/editing/staring hopelessly at  this chapter, and then I’ll make a cup of (beverage of choice)…’ then the bit where, while the kettle boils, you forage through the cupboards for something to eat is vitally important. It decides What Happens Next, in every sense.

In this scenario I’m discounting discoveries of nuts, crisps, dried fruits, or a fridge-based forage which might end up with hummus or yoghurt, or, God help us, salad in its many forms. Salad does not get a novel written. I’m British. I’m talking about Biscuits.

Early results pointed to the Hobnob as an ideal biscuit-of-choice for the writing life. Sweet, salt, and two of ‘em’ll keep you going for ages. Dip-able: this is a very important quality. Biscuits that dip and then disintegrate into your tea or coffee as you lift them out are a disaster. Especially if you’re busy looking at your computer screen while doing so. Outcome: bits in the beverage and nothing to nibble on but a soggy edge.

The success of the Hobnob led to experiments with the Chocolate Hobnob. Initially it looked like a winner. But you can have too much of a good thing, leading to crash-and-burn (not saying how many were got through in a sitting). Consistent results show that intake of the Chocolate Hobnob definitely leads to a drop in productivity.

A family member who shall remain nameless, though with the best scientific interests at heart, thought that if Chocky Hobnobs were good then Chocolate Chip Hobnobs must be even better. But there are some things that are not meant to be.3 Choc Chip Hobnobs are an aberration. The packet was not even finished. By me, anyway.

digestive biscuit, writers' biscuits

So now I would like to announce a very strange interim result. The plain Digestive biscuit is making an unexpected bid for supremacy. Bought simply for smashing up and making into a tray of Rocky Road, it was accidentally foraged one morning with interesting results. Who would have thought that such an old-school biscuit would stand a chance? Yet it has the necessary characteristics. Not too many crumbs, capable of being dipped without disaster (though timing is all), and – surprisingly – equally flavoursome with/in both tea and coffee. And being such a no-frills sort of biscuit, it gives the illusion that you’re snacking on nothing more sinister than a ricecake.4  So you can probably get away with another. (Two or three).

This important work continues. Research assistants are required. Unpaid. Any volunteers?


1 N.B. There is a parallel but completely unrelated research project into Writers’ Chocolate. *wipes mouth*

2  See my blogpost ‘Coffee – Essential Writing Fuel’ on Girls Heart Books.

3  Other examples of things that should never have been invented: there’s an advertisement around at the moment for something that combines chocolate and Ritz Crackers. No. And another that implies you can put strawberries on Ryvita. That is impossible. Those two substances are like resisting poles in magnets: the strawberries simply veer away.

4  Actually, ricecakes are pretty sinister.


9 thoughts on “Writers’ Biscuits: an ongoing research project *mumbles, mouth full*

  1. This made me smile, notes included!

    I find increasingly that I can’t be trusted with a packet of biscuits — once I’ve popped I can’t stop. There’s something in the ingredients that is designed to be moreish, and I suspect it’s a cynical ploy by the manufacturers to get us to consume more.

    So I try not to be tempted by Custard Creams, Digestives, Lincoln or Nice or Ginger biscuits. Chocolate-covered or flavoured or filled-with-choc-chips ones just make me ill, just like a small tin of sweetened condensed milk (it’s been ten years since I kicked that into touch).

    So, I’m convinced that the blander the biscuit the better the biscuit. Hello, Rich Tea. Just a little hint of sugar, just this side of cardboard, tempting to dunk except that requires getting up to make another cup of coffee so why bother. See, ideal.

    • I’m sorry the richer kind of biscuits make you ill. You’re right, Rich Tea is super-bland; one up from arrowroot biscuits! But Custard Creams & Nice I associate with childhood and work or school meetings where no one is willing to spring for decent nibbles. Not worth the bother. I’ve not seen a Lincoln biscuit in decades, thought they’d been consigned to the biscuit design bin. But Ginger Biscuits do have their place, which is dipped in a hot cup of tea – and then probably collapsed down your front. Brilliant.

  2. Just have to add my h’porth of insider knowledge to this research succumbing, as I do each day, to a coffee at 11ish & tea at 4.30ish both accompanied by biscuits –

    For me a ‘cantuccini’ with my coffee. Small, not too sweet with almonds & firm enough to withstand an extended dunking due to any form of distraction although I have to distract myself by emptying the dishwasher or such like or I will have had my quota before the coffees in the mug..! 2, most days, are sufficient to tide me over until lunch. If these are too small, try their larger cousin, ‘biscotti’. Neither very crumby.

    Tea, for me, calls for something sweeter – lavender shortbreads (not so crumby), palmiers (very crumby – can have quite a detrimental effect on one’s keyboard..!) – neither great for dunking though.

    • Very classy choices! Not just shortbread, but lavender shortbread. I find the cantuccini choice a bit of a tooth-breaker – they need that extended dunking to be safe. Thank you for your excellent contribution to this worthwhile work. 🙂

  3. Apologies to Tiffers, but I’m nixing the lavender suggestion. My go-to writing nibbles include (in no particular order) ginger-lemon cremes, vanilla cremes, or m&ms. Dipping is verboten (to paraphrase Michaeleen Oge Flynn in The Quiet Man: when I drink tea, I drink tea, and when I eat cookies, I eat cookies). This is mostly to save the keyboard, but also because soggy cookies are in the same class as lavender: simply not on. And finally, it’s good to have one-handed snacks that allow the other hand to keep typing!

  4. Three cheers for Hobnobs- definitely THE biscuit for that quick-fix sugar rush, though I’m a fan of the plain choc ones where possible. I also have great respect for the humble Tunnocks wafer- a sustaining, no-nonsense type of biscuit. *wipes drool off keyboard*

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