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Posts Tagged ‘Sugar’

Last week I received rather a lovely Easter gift, in the form of several products from the Baking Mad website.

If you like eating, baking or just looking at pictures of delicious goodies, you might like to have a quick squiz at some of their tasty treats. They have lots of Easter recipes and lovely photos of Easter baking to inspire you.

The parcel I was sent contained the following items – oven gloves, a pinny (apron) and a box of Easter picks and cupcake cases:

Many years ago I had a PVC pinny with a barn owl on it, but it seems to have vamooshed during one of my many house moves over the years, and for a long time now I’ve gone pinnyless in the kitchen.

Living in my parents’ house at the moment means that I do in fact have access to pinnies of theirs, but I’m so used to not having one that I usually get covered in flour before it occurs to me that I might have put one on.

No more though, for I now have a pinny of my own again:

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To christen my new pinny I made some scones, although I’m also looking forward to using the cupcake cases and Easter picks, which are very delightful:

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This morning I felt in the mood for fruit bran scones, but I Eastered them up with a little gilding. Here they are being taken out of the oven by my brand new oven gloves:

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Hot cross scones:

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The crosses on hot cross buns are generally made from little bits of pastry, but since I didn’t have any pastry scraps I used strips of marzipan.

The marzipan did get slightly burnt at the edges, but well fired marzipan is one of life’s little surprises – amazingly tasty.

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One of the things I like about scones is the speed at which they go from ingredients to finished product, but one day when I’m not so desperately hungry I would like to try making these hot cross buns, which look utterly superb.

When I’d finished making the scones, I hung up my oven gloves next to my mum’s ones:

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And proudly added my pinny to the pinny pegs:

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Then I put the kettle on, made a pot of popcorn tea…

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… selected a scone….

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…and settled down to write this post.

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I didn’t make the scones very sweet, so I spread on a bit of blackcurrant jam, which added a nice fruity zing:

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If you’d like to try making these for yourself and need a recipe, here’s the one I used (below).

This mix makes quite a substantial dense sort of scone, but if you want to make more traditional fluffy white scones just omit the bran and wholemeal flour and use 8 oz white flour instead. Leave out the sultanas if you don’t fancy them, or bung in some other fruit/nut/seed/ingredient that’s more to your taste. You could also leave out the egg and substitute nut or soya milk for cow’s milk.

Fruit Bran Scones

2 oz bran

5 oz self-raising white flour

1 oz self-raising wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 oz fat (I used Bertolli spread, but you could use any margarine or butter)

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1 oz soft brown sugar

a handful of sultanas

1 beaten egg

enough milk (I didn’t measure but something like 3 or 4 tbsps?) to make the mixture into a dampish malleable consistency

small strips of marzipan

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Put a shelf at the top of the oven and set to high (I use 210ºC in a fan oven).

Mix together the first 5 ingredients using the rubbing in method (or an electric mixer if you prefer), but don’t rub in too much, handle lightly and stop before all the fat has disappeared into the flour.

Add the other ingredients, keeping back a little of the egg (1 tsp or so), and mix until combined.

Pat the dough out lightly (you could roll it using a rolling pin but this may stop the scones from rising as much) on a floured surface to about 1 inch thick and cut out using a scone cutter, or shape the scones into whatever shape and size you want.

Put scones onto a baking tray and brush with most of remaining beaten egg. Lay marzipan strips across scones and brush with any leftover egg.

Bake for anything between 10 minutes (wee scones) and 20 minutes (very big scones), depending on the size of the scones.

(I made 5 from this amount and cooked them for 16 minutes. If you’re not sure how long to cook them for, you can use the cake testing method of sticking a skewer in one to see if it comes out clean, or you could pick one up and see how it feels. When cooked the scones should feel light (assessing this might take a bit of practice, I just discovered this test for myself after baking quite a lot of scones with varying degress of success).)

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After my post about the Malteaster Bunny, fellow blogger, David, suggested I do a comparison of Galaxy chocolate bars.

I’m not a huge fan of Galaxy chocolate, so this is probably not something I would have thought of doing for myself. However, always willing to eat chocolate for a good cause, I obtained a small selection to taste and review.

From the various options available, I picked the three that appealed most when I was faced with the shelf of choices at my local supermarket – Smooth Milk, Roasted and Caramelised Hazelnuts, and Caramel:

3 Galaxy Bars

It used to be, in my youth, that Galaxy was Galaxy. It was a relatively humble chocolate bar, not one to big it up with fancy fillings and different varieties. It left that sort of carry on to the likes of Cadbury, who have always (at least as far back as I can remember) been keen on giving the customer a number of options with their standard Dairy Milk bar, such as Dariy Milk Fruit and Nut and Dairy Milk Whole Nut.

I have the feeling that there may be two types of people in the world, or at least in Britain: those who favour Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate and those who prefer Galaxy.

I am, virtually always, in the former category. Having made this distinction, I should perhaps be comparing a Galaxy bar and a Dairy Milk bar, but alas I didn’t have any Dairy Milk and I did have three large bars of Galaxy. Another time.

Of the three that I chose, the Smooth Milk was the only one I was familiar with, but I had high hopes for the nut one, seen in the middle here:

3 bars in a toast rack

The outer paper sleeves of the bars were very similar, but each one had a distinctly different colour of inner foil wrapping:

Galaxy bars coloured foil inners

Inside, the three bars looked very similar, except that the Caramel one had larger chunks than the other two:

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The Caramel chunks also had a more rounded top than the others. The shape reminded me of a peculiar bed I once slept in in the south of France, which was a bit like a narrow treasure chest on legs. I spent the entire night trying not to roll off it, particularly as it was quite high off a hard wooden floor.

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Unlike the bed, however, the Caramel chunks were filled with sticky sweet caramel, which oozed out satisfyingly when bitten into:

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The Smooth Milk chunks had an asymmetrical cross section and a very sweet taste, although not quite as sweet as the Caramel:

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The Roasted and Caramelised Hazelnut chunks also had an asymmetrical cross section. Due to the addition of the nuts, they were slightly less sweet than the Smooth Milk chunks:

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As I’ve already incidated, Galaxy chocolate is not my usual nibble, and I was reminded why this was when I tasted these three bars. For my taste, Galaxy chocolate is too sweet. I say this as a fan of chocolate and multitudinous other sweet snacks, and I’m not quite sure if it’s solely due to sugar content or if there’s something more subtle at work.

If I were buying Galaxy again, I would a) go for a smaller bar, and b) probably opt for the Smooth Milk or the Roasted and Caramelised Hazelnut, rather than the Caramel, which was the sweetest of them all.

After finding them too sickly, I wondered what to do with all the leftover chocolate. In my usual manner when faced with such dilemmas, I fell back on bunging it in some scones:

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When I’ve made chocolate scones before I’ve grated dark chocolate into the mixture, and for some reason that worked better with a scone than Galaxy Smooth Milk, at least in my opinion. To my mind, these scones were, like the chocolate on its own, a bit too sickly sweet.

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Given my definite preference for Cadbury, I wondered if there was any situation in which I would choose Galaxy instead.

Since the sweetness of Galaxy was the thing that struck me most, it would seem to be the ideal treatment for shock. A nice hot cup of tea and a slab of Galaxy chocolate would be more to my taste than a very sweet cup of tea on its own, and so for that reason I’m thinking of Galaxy more as a medicine than a sweet snack.

Despite my own preference for Cadbury’s chocolate, the fact remains that Galaxy is an enormously successful global brand, having gone from strength to strength since its creation in 1810. It now exists in at least 10 different varieties, and that’s not including the Easter egg versions.

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Outside the UK, the same chocolate is known in some places as Dove, although why that name was chosen in place of Galaxy I really have no idea. It seems an odd choice, given the astronomical connection between Galaxy and its manufacturer, Mars.

Incidentally, I recently learned from a newspaper article that three members of the Mars family are amongst the richest people in the world, featuring at joint 36th place in the Forbes World Billionaires List. As with most of the people on the list, the three Mars family members are in their 70s and 80s. Being the heirs to a huge confectionery company obviously hasn’t done their general health too much harm, but I can’t help wondering about the state of their teeth.

Note for Geoff, who suggested long ago that I do a review of Willie’s chocolate – sorry I still haven’t got round to this. I did buy some from Provender Brown for a friend but I haven’t tasted it myself yet…the day will come, I’m sure!

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I recently mentioned a box of goodies I received as a Christmas present, and said I would report on the contents when I’d tasted them.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve now tasted 4 of the 5 items in the box, as follows.

The Plum Pudding:

Wine Society Plum Pudding

Plum pudding ready to eat

I like a nice fruity plum, or Christmas, pudding, and this one was particularly well endowed with fruit. In fact, the first thing on the list of ingredients was mixed dried vine fruits, at a lovely big 33%.

Plum pud stuffed with fruits and a heady dash of brandy

I haven’t got the packaging any more so I can’t check, but I do remember that brown sugar came quite low down on the list of ingredients. The pud was stuffed with sultanas, raisins, apricots, cherries, nuts and brandy, all of which were present in larger quantities than the sugar.

The pudding was duly heated up and dished out, steaming, into plates for me and my two most delightful assistants.

All sorts of things can accompany plum pudding, such as brandy sauce or ice cream, but I think the pick of all accompaniments is single pouring cream:

Plum pud doused with cream

A little snowy mountain of pudding

Unfortunately, technology doesn’t yet allow pictures on the screen to be tasted, but I can assure you that this plum pudding was a first class specimen. Fruity, nutty, boozy and extremely rich and delicious.

You might think that after such a pudding one ought to have had one’s cravings for sweet rich foods satisfied.

What, though, if you had a packet of shortbread biscuits and a box of jelly babies that had been neighbours to the pudding in the Christmas box looking as if they, too, yearned to be tasted?

Shortie and jelly babies

A pot of Afternoon Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea (that also came in the Christmas box) was made, and the biscuits and babies laid out for contemplation.

Being a bit of a stickler for my preferred biscuit texture, I’m sometimes a little nervous when it comes to shortbread.

When I took these shortbread biscuits out of the pack they stuck together a bit, which caused anxious furrows to appear on my brow.

However, I needn’t have feared, for the dampness did not in any way impair the flavour or, indeed, texture of the bite. I wonder now if in fact the dampness was there simply as a reminder to me that dunking was called for.

Diving in for the dunk

Dunked shortie

To my mind, a biscuit successfully dunked (i.e. almost saturated with liquid and withdrawn just in time to avoid slippage into the bottom of the cup), is a biscuit that has attained the highest possible achievement in the biscuit world.

The biscuit packaging stated that the contents were duty bound to be dunked. I’m delighted to report that they performed with aplomb.

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Feeling I was on an unbeatable winning streak, I didn’t stop at biscuits.

Baby on the brink

Baby diving head first into tea

The babies, unlike the biscuits, didn’t mop up liquid, but they did melt very slightly and glistened with tea when brought out of the cup.

On the whole, I take my jelly babies dry, but on this occasion the tea-coated baby was a very pleasant departure from the norm.

The only thing remaining for me to try from my Christmas box is the Christmas cake, and I’m saving it for its own little post.

Simply Delicious hand made Christmas cake

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There’s nothing like a bit of comfort food on a cold day, and when I saw these on Alice’s delicious blog, girl in a food frenzy, I was keen to make them.

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They should, by rights, be sticky on top, but due to my impatience they didn’t get the icing they deserved and had to make do with melted butter sprinkled with brown sugar instead:

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I’ve been missing my blog a little lately, but have been attempting to concentrate on writing my novel (coming along nicely, thanks for asking).

This Christmas malarky is also taking up considerable time and effort, and I’m looking forward to the new year when everything’s settled down and we’re heading into spring again.

Incidentally, for fellow bloggers, I’ve noticed over the past day or two that when I try to comment on other blogs my comments aren’t showing up the way they used to. I’m trying to get to the bottom of this, but if anyone has any bright ideas about how to fix it I’d be glad to hear them.

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“We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand–and melting like a snowflake.”

Sir Francis Bacon

The above is Robin’s latest blogging challenge on Bringing Europe Home, and I must admit that when I read it, although I liked it, I couldn’t think of a photograph to use for it.

I left it for a few days, and when I re-read it this morning a vision of chocolate jumped straight into my head.

Chocolate lasts but a moment, and certainly melts like a snowflake as soon as I’ve popped it into my mouth, especially if combined with a slurp of hot tea:

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I can’t claim to be an expert when it comes to tea, but I do drink several pints of the stuff most days.

My first tea of the day is taken in a large mug, which holds just over a pint. I fill it as full as I can, and so each day starts off with a nice big pint of tea:

This first tea is Darjeeling, brewed from a teabag:

It has just occurred to me while writing this that taking Darjeeling in a pint mug is a bit like wearing a silk dress with steel toe-capped boots. Somewhat incongruous, for Darjeeling is a very light, almost floral, floaty sort of beverage, also known as the ‘champagne of teas’. I think it would be the tea of choice for butterflies, flower fairies and water nymphs (this may be entirely erroneous and simply a figment of my imagination, then again it may not).

There have probably been many mountainous tomes written about Darjeeling tea, because it likes to think of itself as the glamourous face of hot beverages, attracting lots of attention and high prices for the first crops of the season. Perhaps I’m subconsciously trying to keep its feet on the ground by swilling it from a pint mug, I don’t know. All I do know is that when I wake up in the morning I am desperate for a large quantity of Darjeeling tea.

I like my first cup of tea to be black, and Darjeeling is perfect without milk. Because I take it black I can brew it slightly stronger than I want it and then add cold water to it, which allows me to drink it immediately without having to wait for it to cool down. This, to my mind, is the perfect scenario: a large quantity of instantly drinkable tea at the point in the day when I’m most keenly in need of it. Tea purists would no doubt be horrified by this ritual, and if I have offended you in any way I apologise.

About an hour or so after breakfast comes stronger leaf tea with milk. At the moment I’m in the habit of mixing two leaf teas that happen to be in the cupboard, because it turns out that they make a very flavourful and delicious blend:

The one on the left is my local supermaket, Tesco’s, cheapest leaf tea. You might think that since it’s so cheap (only about 95p for the box, I think) it wouldn’t be up to much, but it has some tricks up its sleeve. It’s a blend of African and Indian black teas and is quite astonishingly good, in fact I would say it’s even better than some other more expensive leaf teas. The one on the right is also a blend of African and Indian black teas, and was purchased in the Lancashire town of Carnforth, in the famous railway station refreshment room. Carnforth was the location for the film Brief Encounter, and they’ve jumped on the bandwagon by flogging all manner of film merchandise to anyone giddy enough to part with their cash. Being prone to a bit of giddiness, this included me when it came to their specially packaged tea.

I like to take this blended tea from one of my recently purchased tea-and-cup-plates (aka tea and toast sets, thank you for that information, Marian). Sometimes I accompany it with a scone, or a slice of cake, or some chocolate, and on other days I am a good girl and have a healthy snack instead (chunks of honeydew melon and sultanas sprinkled with cinnamon, in this instance):

My regular post-luncheon cuppa is English Breakfast (oddly enough), or occasionally Traditional Afternoon, both supplied by the inestimable Twinings:

Other black teas that are currently resident and sometimes get a look-in include the beautifully packaged and very flavourful Yorkshire Tea:

The somewhat suave and gentlemanly Earl Grey:

And Cafe Direct’s tasty blend of African teas:

One tea that is not currently residing in the tea cupboard is, strangely, one of my all-time favourite black teas: Assam. For information on this tea, I would like to refer you to the magnificent Shona Patel, a fellow blogger who was brought up on an Assam tea plantation and is a wealth of information on the subject.

If I’m not awake and drinking tea, then I like to be asleep. I’m a big fan of bedtime and look forward every night to getting into my jim-jams preparatory to falling into bed nice and early and allowing myself a decent long snooze.

In order to make the most of this,  after about 14:00 I switch to decaffeinated tea. I’ve tasted many woebegone tasteless decaf teas, but thankfully I have found two brands that do at least have a bit of oomph about them. My current favourite is Twinings Everyday Decaffeinated:

I drink this as I would most other black teas, brewed nice and strong, taken with a little cold milk and no sugar. If I fancy something a little lighter, or slightly different, in the evening there are several other decaffeinated teas I often turn to. One of these is Redbush, a beautiful red coloured tea from South Africa:

If I’m in the business of consuming a considerable quantity of chocolate (a not unusual occurrence)  there is a tea that I think is the perfect accompaniment. It’s called Kukicha and is made from roasted Japanese twigs. It’s taken black and has a sort of smoky, earthy flavour that I think is truly wonderful:

When it comes to tea on a worldwide scale, I feel I am dreadfully ignorant. I know very little about Far Eastern teas and one of these days I would like to visit Japan and attend a tea ceremony.

What I do know about tea is probably what most other Brits know. Tea is a big part of life in Blighty and, as far as I’m aware, I have only ever physically met two people who didn’t like tea. One of them didn’t like any hot beverages, and I can’t remember anything about the other one, I just remember mentally chalking up a second non-tea-drinker on my radar.

I’m not sure how widely travelled the concept of ‘Builder’s Tea’ is, but I believe it’s a British expression. It refers to strong tea with milk and lots of sugar in it, the sort that builders apparently prefer (along with a big plate of chocolate biscuits, cakes, scones, sandwiches and pies, if they can get them). I didn’t know, until yesterday, that it existed as a brand. I might not have noticed it at all, were it not for the fact that it wolf-whistled at me from the shelf:

It claims to be ‘tested and approved by real builders’ and, according to the side of the pack, the tea people are ‘proud to work in partnership with the Federation of Master Builders’. I almost bought a pack but then I put it back, remembeing that there simply isn’t any room in the tea cupboard.

There are many other excellent teas I haven’t mentioned here, some of which I only have occasionally and keep for tearoom consumption, such as Oolong and Russian Caravan, but since tea is such a massive subject any post I do will barely scratch the surface.

This afternoon, in an attempt to soothe my burning throat (all sympathy welcome, I appear to have caught a cold), I tried a sort of hot toddy tea, using this Yogic concoction:

I thought the spiciness might be good for throat pain, and to give it a bit more welly* I added some honey and a splash of whisky. The whisky was, for any interested parties, a 10 year old Macallan fine oak triple cask matured single malt. Adding this to a cup of tea might seem a disgraceful way to treat such a prestigious beverage, but it was the only whisky I had to hand, and I must say it produced a most satisfying throat soothing medicine.

*according to the Wiktionary this expression means to add fuel or power to an engine, but it’s generally used as a slang term in the UK to mean adding some ‘oomph’ to something

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A few weeks ago, it might even be a couple of months ago now, I noticed Cadbury’s Creme Eggs making their annual reappearance on supermarket shelves. As with displaying Christmas cards in September, they like to warm us up for Easter well in advance.

Such aggressive marketing can of course sicken us of the event long before it’s actually upon us, but in this instance, if you’re a fan of the Creme Egg, it lengthens the munching season which, to my mind, is no bad thing.

Here is one of the eggs of which I speak, lying down:  And sitting up (I had to apply a blob of adhesive on its bottom for this shot, just as you would with a newborn baby, as it utterly refused to remain upright unaided): The Creme Egg is one of these clever confections, like the Tunnock’s teacake (featured elsewhere on this blog, click the name to see), that manages to wrap itself up in nothing more than a sheet of tin foil and some clever folds: Taken cumulatively over the years, I must have dedicated many hours to the consumption of Creme Eggs, but have yet to divest one of its foil without tearing the little jacket. However, if done carefully enough you can see that the jacket is simply a rectangle of prettily coloured foil: Despite being heavily barcoded, the Creme Egg must cause considerable annoyance to checkout assistants. I have often witnessed them trying and failing to scan Creme Eggs (I’ve even tried to do it myself at a self-service checkout and failed dismally), because of the way the foil is folded round the egg.

However you take the wrapper off, this is what greets you inside (apologies for the poor focus) –  a beautiful chocolate egg shape with varying sizes of egg-shaped rings and a star in the middle on each side: What comes next is probably very much a matter of personal taste. I have tried various ways of breaking into a Creme Egg, but my favourite way is to bite into the top first, using a similar line of attack to that used on boiled eggs (except then I use a spoon, since I’m not yet a complete degenerate). I have, in fact, tried to open one by putting it in an egg cup and cracking it open with an egg spoon, but it wasn’t terribly successful and I remember the egg spoon getting very sticky with the fondant. As my father says, fingers were made before forks (and, by extension, teeth before spoons): Inside is a luscious, sticky, gooey fondant. Depending on how the egg has been stored, the texture of the fondant can sometimes be thicker and harder than it ought to be, but at its best it flows in a silky gloopy manner and glistens at you from inside its chocolate shell:  Nowadays, I like to lick and slurp the fondant out but I remember in my youth I used to enjoy scooping it out with a teaspoon: When the little orange yokey bit is revealed it’s a joy to behold: Another thing I remember from my youth is that I used to enjoy a Creme Egg with a cup of tea (and still do), but rather than just dunk the egg in the tea or swish tea and egg around in my mouth together as I would do now, back then I used to use the scooping spoon to transfer some of my tea to the inside of the egg. I did it on this occasion, just for old time’s sake, but since it would distress my mother to see it and quite possibly lead to her disowning me, I’m not going to include the photo I took (it isn’t very nice, I must admit).

Around the egg, the thickness of the chocolate does vary a bit. For the most part it’s fairly uniform but towards one end – and with some eggs this is at the bottom and others at the top – there’s a a thicker, chunkier bit of chocolate. In the case of this egg it was at the bottom: I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever eaten more than one Creme Egg in a sitting. I have a very vague recollection of having done so once and having been left feeling so sick that I’ve never repeated the process, so – for me at least – more than one Creme Egg at a time would be too much. They’re so sweet, so sticky, so filling and so satisfying in themselves, that the shape and size Cadbury have made them is just right, in my opinion.

I generally buy my Creme Eggs singly, but now and then I splash out and buy a box of 6. I think it’s very fitting that Cadbury have jumped on the egg-packaging bandwagon by supplying them in half-dozen packs:

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