Serial Cereal Eater!
When it comes to cereal I’m a creature of habit! I flit between three favourites like a serial trigamist!
My sister and I developed such an addiction to General Mills Lucky Charms, during frequent childhood visits to family in Florida, that we would bring back boxes upon boxes in our suitcases. And woebetide any Florida relative who dared to visit us in the UK without bringing some over! “Magically delicious”, says the Lucky Charms leprechaun. It certainly is! Of course, I don’t get to enjoy this American cereal very often, here in the UK.
Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut is, as their marketing slogan so insistently declares, “ludicrously tasty”! Crunchy nuts and sweet honey adhering to corn flakes of deliciousness. Even the most lacklustre of hotel breakfast buffets can redeem themselves by having some Crunchy Nut on offer! I love the taste of the cold milk, towards the bottom of the bowl, after the flavours of the cereal has infused into it!
After a night of strange alcoholic concoctions at a friend’s party a few years ago, I raided his kitchen cupboards for breakfast and discovered a bag of Jordan’s Original (now called Crunchy Oats). I was immediately hooked and can’t begin to tell you how many bags of the comfortingly solid clusters of sweet, crunchy, generously raisined cereal I’ve munched my way through since then! As this cereal makes a good snack without milk it’s doubly handy to have in the cupboard!
Occasionally I’ll philander with other options – a generously-fruited muesli, a thick, warming porridge or naughty Cinammon Grahams (now called Curiously Cinammon) but these flirtations seldom last long and I quickly return to my true loves.
Leith’s Cookery School
So when I was invited to the Jordan’s Country Crisp Appreciation Society food bloggers event, to be held at Leith’s Cookery School, organised by PR company Wild Card, I could not resist! How would their Crispy Crunch compare to their Original/ Crunchy Oats?!
The pounding head, bloodshot eyes and woolly thinking hangover symptoms from the previous night’s work Christmas party could not dampen my enthusiasm. Despite the early start, I was the first to arrive at the cookery school (what a shame that Leith’s have moved away from central London and out into the boonies, west of Shepherd’s Bush). With a very welcome coffee in hand (and headache pills quickly swallowed) I watched the Wild Card and Jordan’s team prepare for the event, weighing out ingredients for the recipe we’d be making together and arranging each blogger’s cooking station with everything we’d need.
I also took the opportunity to take some early photos (including one of the guy filming the event) and soon enough, my fellow bloggers arrived.
Jordan’s Cereal – Past and Present
After an introduction from Rachel, Jordans’ Brand Communications Manager, we heard from Bill Jordan who told us a little about this family business and how they came to develop their original Crunchy Oats cereals and, more recently, the Country Crisp range.
The family had been in the milling business for over 150 years but it wasn’t until 1972 that they branched out into the world of cereal. Having spent some years travelling the world and playing in a rock & blues band, Bill finally made it home and asked his brother David to join with him to launch the cereal business. Looking West for inspiration they brought what the Americans call granola to the UK market. That was their first cereal and it went down well; the range has expanded considerably since then.
Happy with the popularity of the early products, Jordan’s have kept a careful eye on the changing tastes of the consumer which has lead to their Country Crisp range, a lighter cereal than the orginal granola. They’ve also introduced lots of new ingredients from morello cherries to pumpkin seeds, from mango and papaya to flame raisins, from cashew nuts to pecans.
Talking about new flavours, Bill pointed out that sometimes the ingredients you think will work well, such as peaches, really don’t! So it’s a huge amount of trial and error and fine tuning for each product.
Referring to the Chocolate Country Crisp, “I’m a bit of a luddite” he exclaimed, and found the idea of chocolate in cereal quite strange! But went on to explain that chocolate is a popular breakfast ingredient in France and repeated requests from their French customers, who account for 25% of the company’s sales, encouraged Jordans to bring out this Country Crisp flavour.
Bill also told us that the cereal itself is all grown to Conservation Grade which means that all 50,000 acres, farmed by more than 50 farmers, are managed to encourage biodiversity – planting wildflowers, clover and other plants to provide pollen, nectar and food for insects and birds, providing grassland habitat that will shelter spiders, beetles and small mammals and supporting wildlife by retaining hedges, ditches, old barns, ponds and woodland. I’m very supportive of any initiatives that encourage the conservation and protection of wildlife so was particularly pleased to learn about this (and have visited the Conservation Grade website to learn more).
Before too long we each took our place at one of the cooking stations and got to work on making the pear cake recipe we’d been provided. All the ingredients had been weighed out ready and Nishita from Wild Card even buttered our cake tins for us, as we got to peeling and slicing our pears.
I looked on enviously as Ginger Gourmand quickly produced thin, even slices of pear whilst my pear slid an unceremonious dance around my chopping board – luckily she showed me what I was doing wrong and my pears were quickly reduced to (messy) slivers.
We cooked the pear in butter and sugar on the cookers around the edge of the room before returning to our stations and making up our cake mixes. Failing to achieve smoothness whether I employed the electric whisk or a wooden spoon, I decided not to worry too much the lumps in my cake batter! I poured it into the cake tin, scattered over some Country Crisp cereal, topped it messily with the pear slices (eating a few as I went) and then threw on more cereal (as per the recipe). Another glance over to Ginger Gourmand’s beautifully fanned pear layer, Greedy Diva‘s smooth batter and Food Urchin‘s artistic cereal scattering made me realise I’d never win any awards for baking finesse! Still, I did find some extra chocolate curls to sprinkle over mine, so at least it would have the honour of being the most chocolatey!
As we cooked, Bill Jordan hopped around the room, gleefully shouting out how much time we had remaining à la Ready Steady Cook! Sadly, he had to leave before the cakes were cooked, so didn’t get to taste them!
Cakes into the oven, we gathered around to learn about the complexities of developing the Country Crisp range from Kirsten Hoskisson, the Head of Taste at Jordans Cereals.
Having developed and delivered training for a food product development tool used by one of the main supermarket chains a few years ago, I had a good idea of how much effort goes into perfecting a recipe – lots of trial and error, refinement after refinement, taste test after taste test. But still it was interesting to listen to Kirsten’s explanations of how they developed Country Crisp.
The aim was to produce a much lighter cereal than the traditional granola range. She included different varieties and sizes of oats from powdery small ones that help the cereal to bind, to larger ones that provide crispness. She experimented with cluster size, deciding that a combination of sizes gives the best eating experience – they sieve to ensure the specified mix of cluster sizes in each batch. She threw in rice flour which puffs up into sticky crescent shapes to which the oats bind and added some barley which helps give a creamy texture as well as a little astringency to balance the sweetness. Eventually, Kirsten created three different bases that are used across the Country Crisp range – known as nutty, vanilla and honey. All three include hazelnut and coconut plus the addition of almond, vanilla and honey, respectively.
Of course, as well as ensuring the crispy base was just right, it took a lot of experimentation to decide on the extra ingredients from freeze dried fruits to chopped nuts to seeds to chocolate. And not just a matter of finding the right tastes but chopping them into different sizes and shapes to create the correct balance – the chocolate is in curls, for example, because this melts quickly in the mouth whereas chips would give a hard bite. On a similar note to Bill’s comment about peaches, she said they’d been sure they were on to a winner with dried banana, and the taste tests went well. But the final feedback was that, whilst consumers liked the taste, they’d probably not buy it given how easy it is to slice fresh bananas into their cereal bowls!
As Kirsten talked bowls of the various Country Crisp cereals were passed around for us to munch and we darted forward to taste the ingredients in the various bowls in front of her.
Kavey Country Crisp
And then the bit I’d most been looking forward to – making my own cereal mix! With a large stainless steel bowl in our hands, first we scooped up generous servings of the base clusters before adding in our personal choices of fruit, nuts and seeds. I am a greedy, greedy glutton so mine had an exceedingly generous amount of dried strawberries, dried raspberries, dark chocolate curls and huge, delicious Chilean flame raisins!
We proudly transferred our creations into sealable plastic baggies before being presented with our personalised Country Crisp cereal boxes to put them into! Fantastic!
Finally, it was time to taste the cereals, a very welcome breakfast as the cooking smells had made us all hungry!
All to soon, the session came to an end and it was time to make our way home, weighed down with our steaming hot cakes (popped out of the oven, allowed to cool for a few minutes and transferred into takeaway boxes), our personalised cereal plus a few other cereals from the Country Crisp range! A huge thank you to Jordans and Wild Card for such a fun morning!
So what did it say on my cereal box? “Kavey Favelle is a chunky nutster with a warm heart and juicy fruit clusters!”
Cringe-worthy and embarassing, yes, but you try and come up with a short character description of yourself that ties in to the Country Crisp cereal range! It’s harder than it looks!
I’ll send a box of Country Crisp Chocolate out (mainland UK only) to the best Country Crisp character description (of yourself) left as a comment by midnight December 31st. (Note: this will be a regular box, not a special edition one).