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Just tonight upon returning from work, my wife told me she had bought me a little treat. Knowing I have a tingle in my taste-buds for liquorice, she had purchased for me some of these Haribo Liquorice Pontefract Cakes! Of course, her motives wre not entirely altruistic!! In actual fact, she revealed to me later, she had fancied some skittles and hadn't wanted to walk in the house without anything for me. More like she didn't want to share her skittles!!!!
Anyway, I have had several slightly unfavourable experiences in the past ~ mostly brought about when I strayed from the path of Bassetts and crossed into the Dark Side of inferior brands ~ but knowing that Haribo was an established company with a good reputation, (I love Tangfastic and Maom Strips) I opened this packet with high expectations. I have not had Pontefract Cakes in a number of years but always remember enjoying them as a kid along with Liquorice Torpedos and Liquorice Pin Wheels. However these offerings from those guys at Haribo HQ, did anything but impress....
To begin with they are soft; incredibly soft! I always remembered Pontefract Cakes as being a bit harder to chew but maybe, I thought, my memories were flawed. These taste a little like that Australian Soft-Eating Liquorice you can buy which I was equally less than impressed by when I tried it. That "Soft" stuff is okay but, to my mind, is not proper Liquorice. If nothing else, it doesn't have that almost over-powering, strong Liquorice taste I always associate with Bassetts Allsorts and these Pontefract Cakes are likewise disappointing! In fact, these Pontefract Cakes taste as less like Liquorice as it is possible to get without losing the basic essence of the flavour!
Secondly, they don't, in my opinion, really taste of anything! The last Pontefract Cakes I had about three or four years ago defenitely tasted better than these but then they weren't Haribo but bought instead from a jar in a cornershop by what passes these days for a quarter. ( I forget right now the metric equivalent!)
Finally, they almost to me have a kind of soapy texture that fails to make them enjoyable! I can't really explain it but the texture of the sweet is certainly not conducive to the taste-buds. In fact, these are the worst sweets I have ever tasted from Haribo apart from those foam sweets in their StarMix that I always get left with because they are the only sweets in that paticular assortment that the wife will not eat and she knows I don't like to waste food! In fact, that is the only reason I will continue to finish off this packet of alleged "Pontefract Cakes" ~ because I cannot bear to just chuck them needlessly in the bin; especially when they cost £1.15 for a 175g!
Food Facts on the back of the packet state that these are nut, milk and soya free and contain no artifical colours . There is some nutritional information included but really, you are hardly likely to be eating sweets as part of a calorie-counting diet if you are serious about losing weight, are you? The liquorice extract used is only 4.5% so maybe that accounts for the lack of identifiable flavour in these sweets, but seeing as I do not know the percentage that Bassetts or other brands use, this is not really a very objective opinion. All I know is that if it isn't Bassetts, I have told my wife not to bother in future....and for someone with as sweet a tooth as mine, that is saying something for me to turn down sweets!
As I mentioned in a recent review, I was a bit niaive about the selection of sweets that Haribo produce. I have therefore embarked on a mission to sample a few more of their wares......and latest in my very selfless (!) quest was a bag of Pontefract Cakes.
Haribo, I think, are most associated with "variety" - sweets like Starmix and Tangfastics are an assortment of flavours, shapes, and colours......yet the bag of Pontefract Cakes offers just one type of sweet - so there is no choosing which one you fancy next - you either like them, or you don't.....you want one, or you don't. Of course, if you are not a lover of liquorice, then you won't like these at all......it is not like liquorice allsorts where there might be something else in the packet that you might prefer, it is all or nothing with these.
Pontefract Cakes are also known as Pomfrey or Pomfret Cakes, and originated from the town of Pontefract in Yorkshire. They are about the size of a 10p piece, and have a picture stamped on one side. They are soft chewy liquorice......and are really quite delicious.
Now, I like liquorice, I always have done....but I have never tried Pontefract cakes until this week. I had always seen them as "old peoples' sweets" for some reason, although I don't know why, because I don't recall my grandparents, for example, having sweets like this about when I went to visit them. I wonder whether it was simply the name that sounded "old", hence my reluctance to try them.
However, Haribo are anything but "old" - remember the saying "Kids and Grown-ups love them so"? So, I decided that as they were being marketed to everyone, then it would be rude of me to pass them by on the basis of age!
The packet of Haribo Pontefract Cakes also has the name "Dunhills" on the front. Haribo is not a name I have previously associated with liquorice sweets, but Dunhills is certainly a confectionary name that I remember from my childhood.
A little research online, though, shows that Haribo bought the majority shareholding in Dunhills as long ago as 1972! With the remaining shares being acquired by Haribo in 1994, it is no wonder they are producing more than just Starmix! You learn something new every day!
So, with such quality behind them, I am now expecting something good, and I am not disappointed.
These are sweet, soft and chewy - not the strong hard liquorice that you might get in old fashioned sweet shops, and nothing like the liquorice you get in Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts - these are quite unique. The liquorice is not overly strong, yet it is definitely liquorice, and only liquorice. It is just a tad sweeter than I might have expected.
Unlike most packets of Haribo, though, this packet stayed open for me to dip into over a period of three days. I did not feel the need to scoff the whole packet - not because I didn't like them, but because they are sort of self regulating!! Fear not, though, the packet was devoured eventually, and I enjoyed every one of the contents!
It is soft and chewy, so not hard on your teeth. If you have ever had the Australian soft liquorice sweets that you can buy in Lakeland, for example, then you can imagine the consistency and chewiness of these particular sweets.
All in all, I was expecting these to be an old person's sweet - although, as I mentioned above, I have nothing to base this pre-conception on, but what I got was a packet of deliciously flavoured sweets. I woudn't buy these when I am looking for a sugar fix - for that I will stick to the Starmix.....but for an occasional change, or when I want something for a car journey, for example, I will pick up a bag of Pontefract cakes once in a while.
Nutritional values - no artificial colours. They are nut free, milk free and soya free. They do, however, contain gelatine (so therefore lose a star) and they are therefore not suitable for vegetarians. A serving of 40g, which is a handful of sweets, contains 118 calories, and 0grammes of saturated fat. Normally I would say that 40g is not worth bothering with, but in this case, 40g is about right in one sitting......so not too bad on the old weight-watching front.
By the way, liquorice is supposed to be an aphrodisiac, and good for stress.......what more reason do you need?????
Liz and I were having a dawdle around our local cash and carry, Liz has managed to wangle a membership through a friend.
In all honesty I don't rate it much I would far rather have a wander around Tesco, at least you don't have to buy everything in bulk there.
I tell a lie though, I bought something! A bag of Haribo Pontefract cakes...last of the big spenders.
We both commented on the fact that it was ages since we had eaten a Pontefract cake and we just about managed to wait until we got back into the car before ripping the bag open.
One thing led to another and Liz and I wondered how the Pontefract cake originated and how did they make liquorice?
Do you know neither of us knew!...but we found out later...
Strangely enough though both of us knew that Haribo were a German sweet manufacturer and we had both often bought the bags of Haribo Starmix ( for Grandchildren of course lol).
The Haribo Pontefract cakes come in a run of the mill gold and black plastic bag with a hanger.
As I pushed my hand deeply into the bag the thin black leathery ten pence sized liquorice cakes were stuck together but we soon remedied that!
It is very easy to pick out the makers name on the liquorice cake and also what seems to be a picture of a castle?
Anyway we sat in the car park and enjoyed the packet of bitter black liquorice cakes between us (piggy's) .
Liz said as a child she had detested the harsh acerbic flavour of the cakes. Our family had always called them Pomfret cakes and when I was young the only family member who liked them was my Father.
Although the cakes are quite a tough little cookie to chew it didn't take long for us to reach the bottom of the bag, mind you we had missed out on our coffee and cake so we needed nourishment lol.
Liz dropped me off at home and I promised to `Google` Pontefract cakes.
I thought it was fascinating, Google took me to a website in Wakefield, Yorkshire and I found out lots of information.
Unsurprisingly the Pontefract cakes were at one time only made in Pontefract, Yorkshire. The castle that is pictured on the liquorice cake is Pontefract Castle.
Some production still takes place there and visitors to Pontefract can often pick up the sweet smell of liquorice in the air. That was a revelation, I would have thought that the smell was pungent rather than sweet in keeping with the taste of the bitter Pontefract cake.
If any visitors to the area pick the right time they will be able to enjoy the liquorice festival, which is held annually in Pontefract town sometime in July. Visitors might even be able to buy a liquorice plant.
So that's how they make it!
Call me silly but I didn't realise liquorice was a plant.
The liquorice plant hails from the Middle East and the Mediterranean area and the root has great medicinal value, historical records show that ancient civilisations used the liquorice plant and some of the sweet roots were found in Tutankhamun's tomb.
Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine and Theophrastus, the founder of botany both used the plant for its healing properties.
Not only does the plant have healing powers it is good for quenching a thirst, an aphrodisiac and if it is prepared in liquid form it can help ease coughs and sore throats.
Pontefract cakes will always be one of my old favourites and its good to know the origin of them.
Just wait until I tell Liz...who would have thought that a little liquorice cake could have so many interesting facts behind it.
If you like liquorice you will love Haribo Pontefract Cakes . They are round, about the size of an old two shilling coin, and feel slightly squashy, and have an image of the local castle imprinted on the top.
Originally known as Pomfret cakes, the sweets have a strong taste of liquorice (or "Spanish" as it is often called locally). The texture is like that of a soft gum sweet, but it is not as chewy.
Haribo is a German company but Pontefract cakes originated in the Yorkshire town of that name, where liquorice was grown. Nowadays, not as much, if any, is grown there as the climate in European countries is much better. There are still a couple of factories left and Haribo have a factory shop in Front Street where you can buy pontefract cakes and their other brands.
Haribo pontefract cakes are sold by most sweet shops and supermarkets, also I found some last week on a local market stall. Sold in packets they cost around 1.20 for 200 g, but the ones in the market were obviously misshapes and were being sold without their original packaging at a much less price.
Liquorice was brought to Pontefract by Crusaders from the Middle East in the 15th century and until fairly recently the area had fields full of liquorice. It is said that the clay soil in Pontefract was responsible for successful crops and the plant was used by monks in Pontefract's Priory as herbs.
Liquorice is well known for its medicinal properties, and used to be recommended as a laxative, so don't eat too much of it!
The plant is in bush form, which is similar to the pea family and the plants grow in deep trenches so the roots can easily spread out. Liquorice root is very sweet and is often sold as a product itself. It looks just like a small, slim, stick that you would pick up from a tree branch, and as you chew on it the flavour is brought out, until all that is left of the root is a stringy substance.
As for the manufacturing process, this must be a closely guarded secret as I have not been able to find any exact information as to how the root is turned into Pontefract cakes. However, I do remember being told that the liquorice is extracted from the root before being manufactured into sweets.
At one time liquorice was one of the main industries in the town of Pontefract. The area is still proud of its connections with the confectionery and is known as the Liquorice town. Pontefract cakes were only made in the town, although nowadays they are manufactured elsewhere as well.
Apparently there is an Annual Liquorice Festival in Pontefract where various events take place and visitors can even buy their own liquorice plant!
Haribo advertise their Pontefract cakes as being free from additives and they are suitable for vegetarians.
So, if you love liquorice, then go on, treat yourself to a packet of Haribo Pontefract cakes - but be warned, you will want more!!! They are delicious.