Gourmandistan

Making Twiglets at home a twisted way to remember London

Our recent trip to London was all too brief. In ten days, we only just scratched the surface of the city. We didn’t get to anywhere near every restaurant, neighborhood, shop and cultural site we had bookmarked in advance. But we did return with some great memories, renewed friendships and, it seems, a terrible craving for Twiglets.  Before we get to what their current corporate owners call “a unique wholewheat product,” we’d like to assure our readers that we did do more than lounge about our flat scarfing salty, umami-laden Twiglets and watching marathons of “Come Dine With Me.” (We will, however, admit to some scarfing and cheesy reality show watching in between more serious endeavors.)

While we were too cheap to pay the entrance fee to Westminster Abbey, we did walk around the outside. And we saw markers for people buried in the floor of the (free entry!) Southwark Cathedral so we got the gist of it. As usual we searched out war memorials.

Big Ben was completely covered in scaffolding, but we did see the commingling of pro- and anti-Brexit protesters outside Parliament on the day Theresa May’s exit plan was first resoundingly voted down.

We spent our 31st anniversary at the British Museum, discovering at the very end of the day the lightly populated Enlightenment Gallery and its hall of oddities where we could easily have spent days. We were crushed by crowds at the Natural History Museum, enjoyed the Tate (despite the mostly underwhelming Turners) and visited various other smaller, more quirky venues like the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising.

We blew by Buckingham Palace. We wandered around the neighborhood of our temporary home in Marylebone. We saw Carnaby Street, had tea at Harrods and bought some at Fortnum & Mason to bring home. We visited Portobello Road and Brick Lane. And we enjoyed some exceptional street food all over the city, including at Borough, Maltby Street and Old Spitalfields Markets.

We did manage to catch up with some friends. We met our blog friend Mad Dog for a lovely, boozy lunch at the legendary French House. And Steve made a trip to the East End to see a from-Louisville-but-now-Londoner friend, Kevin. During that visit, Steve was introduced to Twiglets. Kevin suggested that some people do not like the yeast extract-coated treats. But Steve did, and after bringing a bag back to our rental flat, so did Michelle.

We returned to our American home with a bag of Twiglets, which are only available in the U.S. at usurious mail-order prices. When the bag was (quickly) gone, Steve decided to try and make some himself. While Twiglets are not readily available, Marmite is—and after some trial and error, Steve found a way to make if not exactly his own Twiglets, perhaps something better. He added a little Marmite to his lavash cracker dough, then brushed twisted thin dough strips with a mixture of butter and the iconic British yeast-based spread, before baking in a low oven. The result may be more grissini than Twiglets, but we certainly enjoyed them.

We hope someday to return to London, where we might do things besides eat Twiglets. Until we do, we’ll have plenty of pictures and memories, along with some quite phenomenal Marmite-laced snacks.

TWIGLET-ISH BREADSTICKS

(adapted from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

  • 1-1/2 c. unbleached bread flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. instant yeast
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Marmite
  • 1/3 to 1/2 c. water, room temperature

Stir together the flour, salt, yeast, honey, oil and Marmite. Stir in the water, using only enough to bring everything into a somewhat dry yet kneadable ball. Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface or in a stand mixture fitted with a dough hook for about 10 minutes, until it’s smooth and supple. Place the ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl, making sure the dough ball is coated with oil on all sides.

Let the dough rise for about 90 minutes or until at least doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 325°.

After rising, use a rolling pin to form paper-thin sheets of dough on a floured surface. Cut into 1/4″ strips. Twist each strip tightly and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet. You can place them very close together as they will not spread much.

  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 tsp. Marmite
  • Black pepper

Melt butter. Whisk in Marmite. Brush the tops of the dough sticks with the mixture, then generously top with ground pepper.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, watching carefully to avoid burning, until golden brown and crisp. Cool on baking sheet.

39 comments

  1. VacationLikeALocal

    This was a great post! I think I travel the same way you do. I walked the Freedom Trail in Boston this past summer but was too cheap to pay entrance fees to all the buildings, so I admired them all from the outside.

    The photography on this post was awesome!

  2. It looks like you had an amazing time – great photos! I don’t know what’s wrong with that Turner gallery in the Tate, but I’ve been underwhelmed by it, several times. I have to confess that I love Twiglets and loath Marmite. The most unpleasant experience I have ever had, was kissing a girlfriend who’d just eaten Marmite! Have you seen the Marmite advert with a mother eating the yeast based spread while breast feeding?
    I do, however, applaud your recreation.

    • Oh, I’m so glad to know that I don’t have horrible taste (re the Twiglets). Haven’t yet seen the advert, but will. I honestly don’t know how people eat Marmite by itself. Or even on toast with a ton of butter. It’s pretty rank. Thanks to you for our lovely lunch. It is one of our best trip memories! And we’ll be back…

      • And, yeah, you warned me about the Tate. There were some beautiful paintings, particularly a couple of the Venice ones. But, overall, it was really underwhelming and I love Turner! I don’t really get it.

  3. Carolyn Melcher

    Your photos and tour stories are wonderful. Such savvy travelers and cooks. Love being able to join your travels from my arm chair.

  4. Eha

    Wonderful travel tale about one of my very favourite places in the world? Have never had a twiglet, loathe Marmite and its Australian sibling Vegemite, am envious about you meeting Mad, but would have paid the entrance fee to Westminster Abbey: such a wondrous place where to ‘feel’ British history . . . . was in London at least annually for decades . . . most times went to say ‘hello’ . . .

    • Thanks, Eha! Steve had been to Westminster before. I’ll go on the next trip. Still, it was ungodly expensive which always annoys me when churches are involved. The craziness nearby (the Brexit-related protests) was more interesting in a totally sick sort of way. The world has gone mad and it seemed more relevant to be there. As for the Marmite/Vegemite, I’m with you. Pretty disgusting stuff. But, somehow, these (and, yeah, Twiglets in an industrial food sort of way) work!

        • Eha

          *smile* Please forgive the story re Westminster Abbey: The first time we took our two daughters to London they were a curious 6 and 8. Our Hall Porter convinced us a private driver/guide would be no more expensive than 4x tour bus tickets! The fabulous lady was to teach them (and us) for years. Westminster Abbey was closed for renovations. Our gorgeous guide (a not-yet-famous Brit author’s wife putting their 4 kids thru’ private schools) asked my husband was he willing to part with a bottle of good gin? A laughing ‘yes’ from him. Bottle in hand we reached a cellar door, knocked, handed over the bottle to a delighted guard, got a back door key and admonishment ‘just one hour, not much more!’ and had the whole of the Abbey all to ourselves . . . never mind us: the girls pretended to get married at the High Altar, read the Bible from high up in their most ‘serious’ voices and learned who was buried where in the side chapels and passages, hmm, doing a bit of a happy dance atop !!! Totally unforgettable! Oh, ‘naturally’ we did not just go to see Changing of the Guard at Buck Palace either : I mean you have to say hello to the guys when they first get themselves and their horses ready at the Barracks 🙂 ! Absolutely true story . . .

    • Aaw, thanks. All the credit goes to Steve, who did trial and error when I was buried in post-vacation work. It’s always a fun thing, though, to try and think what we might do!

  5. I am so making these. We were virtually weaned on Marmite so we both love it and my husband is addicted to Twiglets. Weirdly, though, they are mostly sold around Christmas (your timing was impeccable) and Robert complains that they’ve changed the recipe for the worse in recent years. Despite all this it’s honestly never occurred to me to try making my own, something I shall have to rectify, so thanks to Steve for the recipe. And next time you come, make a side trip to Suffolk! We’d love to meet you. Linda x

  6. Ron

    Love, love, love twiglets and luckily can buy them at our local British shop. I’ve never tried to make them, but now thanks to Steve I can give it a go. I love your images, are they developed into B&W sepia tone?

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