To dunk or to dip, usually indicating a submersion, a biscuit (or cookie), bread, buttered toast, cake, or doughnut into a beverage, especially tea, coffee, or hot/cold milk. Dunking releases more flavour from confections by dissolving the sugars, while also softening their texture. Dunking can be used to melt chocolate on biscuits to create new, rich flavours which have not been tasted before.
Dunking is a popular way of enjoying biscuits in many countries. A popular form of dunking in Australia is the "Tim Tam Slam", also known as 'tea sucking'. The physics of dunking is driven by the porosity of the biscuit and the surface tension of the beverage. A biscuit is porous and, when dunked, capillary action draws the liquid into the interstices between the crumbs.
Dunking is first reported with ancient Romans softening their hard unleavened wafers (in Latin "bis coctum": twice baked) in wine. It became popular in the United States with the creation in East Hanover, New Jersey of the Oreo in 1912 an entire year before Marcel Proust's mention of the act. The Oreo company's main tone of their television adverts is a person, usually children, enjoying dunking an Oreo.
Dunking is also used as a slang term for intinction: the Eucharistic practice of partly dipping the consecrated bread, or host, into the consecrated wine, by the officiant before distributing.
Biscuit dunking, etiquette and style
Different cultures have different attitudes toward biscuit dunking. Historically in British high society, dunking was frowned upon and generally seen as a children's or working class fashion. Opinion has changed over the years but continues to divide opinion, with one tea room outlawing dunking on its premises while a Michelin starred restaurateur publicly advocates the act.
Biscuit dunking and science
Physicist Len Fisher of the University of Bristol presented some light-hearted discussion of dunking on "National Biscuit Dunking Day", as part of an attempt to make physics accessible. Fisher appeared to be somewhat taken aback by the large amount of media attention, ascribing it to a "hunger for accessible science". Fisher also described his astonishment at journalists' interest in one equation used in the field: Washburn's equation, which describes capillary flow in porous materials. Writing in Nature, he says "the equation was published in almost every major UK newspaper. The journalists who published it took great care to get it right, some telephoning several times to check".
In Marcel Proust's novel In Search of Lost Time one of the narrator's childhood memories sets in while tasting a madeleine dunked in tea. The soft, spongy consistency of the madeleine could seem like an odd choice as dunking is more common with crisp baked products, such as biscuits. In fact, draft versions of Proust's manuscript reveal that the author initially had the narrator dunk a piece of toasted bread.
In the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Evelyn Greenslade, one of the main characters, explains to her new employer during an interview whilst drinking Builder's tea. Evelyn, quite poetically describes it as "lowering the biscuit into the tea and letting it soak in there and trying to calculate the exact moment before the biscuit dissolves, when you whip it up into your mouth and enjoy the blissful union of biscuits and tea combined."
- Lee, Laura. The Pocket Encyclopedia of Aggravation. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2001.
- "Tea-sucking record attempt". Croydon Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
- "Biscuit Dunking Physics". Australian Broadcasting Company. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
- Chocolate digestive is nation's favourite dunking biscuit - Telegraph
- quotes from Nature 397, 469; 1999)
- Biscuit dunking perfected - News - The Independent
- L'Objet | Karambolage | Européens | fr - ARTE
- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) - Quotes - IMDb
- Media related to Food dunking at Wikimedia Commons