Origins of recipes are often funny and some of the stories are doozies. Many are found in more traditional places, like handed over from friends and relatives, some are found in cookbooks, and others are our own creations. Then there are those that come from who-knows-where, such as the one I found on a men’s room wall.
And then there’s this one, which got handed to me during a book event and meet-up that I had in Paris when a lovely woman from New Zealand gave me a tube of Vegemite, along with a photocopy of the recipe, saying it was amazing. (Interesting that she said the recipe was amazing, but when she gave me the Vegemite, she only followed that with a hearty chuckle.)
At the time I thanked her and put it in my bag, then it was transferred to my kitchen counter where it rested amongst a pile of papers that is optimistically called “recipes to try.” It languished there for, oh, maybe eight months, until I picked it up and gathered all the ingredients to make it. Then I promptly put them in the pan and placed them in a corner, where they languished together for another few months. Until I finally decided it was time to try it.
When I was in Australia, I was delighted by all the “slices” on offer, which are available at coffee shops and bakeries, such as caramel crunch, and their distant relative, Lamingtons. This ginger crunch is pretty simple to put together, although reading through the recipe, I thought about dialing up the spices, which I’m sure folks in Australia and New Zealand would approve of because they seem to like their food highly seasoned – as do I. But then I tasted the slices and realized they were right on the mark.
To all the folks out there wondering what they can use in place of the golden syrup, I’m both happy and sorry to say, that there’s nothing else similar. The reason I’m sorry is that you have to hunt some down – many well-stocked grocers have it, or you can find it online. But I’m happy to say that you’ll be thrilled to have that little green-and-gold tin in your life because once you taste it, you’ll wonder how you lived without golden syrup in your life before.
The original recipe called for a 20 x 30 centimeter “Lamington” pan, which – as much as I like Lamingtons – I didn’t feel like ordering from New Zealand. (Which is probably the only time in my life that I couldn’t justify buying a new piece of bakeware.) So I used a rectangular French tart pan, because I live in France and I’m trying to support my local tart pan makers. You could use an 8-inch (20cm) square cake pan in its place.
When I first bit down on one, it was somewhat familiar, but it so different from any other kind of bar cookie I know of. The base is crumbly and crisp, with the characteristics of a good shortbread, but with a firmness and crunch that pairs beautifully with the buttery, spicy topping. The word “addictive” comes to mind. And if it wasn’t for the 30-hour plane ride, I’d be making plans to go to New Zealand to try more “slices.”
So to that lovely woman who brought the recipe all the way to me, a big thanks and I’m glad I finally got around to making it. You were right!
As for that tube of Vegemite? I’m getting around to that soon. Uh, I promise…
Chocolate-Caramel Slice (Rhid-Baked)
Peanut Butter-Chocolate Slice (Chocolate Suze)