one vanilla slice and a small serving of copyright please…


 The humble vanilla slice is one of those bakery treats that I’ve always found hard to walk past. I’ve written before of my love for all things custard, with the peak of the custard love sitting right in wedged between two lots of pastry.

This recipe had sat for four years in my ‘folder’, awaiting the day when I would finally give it a crack. I know the day I ripped it out of the magazine, as the date is on the bottom. Torn out from The Good Weekend, a magazine insert from the weekend paper The Sydney Morning Herald. Also, it’s a recipe from Matthew Evans. It seems I’ve been unknowingly drawn to his cooking long before I pushed him up on to my gourmet farmer pedestal.

So there the recipe sat. Waiting for the right moment. I had posted about custard biscuits and a reader commented on snot blocks. Snotblocks were otherwise known as the  vanilla slice in certain parts of 70’s Australia. With the mere mention of the snot block, I was drawn back to the torn out folded recipe, wedged between the caramel mudcake and profiterole recipe.

What exactly was holding me back from giving it a go? Right, get cracking girl. So I did. I even followed the recipe to the letter, every little step of it. I didn’t stray, not even a tiny tweak, (well almost). Which was very unlike me.

So did it turn out? Ohhh, yes. Yes it did. It actually exceeded my expectations as the recipe didn’t have an accompanying picture. I just crossed my fingers that it was going to work out, and kept visualising my snot block, I mean vanilla slice.

So I made it, it was delicious, now where’s the recipe?

This was where I came a little undone. I had followed the recipe to the T. No adaptations, no deviations, no tweaking and definitely no hack. There was no evidence of the recipe online, the magazine isn’t even on line, so I couldn’t really give credit where it was due. I didn’t want rip off the magazine I’d been reading for the past 20+ years and I didn’t want to rip off Matthew Evans.

I ended up asking a Good Weekend editor what to do, and some emails were sent back and forth without any conclusion being made. Maybe I was too small of a blog to be bothered with and maybe they just weren’t sure either of what to do? I read David Lebovitz’s post on recipe attribution, then I read it again.

Just when I had decided to let it all go, approval came through. The recipe was given the nod as long as it had all the appropriate acknowledgements.

Vanilla Slice 

from Matthew Evans- Good Weekend December 1st, 2007

2x 25cm square pieces butter puff pastry

80g 2/3 cup cornflour

1 litre milk

40g butter

6 eggs

200g (1 cup) sugar

3 tsp vanilla essence

130g (1 cup) icing sugar

1 tbls extra milk

Oven on to 220C. Pop the pastry on to baking trays and prick all over with a fork. Use something with some weight and it can go on top of the pastry to stop it from rising, just use some baking paper to prevent sticking between it, (I just used a spatula to flatten it half way through cooking). Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.  Cool and trim pastry to fit 22cm square cake tin (or something similar). Line the tin with a strip of baking paper to lift the slice out once it is set. Pop one piece of the pastry in the bottom.

For the custard, add a little of the milk with the cornflour to dissolve. In a pot, heat the remainder of the litre of milk with the butter. While it come to the boil, crack the eggs into the cornflour paste, tip in the sugar and whisk until smoooth. Whisk in the milk, and then return to the heat in a clean pan.

Whisk continuously until the mixture comes to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla, then tip the custard into cake tin. Top with the other piece of pastry, turning it over- smooth side up. Press down and allow to cool.

Next either make a barely runny icing with the icing sugar and extra milk or simply dust with icing sugar. Pop in to the fridge until cold. Remove from tin and cut into squares, wiping blade between cuts.

Should make about 16 squares, (unless you do monster sized ones.)

*******

One other little thing I did do differently, was the pastry. Mathew Evans reccommends the Careme butter puff pastry or as second choice Pampas, (likening all others to ear wax). I did get the Careme, but didn’t pay attention to how many grams there were in there, so fell short of the amount of pastry I needed. I baked it as per instructions but then really carefully halved it. Because the pastry was lovely and obliging, it was pretty easy to do, and it was still enough pastry to withhold all the custard.

So what did I learn from all this?

Waiting, and making sure I felt comfortable with the whole re-publishing process definitely paid off. Getting approval to use the recipe on my blog without all the lip biting and frowning that was going on before, felt right.

And I still love vanilla slice.

It’s delicious.

*******

Good Weekend is a weekly magazine insert within the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Matthew Evans is Gourmet Farmer, author of The Real Food Companion and sells via Rare Food.

If you are not sure about posting a recipe, this is a really good place to start.

Vanilla slice sounds much nicer than snot block.

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custard biscuits

As a kid I was rather attracted to anything with custard in it. My mum’s egg custard using our backyard chook eggs was a firm favourite, along with a coconut custard pie that she would sometimes make. Always offering to ‘wash’ the pot for her, I would scrape out every last tiny spec left on the bottom of the pot. This was the beginnings of building my strong custard foundations.

My sister and I next discovered that custard powder was an easy way to make your own after dinner treat. Just add milk, cook and your away. A lovely bowl of sloppy sweet goodness. (My sister using so much custard powder in there that the spoon would stand straight up in it.)

My grandmother always used to keep ready-made custard in a carton in the fridge, for when ever hungry grand kids came to stay. I’d eat my weight in it for dessert, followed quickly by breakfast over the top of my weetbix, (these sorts of things you can get away with when you bat your eyelashes, and try to look like a hungry waif. Grandma was always keen to feed me up.)

Outside the home, if we ever went to a bakery it would always be a custard tart, or a custard slice (vanilla slice) that I would choose. There was no need to consider anything else as clearly custard reigned supreme in the bakery choices.

These days my custard consuming as been curtailed a little. The palate is a little more picky and the metabolism a little more sluggish than my frantic teenage appetite for all things custard. Although I did recently introduce Little Monkey to a beautifully delicate French patisserie custard slice. He was keen. As he elbowed his way through to the last portion that I had stupidly been slower to eat. Looks like the little fella might be following in similar custardy footprints.

Custard Biscuits

Cream together

200gms softened butter

100gms (1/2 cup) caster sugar

then add

70gms (1/2 cup) custard powder

225gms (1 1/2 cups) plain flour

1 tps vanilla essence

mix together, and shape

I used a piping bag to shape these, or you could easily roll them into balls and squish them down as well. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, or until a light golden colour.