I honestly thought ‘Tan Slice’ was right up there in the list of Kiwi baking classics alongside the likes of Anzac biscuits, lolly cake, Louise slice and ginger crunch. Turns out, I may have elaborated its classic-tier-status in my own head because a quick poll amongst my New Zealand friends revealed a mixed bags of results – from those with vague memory of it at best, to the worst case scenario of no recollection at all. I think the true way of solving this will be to see whether it features in the Edmond’s Cookery Book because that really is the authority on all things Kiwi baking. Friends who have a copy handy – do you mind checking for me?
In the meantime, I am undeterred and will continue to proclaim the Tan Slice as a classic… because either way, this is too delicious not to share. Yes, the name is terrible and doesn’t exactly make your mouth-water… but sometimes beige food is best! Once you get past that, you’ll soon realise that the humble Tan Slice actually has a lot going for it. A gooey caramel sandwiched between a buttery base and topping, with a hint of bitter dark chocolate – basically all butter and sugar – what’s not to love? It’s also ridiculous easy to make and keeps very well in the fridge for those much needed mid-afternoon pick-me-ups!
When I first published this cookie recipe, we were packing up our life in Wellington and getting ready to go on our first adventure – a couple of months travelling through parts of Canada, America, Cuba and Mexico, before landing in London. That was about 6.5 years ago. Wow. So much has happened since then… we settled into London life, we took a break and went off travelling again, and now we’re back in the big smoke, albeit under very different circumstances.
Lots of things might have changed over the past few years, but my sweet tooth has remained constant. As does my love for this cookie recipe. It’s dead easy and still delicious so I thought it was about time I gave this post a spruce up and introduced people to it again… after all, most of us are still staying home and baking more than ever before!
Does anyone else have kitchen cupboards that are too high for them to see into or too deep for them to reach? Surely, it is not just me. Even when I’m precariously tip-toeing on a chair, I struggle to see what’s made its way to the back of that top shelf… and as I discovered recently, there is a lot back there. I am completely to blame; I am a compulsive hoarder of pantry staples and I have the joy of acquiring a fascinating range of foodstuffs through this blog. The adventurous cook in me gets a jolt of excitement every time I pull something new and obscure out of a goody bag but then the practical cook in me stores that for another day as I get on with cooking something else… and so my shelves become a jumbled mess and a certain someone continuously teases me about how we could open our own corner store.
I’d like to tell you that I have turned over a new leaf but the truth is, my pantry will always be full and full of random things. What has forced my hand now is our big move, and so the great clear out has begun. In amongst the jumble, I came across an unopened packet of desiccated coconut; I have no idea why I bought it but after being inspired by a snap on Instagram stories, I decided I would make a cake. If you’ve been following a certain someone cooks, you would have noticed that he has taken up the position as our resident baker… so as my baking skills are a bit rusty, I wanted something nice and easy and this coconut and lime loaf cake fit the bill completely. It also conjured up all sorts of tropical vibes which I thought was exactly what we needed to inject some sunshine into the current cold winter days!
We like to pretend we’re tea connoisseurs with our hodge-podge selection of black tea, white tea, green tea, fruit teas and the like, all in a mix of loose leaf and bags of all shapes and sizes, but really, we’re just tea addicts. We barely go a couple of hours without a cuppa; part habit, part dependency (for one of us anyway) but always for the pure enjoyment of drinking it! My point is, we drink a lot of tea so it was a pleasant surprise to come across something we’d never tried before.
Of course matcha tea isn’t exactly a new thing, I’m sure the Chinese and Japanese have been drinking it for centuries, and more recently its popularity has exploded. I have seen tea enthusiasts and health nuts alike sharing photos of pretty ceramic bowls filled with bright green tea, lightly frothed to perfection with a strange whisk-type utensil, but admittedly I’ve been too comfortable with my builder’s brew or refreshing jasmine to get involved in such shenanigans.
My sister recently told me about this banana diet which is making the #fitspo folk go, well, bananas. My first reaction was to laugh; who can seriously eat bananas all day, everyday? Who wants to?! But then I remembered that not everyone shares my opinion, people actually like those pungent, squishy things. They are everywhere: lollies, ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies, milk, fritters, and of course cake.
Banana cake just doesn’t tickle my fancy, obviously if it was a choice between that or carrot cake, it’s the lesser of the two evils but it will never be my preferred option. On the contrary, a certain someone is rather fond of banana cake so feeling generous one afternoon I decided to make him one. Kind of. I mean there are a lot of bananas in it but it also calls for pineapple, a fruit I do adore, and the cake is technically called a Hummingbird Cake…
My mother once worked in a French boulangerie, much to the delight of my chocolate croissant loving siblings and I. On a daily basis she faced baskets of baguettes, the inevitable dusting of flour on her clothes, and the company of the burly fowl-mouthed Frenchman who baked. In turn, our childhood was rich with French breads and pastries that were always the envy of all our classmates. Those cautious calorie counters will say you can have too much of a good thing, but I don’t think we ever got sick of having the boulangerie delivery service!
Those days are long gone but the simple ham and cheese croissant for lunch or pain au raisin for afternoon tea will always be close to my heart, and stomach if I can help it. I’d love to relive this perk of my childhood and have it on my doorstep but the reality is the nearest Sainsbury’s is two minutes away while the nearest artisan bakery is twenty. While convenience wins out a lot of the time, I do like the thought of spending quality time and ingredients and making my own bread, especially considering how much of it we eat. But therein lies my problem. I am not a bread baker, I don’t even know that much about bread. I make biscuits, I make cakes but I can only seem to make bread rocks, not rolls.
Is there a food more versatile or comforting than bread? The equally humble and reliable potato would definitely give it a run for its money but bread still comes out top. Now that I come to think of it, I think I eat bread in some form, most days. For a quick weekday breakfast it’ll be toasted with a slather of butter and Kiwi marmite, while in the weekends it’ll be a bit more English with some eggs, beans and bacon.
It often makes an appearance at lunch; right from the early days my mother used to pack me the best rolls or sandwiches that my friends would be envious of, and even now I’m partial to a filled bagel or simple ham and cheese toastie. At dinner time it usually isn’t the star of the show but the trusty sidekick who turns that soup from a snack to a meal, or gives you something to mop up the rest of that sauce. I’m hungry already and I haven’t even got to how it appeals to my sweet tooth… pastries, fruit loaves, bread and butter pudding?!