Monday, September 27, 2010

Slice of heaven

My family's first stop at the Royal Melbourne Show is always at the Country Women's Association stand for Devonshire tea. Textbook perfect scones, baked fresh that morning by one of the CWA's army of talented bakers, accompanied by a small pot of thick cream and some strawberry jam, is one of life's wonderful little indulgences.

This year, I explored the sale stall at the back of the room, with knitted tea cosies, printed tea towels and recipe books all jumbled together. When I picked up The A to Z of Cooked and Uncooked Slices, I knew this was one purchase I had to make. It was impossible to resist seventy pages of good old-fashioned slices, most made with plain ingredients found in any self-respecting country larder, and designed to feed hungry mouths in search of a sweet treat, whether hard-working farmers or children after school.

Chocolate, caramel, apricots, cherries, ginger, walnuts, coconut, coffee, dates, hazelnuts, lemon and passionfruit are just some of the stars of this book. The beauty of slices, particularly old-fashioned ones, is that they turn simple ingredients into something special with a minimum of fuss and effort.

It was difficult to choose which slice to bake first but I narrowed down my list to those with ingredients I already had in my larder: cherry nut slice and coffee streusel slice. I love the short no-nonsense tone of the recipes, which assumes a large degree of knowledge by the cook (but one that was perfectly in tune with the times - any self-respecting home cook would have known this information). These slices are suitable for a morning tea at home or they can be dressed up and taken out for company - in my case, these slices went perfectly with coffee during half-time at a friend's AFL Grand Final party.

Cherry nut slice
Recipe from Isobel Green, Member of Honour, CWA Victoria branch

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
125g butter

Rub butter into flour and sugar and knead well. Press into 18cm x 28cm greased tin.

Combine 2 eggs and 1/2 cup sugar into a bowl and beat well. Add 1 cup coconut, 30g chopped walnuts or pecan nuts and 30g chopped glace cherries. Add 1/2 cup sifted self-raising flour and mix well. Pour over prepared base and bake in a moderate oven (160 to 180 degrees, not fan-forced) for 25-30 minutes. Ice with pale pink icing (made with 2 cups icing sugar mixed with enough boiling water to be spreadable) and sprinkle with chopped walnuts,

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