I spent two weeks in New Zealand last month, and while we did plenty of sightseeing, I also spent quite a bit of time curiously wandering around supermarkets and bakeries looking at similarities and differences to Australian baking. Obviously this could be the subject of a much bigger and more systematic study (and I’m not going near other language and cultural differences!), but really what I was interested in was – what are those classic baked treats that every Kiwi would recognise, and most Aussies would have not a clue about.
I found the bakery sections of supermarkets quite useful, as even though the versions they stock are usually pretty terrible, they do tend to focus on the most common and recognisable treats. I also visited bakeries and cafes in Auckland, Taupo, Masterton, Wellington, Christchurch, and Hanmer Springs. This really was a lot of fun. There were many things I recognised (hello vanilla slice!) but so many I didn’t, so keeping numbers down was hard.
I eventually narrowed it down to 10 baked goods that were in most bakeries, as well as some supermarkets, with recipes offered by everyone from bloggers to newspapers to sugar manufacturers to Annabel Langbein, to the almost omnipotent Edmonds Cookery Book. In fact a few of these items (scones and Eccles cakes) would be familiar to many in Australia and the UK as well, but I’ve included them here as they seemed to have a significance they don’t in Australia; plus they were huge! – which I think is always important 🙂
I’m gradually cooking my way through them, and have pics below of the ones I’ve tried. I’m initially sticking to the classic versions rather than modern variations, which means lots of Edmonds recipes. So, my ten New Zealand baking classics (plus random thoughts), and in no particular order (I wasn’t brave enough to rank them!) are:
These I have certainly seen and tried in Australia, but they’re not terribly common, and I don’t remember ever seeing one in a cafe or bakery. I came across several of these in cafes, and in supermarkets, and they were generally enormous. Two of the recipes below are from bakeries and cafes, and it certainly appears they are ‘a thing’.
These are quite common in Australia, but again, in New Zealand they appeared more often in bakeries, often next to the cheese scones, and were also enormous. One I saw was the size of a small cake (see pic above)!
A chocolate biscuit containing crushed cornflakes, and topped with chocolate icing and walnuts. The recipes for Afghans actually vary quite a bit, I made an old Edmonds recipe.
An absolute classic. I had actually made these before, after coming across a recipe online, but I’ve never seen them in Australia. In NZ they were in every supermarket and bakery – the supermarket ones are pretty ordinary, but homemade are great. They also varied hugely in size – the supermarket ones were fairly small, but several bakery ones would have completely covered a saucer.
Ginger crunch (slice)
A plain biscuit base, topped with a truly terrifying amount of ginger icing made with golden syrup.
This appears to be another NZ classic, though I had never heard of it before. I have to say I have mixed feelings about this one. Normally I love ginger in all its forms, and make a ginger coconut slice that is one of my favourites. The first ginger crunch I tasted was similar but with at least five times as much icing and ginger, and it was so sweet I had to scrape most of the icing off. Later versions I came across seemed a bit less extreme, but I might need to do a bit more investigating before deciding which to make… (I’ve now made them following either the Chelsea or Edmonds recipe as they are identical. They also have a more modest amount of icing and are very gingery and very nice.)
A spiced sandwich biscuit filled with raspberry jam, and topped with icing and pink jelly crystals. I made an old Edmonds recipe.
They are apparently one of the many baked goods renamed after WWI or WWII to remove German references. This was common practice in many English speaking countries, and can be how you end up with references to English wartime leaders (Churchill), allies (Belgium), or royals and empire (Empire biscuits, Louise cake and Albert squares!). I saw the biscuit version most often, in both supermarkets and bakeries, but apparently the slice is often preferred for home baking as it’s easier.
An unbaked slice made with malt biscuits, condensed milk and marshmallow lollies, and rolled in coconut.
A slightly controversial one, as it was traditionally made with ‘Eskimo’ lollies, possibly no longer in production, potentially following criticism of the name and design. I saw this in almost every bakery, and it’s quite spectacular looking with the multi coloured lollies showing in cross section in each slice. Unfortunately I couldn’t find either ‘Astronauts’ (the Eskimo replacement) or Fruit Puffs in Australia so I might have to order online. I tried with other lollies, but while they look ok, the texture wasn’t right. This was the favourite of several Kiwis I polled, along with tan squares 🙂 (I’ve since find you can buy fruit puffs online, and they make a real difference with the texture)
A pastry filled with currants and spice. It’s traditionally made with lard, but all the NZ recipes I came across used bought puff.
These are obviously an English classic (from Eccles in Lancashire) rather than NZ, but while I’ve heard of the English cake, they are rarely available in Australia, or even mentioned, being seen as more of an historic treat, while in NZ I saw them in several bakeries and cafes, and several recipes discussed making them at home.
A layered slice with two layers of chocolate biscuit sandwiching a coconut filling.
This wasn’t as common as some of the others, but I had to include it with that name! It seems to be a slice many grandmothers used to make but is now less common. There also seems to be some disagreement about the consistency of the filling, so I’ll have to check that when I make it. See above regarding probable wartime renaming.
A simple caramel topped shortcake with a perfectly descriptive name – it is a tan coloured square! I made the Chelsea recipe.
Another slightly less common one, potentially an alternative to the chocolate caramel slice that’s common in Australia, and very moreish! This was the favourite of several Kiwis I polled, along with lolly cake 🙂
A slice with a shortcake base, raspberry jam filling and topped with coconut meringue.
I didn’t see this slice as often in bakeries or cafes, but it’s apparently a classic that’s making a revival, and there were so many references to it (and it sounds so delicious) that I included it anyway. It’s another with royal references, apparently named after Queen Victoria’s daughter.
So now I want to hear from you. For the Australians and others, how many of these have you heard of or baked yourself? For the New Zealanders, how badly did I get this wrong!? And truly, if there’s an absolute classic I’ve missed then let me know, I’d love to try it!
[Edit 2/8/19: I’ve received a couple of emails about additions to my list (I’ve added them as comments below) particularly mentioning cheese rolls and cream buns. It seems I missed out on the all important cheese rolls as they are more of a cafe (and school fundraising) rather than bakery item, but they sound so fascinating that I will give them a try and add some links soon! (see below)
Cream buns seems to be what we would call a jam doughnut – yeasted and filled with jam rather than the type with a hole – I have a recipe for something similar here. I think I saw these, but didn’t notice as much as they were one of the more familiar items, even though the name is different.]
These are an unusual one popular in the south of the South Island that I didn’t see myself (see note above) as they are more commonly cafe snacks, and also made for school fundraising. At they’re simplest they are a slice of bread rolled up with a cheese spread, and then grilled or fried, but many more complicated versions exist. Onion soup mix is popular, as are fillings almost identical to Welsh Rarebit. I’m a bit uncertain about some of these, but will give one a try at last 🙂