The Hunt for the perfect Vanilla Slice

Vanilla slice, love them or hate them.

Australian vanilla slice is a snack consisting of a layer of vanilla yumminess sandwiched between two layers of light and crisp pastry. It is similar to a french mille-feuille.

The New Zealand version is more like a custard square, usually with passionfruit icing. Not so nice.

In Austria it is called a Cremeschnitte. Maybe this is where the term Snot Block originated, sounds a bit like it.

What ever there are called though,

I love them, and cannot get enough of them.

My quest to find the perfect vanilla slice started many years ago.

I have travelled Australia, far and wide, and, along the way ,have stopped at almost every bakery in my search for the perfect vanilla slice.

There are many imposters out there masquerading as the true blue slice.

Some are nothing more than a lumpy heap of custard sandwiched between some soggy pastry.

Others are a little more refined, but still none the less, are custard and pastry.

A true vanilla slice has no custard in it. It is not sickly gluggy yellow stuff.

A true vanilla slice is almost white. It is creamy. Vanillary, is that even a word?

The pastry is thin and crisp..

A true vanilla slice is something that keeps you wanting more.

It keeps you always on the look out for the next best one.

Even the thought of it brings saliva to ones mouth. Not unlike a dog drooling over a juicy bone.

My local town has three major bakeries.

Number one has a vanilla slice which is somewhat akin to a jelly baby in so much as the texture of it is rubbery and stretchy.

Goodness only knows how they make it.

Number two has a somewhat custardy looking filling and soggy pastry. Not something that woukd inspire you to go back for seconds.

Number three has the most vanilla slice like treat. The pastry is a little thick, the icing is thick, sweet and pink, but the filling is quite creamy and not a hint of custard powder to be had.

Despite this, there is no perfect slice to be had there.

In Queensland I sampled some pretty good examples of slice. The best being at Morayfield Plaza. The slicd was almost perfect, just the pastry was a little thick but still nice and crunchy.

Severalmother samplings in Qld were not too bad.

Down through NSW I found no good slices. They were all custard squares. Some had an extra layer of cream, I think to make it more palatable, but it did not work for me.

I am fussy.

Back in Victoria, about 150 kilometres from home, I read about the Bakery that had won the annual Vanilla Slice challenge.

I had to go, surely this was going to be the most perfect slice.

I set off one morning, on my quest.

When I arrived at the town, and it was a tiny town, I headed straight for the Bakery.

There were people and cars everywhere. All seeking what I was seeking.

The were trays and trays of delicious looking slices , there must have been hundreds of them. All were flying out the door with great speed.

Stop looking, I told myself. Just buy one and try it.

I was not disappointed. My search was over.

This was the perfect slice.

Two sheets of super thin crispy pastry. The filling was to die for. Light, creamy, full of flavour not gluggy or any hint of custard . Icing thin and not too sweet.

This was what I had been looking for all my life.

I was in vanilla slice heaven.

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great grandma was cast out by her family

My Great Grandmother was named Ellen. she was born in the UK in 1868..

When Ellen was a young child the Family decided to immigrate to Australia After a lengthy boat ride, in mostly squalid conditions, the family arrived in NSW.

Great Great Grandfather, Ellens father, took up farming in the Armidale, New England area of NSW.

He was a very successful farmer and became an extremely wealthy man. Family life was good, the children all had food and clothing and led a happy life. Much better than they had back in the Mother Country.

When Ellen was just 18 years of age, she met a handsome young man and fell in love right away.

This strapping young man was good looking and worked hard as a labourer. However, he had a dark secret.

His own Father had been sent out from Ireland as a Convict. He had not committed a serious crime, just stolen a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. This news was to be kept a secret from Ellens family as they were “Upper Crust” so to speak. They would never tolerate a son of a criminal becoming one of their family members.

The courtship progressed and Ellens family quite liked this young bloke. Until, someone let the cat out of the bag about this fellows heritage.

All hell broke loose and Ellen was forbidden to see the young man again. She had other ideas though and continued to meet him in secret. This went on for a year or two until once again someone let her Father know. Talk about gossipers, how terrible it was.

By this time, Ellen was 21 and able to make her own mind up. Her Father gave her the word, stay with him and you are banished from our family. Never to be spoken of and never to visit us again. What a tough old bugger he was. He kept his word though and Ellen made her choice.

She and her true love moved away and became married in 1887. The couple were very happy , apart from the fact that Ellen had been banished and all rights to any inheritance from her wealthy father all forsaken.

They had children, first a son and then a daughter. The son died from unknown circumstances when he was just 19. The daughter grew up to be a lovely young woman who would become my Grandmother.When Great Grandad passed away, Ellen came and lived with my Grandmother, her daughter. I remember Ellen. She always wore black. Always in mourning, perhaps for the loss of her husband, or maybe the loss of her family back in the countryside. I know that her parents never knew of anything that happened in her life after Armidale. I find that very sad.

Skeletons in the closet

Mum was a tormented soul.For as far back as I can remember, Mum was always running down people and gossipping about them.

As a kid, I could not understand why she would do this it just did not make sense to me. The people in question seemed lovely.

Mum never seemed to be happy with her life. She was constantly shouting at us kids and giving poor Dad a hard time.

She was so unhappy. Her unhappiness caused many problems for her .

It was not until I was in my fourties that I found out why she was like this.

After Dad passed away, Mum and I were talking about a cousin, this cousin was adopted and I mentioned to Mum that it must be very sad, not knowing who ones real parents were. Mum then told me her story.

It went like this.

When Mum was 32, her and Dad decided to go to the UK and Europe for a holiday. The Queens Coronation was about to happen and they wanted to be in the UK at that time. Get caught up in the activities and celebrations so to speak.

Mum applied for her passport. Dad already had one from before they were married.

There was a bit of a hiccup though. It seemed that Mum did not exist. No records were held of her birth. None in her known name anyway.

Grandma was summoned and had to come clean with a few secrets she had been holding close.

The man Mum knew as her Father, was in fact, not her Father.

It seems Gran had been a bit naughty and had given birth to Mum out of wedlock. Back in the 1920’s this was quite a scandalous thing to happen to a poor girl. Even worse was when the unwed Mother decided to keep her child. Poor Gran was indeed an outcast of society.

In due course the paperwork was sorted and Mum got her passport.

Dad was not amused to know his wife was illegitimate but he loved her and accepted it. He did ask Mum not to tell anyone though.

A few years after Dad passed away, Mum decided to delve into her real Fathers identity.

There were more than a few shocks to be had.

Gran had been seeing a much older man, a travelling salesman , married with a family.

Oh dear, naughty Gran.

When Gran found out she was pregnant, she ceased the affair, not telling her suitor that she was pregnant. She did not want to disrupt his family any further.

To her credit, Gran kept my Mum and raised her on her own. It was not an easy task back in those days.

Mums real Father was not a very nice man. He was a Lieutenant in the Light Horse Brigade but was dishonorably discharged for failing to obey orders.

More bad news came to light. The old philanderer had yet another mistress. This young girl also had a child to him. She told him about his daughter and it led to a massive court case to see who would get custody of the child.

Things were going against the young girl so in a brief ajournment, outside the Redfern Courthouse, she shot him dead.

I have the newspaper clippings of the incident. I know not what happened to the young woman or the child. A child who would have been my mothers halfsister.

No wonder Mum was such an unhappy soul.

All of this was just too much a burden to carry.

That little girl would be 86 if she is still alive. Sadly Mum passed away, never knowing her real Father or her half sister.

great grandma was cast out by her family

My Great Grandmother was named Ellen. she was born in the UK  in 1868..

When Ellen was a young child the Family decided to immigrate to Australia  After a lengthy boat ride, in mostly squalid conditions, the family arrived in NSW.

Great Great Grandfather, Ellens father, took up farming in the Armidale, New England area of NSW.

He was a very successful farmer and became an extremely wealthy man. Family life was good, the children all had food and clothing and led a happy life. Much better than they had back in the Mother Country.

When Ellen was just 18 years of age, she met a handsome young man and fell in love right away.

This strapping young man was good looking and worked hard as a labourer. However, he had a dark secret.

His own Father had been sent out from Ireland as a Convict. He had not committed a serious crime, just stolen a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. This news was to be kept a secret from Ellens family as they were  “Upper Crust” so to speak. They would never tolerate a son of a criminal becoming one of their family members.

The courtship progressed and Ellens family quite liked this young bloke. Until, someone let the cat out of the bag about this fellows heritage.

All hell broke loose and Ellen was forbidden to see the young man again. She had other ideas though and continued to meet him in secret.  This went on for a year or two until once again someone let her Father know. Talk about gossipers, how terrible it was.

By this time, Ellen was 21 and able to make her own mind up. Her Father gave her the word, stay with him and you are banished from our family. Never to be spoken of and never to visit us again. What a tough old bugger he was. He kept his word though and Ellen made her choice.

She and her true love moved away and became married in 1887. The couple were very happy , apart from the fact that Ellen had been banished and all rights to any inheritance from her wealthy father all forsaken.

They had children, first a son and then a daughter. The son died from unknown circumstances when he was just 19. The daughter grew up to be a lovely young woman who would become  my Grandmother.When Great Grandad passed away, Ellen came and lived with  my Grandmother, her daughter. I remember Ellen. She always wore black. Always in mourning, perhaps for the loss of her husband, or maybe the loss of her family back in the countryside. I know that her parents never knew of anything that happened in her life after Armidale. I find that very sad.

grandma was a rebel…

My maternal grandmother was a wonderful woman.

She was kind , caring and nothing was ever too much for her to do.

A talented cook, dressmaker and gardener, all self taught.

Grandma was a bit of a rebel though. She fell in love with a travelling saleman back in 1918.

He obviously had a charismatic nature and before too long Grandma found out she was pregnant.

Back in those days it was almost enough to be sent to the gallows if one became pregnant out of wedlock.

Grandma stuck it out though. She was sent packing by her mother and father and ended up being a housekeeper for a wealthy Vaucluse, Sydney family.

Gran worked up until the day my Mother was born. Despite the pressure from so called social workers, and the stigma of being an unmarried mother, she decided to keep her baby.

This was an extremely brave thing to do. There was no welfare for anyone back then in 1920. No help from parents or anyone else.

Being an unmarried mother made her an outcast in society.

The wealthy family stood by her though. They let her keep her job and stay with them, baby and all.

What a wonderful family they were.

Grandma never told the travelling salesman about being pregnant. He had a wife and children so she did not want to complicate things even more than they were.

For four years Gran worked in Sydney. Whilst on an outing to the Botanical Gardens, Gran met Arthur. He was a merchant seaman and instantly took a liking to Gran.

They married a short while after meeting and Arthur joined the public service so he would always be there for Gran and my Mum.

A few years later Gran had a second daughter. This girl was a delight and very musically talented.

The family was now complete.

Arthur and Gran led an interesting life, moving from one project to the other. They eventually retired to Victoria in 1962. Sadly Arthur passed away just six months after retirement.

Gran stayed in the little house they bought until her death at age 94.

Incidently my Mother never knew Arthur was not her real father until she was in her mid thirties.

But that is another story.

I almost did not make it to Beautiful.

Sunday, I awoke feeling excited because it was the day my daughter and I were going to Beautiful, the Carole King Musical.

As I am house sitting at Noosa right now, it meant a trip down to Brisbane to go to the show.

Old mate and I set off at 9.30am.

Plenty of time for the 1.5 hour trip to my daughters place at Sandgate.

Or so I thought.

All was going well, a short stop along the way to deliver a beanie to a woman with a very large head. ( another story)

Back on the Bruce highway and suddenly the traffic stops.

Kilometres of stopped traffic in front of and behind us.

I remembered it was the last day of school holidays, probably accounted for the huge amount of traffic, but not why the stoppage.

We inched along, 9 minutes to go 1 kilometre. At that rate it would be 6pm before we arrived in Brisbane.

The show would be well and truly over.

Another 2 hours passed and not even half way.

It was 12.30 by this time and old mate and I desperately needed a toilet stop.

Nothing to do but pull up at the next offramp. We did this, then went back to the by now slowish moving traffic.

At least it was moving, that was a good sign.

Just before Bribie Island , the cause of the stoppage became apparent. An accident, or rather, a crash.

A young bloke, going too fast clipped the bridge, flew through the air ,cut a tree in half and came to rest on the side of the road.

Miraculously he was unharmed.

After we went past the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles, the pace quickened somewhat.

At 1.30pm we arrived at my daughters place.

My daughter is a wonderful person, but not the most organised one.

She had a shower and we aimed to leave at 2pm.

It was 2.15 when we pulled out of her driveway. Only 29 minutes to QPac she said.

Plenty of time.

It seemed like forever, but at 2.50 we parked up under the Cultural Centre.

It is just up the stairs and across the bridge she said. Not far.

She lied!

She had parked in the wrong spot. We had to walk/ run past the museum, several other bildings, up and down stairs across the road.

Wait, could not across the road.

Quick, she said, the lift is there we will go up in it.

Wrong!

The lift was out of order. Up more stairs, hundreds of them this time.

I was almost passing out from the exertion of it all. Through the QPac doors. Quick, door 3.

30 seconds to lockout.

We made it.

Do you realise dear daughter that your Mother is 70 years of age and not used to such a workout?

But you did it Mum, she said. Now relax and enjoy the show.

And we did.

It was a terrific show. At interval I went and met Christine and her Mum. Another highlight of the day.

Thank you Calista for providing the tickets .

Fantastic.

The girl with the five foot head

The other day, I was casually feeding the kookaburras and enjoying the lovely warm sunshine up here at Noosa.

The magpies came for their share as well.

It really is a peaceful way to spend an hour or two.

Pretty soon that peace was shattered by my phone beeping loudly. A message came through.

It was from a woman asking me if I could make her a beanie.

No worries I told her. I asked her to measure her head circumference so I could make one to fit her.

She duly messaged me back telling me that her head was 60 inches around.

My mind boggled when I read that. A 60 inch head.

Are you sure I asked her. That seems a little large.

Oh yes she replied. It is 60 inches around.

I could not come to grips with this information so asked her again to measure it very carefully.

At this stage she seemed to be a little peeved but came back with the 60 inches.

That is correct she told me .

I have a large head because I am really brainy. I am highly intellegent she said.

Well, who am I to argue with that logic.

Ok I told her. I will have it done in a couple of days.

I am pretty certain she would have had a 60 centimetre head.

Even that measurement is quite large for a woman.

I could not come to grips with the thought of a head with a circumference of 5 feet. Really, in all honesty, I don’t think anyone could even imagine such a sight.

Being one with a warped sense of humour, I got thinking of the ramifications of some one with a 5 foot head circumference.

To make a beanie of those proportions I would need to arrange a bank loan just to buy enough wool to complete the task.

I would also need to do some serious mathematical calculations to get the fit right.

Maybe an elephant as a model. An elephants head would be a similar size I reckon.

Maybe that would even be a bit small.

How on earth would a head that size fit through a normal doorway.

It would not. What kind of house would such a person live in.

No amount of squeezing would make that gigantic noggin fit through any standard doorway.

What about the sleeping arrangements.

A double bed is 4′ 6″. That would leave an overflow of 3 inches either side.

Certainly no room for two in that bed. I think one would be destined to a lonely life.

No going on buses trains or planes either. That head would not fit.

Enough of that now.

I shall get my wool and crochet hook out and start on the beanie. 60 cms it will be.

I am sure even that will be too large.

For all you mathematical geniuses out there, I realise that 5 feet circumference is not 5 feet diameter but just took the liberty of allowing my thoughts to wander.

snippets of my life as it is and how it was