Har-dee-har har!

Reader Richard wants to know if I plan on using real or imitation vanilla in my vanilla slices. Richard is referring to an incident that occurred a year or so when I extolled the virtues of imitation vanilla extract and shortly got dumped on — to put it mildly — by many (many) of my readers. On the list of all-time most unpopular Joe Pastry posts that one ranks right up near the top, outdone only by the post in which I criticized gourmet salts, the one where I argued trans fats were no big deal, and of course the one where I extolled my love of cheap coating chocolates. Of course I didn’t win many friends the time I implied that there might be holes in Darwinian theory, either. Nor did I that time I defended McDonald’s animal slaughtering practices, the time I published a list of my all-time favorite food additives, or the time I compared the search for authentic ethnic restaurants to an episode of A Cook’s Tour in which Anthony Bourdain was forced to eat raw warthog anus. None of those put me on the fast track to a People’s Choice Award, thanks for bringing all that up, Richard.

To answer your question, I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be using imitation vanilla extract as I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to go about making snot blocks vanilla slices. Am I going the epicurean made-entirely-from-scratch route? Or the more everyman semi-home-made route? So far I haven’t gotten a sense for which approach is more representative of the vanilla slice as it’s consumed Down Under. More information please, all you on the far side of the equator.

22 thoughts on “Har-dee-har har!”

  1. Well, for the “epicurean made-entirely-from-scratch route” VS the “more everyman semi-home-made route” question, why not do both?

    I recently read a recipe for s’mores that had you make graham crackers and marshmallows. I can see the appeal of the recipe for some people. (I admit I read it like I read science-fiction. You know: I get to the end and think “well; that’ll never happen.”)

    Then I read one had you go to the store and buy graham crackers, marshmallows and some really good eating chocolate.

    So, for vanilla slices, it would be interesting to see recipes side by side. Maybe readers could decide to combine various components for the 2 recipes.

    Well, I think I would be interesting.

    (Remember when Ruth Reichl did 2 reviews for a restaurant, and the paper published them side by side? One was written when she went as herself; the other when she went in disguise.)

  2. Joe, it’s just an early version of junk food. A vanilla slice, or custard square, is just a chunk of thickish vanilla flavoured custard between 2 sheets of puff pastry.

    Don’t overthink this.

    I used to buy one on my way to school, and that was way too long ago to be telling just how long ago. They had a texture that was somewhat akin to cold blancmange, a flavour that was sometimes hard to define, with hints of what I presume was imitation vanilla, we never saw vanilla beans in any shape or form then. Usually they had been made the day before, the pastry had gone to the stage where it was soft, but still retained some grip on the filling.

    But it’s your choice with ingredients 🙂 When you bring the clan down here for a summer or winter break, I’ll find you an authentic bakery making them.

    Take care

  3. Meh, you’re popular with me even if you DO use icky chocolate coating. My vote is to make your first snot blocks the easy convenience route and if you like them, then make more all gourmet style. Note, however, that I’m in Louisville too so my vote might not count. There must be a lot of kid left in me, because I laugh every time I read or type “snot block.” *laughs*

  4. Oh, Joe! This post is the very reason so many of us love coming here every day. Thanks for the fun. And thanks to Richard for inciting this post.

  5. Perhaps you should continue your well-charted path to, ummm… wherever. Why not use artificial vanilla flavouring and then twist the whole vanilla slice concept by enrobing it in fake chocolate?

  6. Joe, you need to learn to let go, we love you even if you are not always right 😀

    The sad truth is too few people actually notice the quality of the ingredients. I do a calculation in my head: How much will the more expensive stuff improve the results + How likely is it that the people I’m serving it to will notice / how much more money or effort will it be. Any answer less than 1 and I go with the lesser.

    One of the downsides to having fed people for a living is having watched them cram quality stuff and sweat equity into their gaping maw chewing once & swallowing. Too many people view cheez wiz on a saltine as OK & on a ritz as deluxe, why waste a decent cheddar on good dark rye on them?

    1. I guess that’s true, though I’m still struggling to get my mind around the “not always right” thing. Did you say something after that?

      – Joe

        1. Oh, whew! I was starting to worry there for a second, Frankly.


          – Joe

  7. I agreed with Warren. Vanilla slice are after school snack/treat. Not fancy high tea dainty. That and custard tart. Yum yum. May just pop to the shop and get myself some.

    1. Thanks for the backup, Izzy. Warren is (mostly) reliable, but I prefer to verify what he has to say if I can.


      – Joe

  8. I think I recall reading that Cook’s Illustrated compared real vs imitation vanilla & actually the imitation came out ahead, at least in baked goods.


  9. Authenticity demands the cheapest of imitation vanilla essence in a vanilla slice. This is the working man’s pastry. One that can stand a few hours outside the fridge. One designed to be eaten whilst sitting on a toolbox or scaffold. One impervious to silverware, able to be torn asunder only with careful application of canine teeth at the right angle and pressure. Don’t overthink this Joe.

  10. You choose -” your name’s on the tent”.
    As an aside I once long ago attended a Tupperware Party where the demonstrator made a cheat’s version of Custard Square to highlight one of the Tupperware containers – basically she lined the bottom of the square container with Cream Crackers ( not sure what the equivalent US product is) and then proceeded to pour/spread a ready made carton of extremely thick custard over the crackers – topped it with another layer of cream crackers and put the very snug fitting lid on top and threw it in the fridge…to be retrieved later and iced with chocolate icing ! Overwhelmingly forgettable and I didn’t buy the container !!
    Loving this thread
    Cheers from NZ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *