Great Ocean Food: Let it snow
American influences have been with us a long time.
In the Sixties, my mother had a cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens. It was a retro classic, with a red and white check cover and a silhouette of a frypan and a saucepan from memory. To an eight-year-old in 1969, it was filled with all sorts of exotic recipes and wondrous treats. Most of these indulgences were foreign to a kid growing up in Geelong. Toffee apples, candy (surely these translated as “lollies”), a thing called “fudge” and marshmallows. All standard American fare, but I had never seen such glamorous and downright marvelous creations. Reading that cookbook was my childhood version of winning the golden ticket for a chance to visit Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
In fact, I was so captivated, I regularly tried my hand a making marshmallow. My memory is a little vague about the process, but I will never forget the trouble I had with the powdered gelatin. It was incredibly hit and miss. Sometimes the marshmallow would set perfectly but on other occasions it would be either a sugary liquid or a tough white blob resembling plaster. When just perfect, I would toss the fluffy white delicacies in toasted shredded coconut and enjoy.
This trip down my culinary memory lane was sparked by catching up with Melbourne based organic chef, Rod Barbey. I first met Rod when I worked with Macro Wholefoods. We were searching for organic sweets to serve in our cafes. At the time Rod had opened BCOZ, a wonderful fully organic restaurant in Hawthorn. His menu was ahead of its time and the restaurant offered petit fours reminiscent of his childhood favourites such as snowballs, chocolate royales, monte carlos, wagon wheels, iced vovos, jelly slice, coconut roughs, coconut ice and Anzac biscuits.
Rod developed a snowball with fully organic ingredients. It was perfect for our incredibly demanding clientele and they sold like hotcakes. Unfortunately the Macro stores didn’t last long and were sold to Woolworths. I bought Farm Foods in Torquay and Rod transformed BCOZ restaurant into Organic Matters Food and Wine Store. Both businesses have since been sold and our lives have moved on.
As I discovered over a coffee with Rod, he has held on to the concept of a “Classic Snowball’, a confectionary that grabs your memory and reminds you of the good old days. It’s a sweet that was part of the quintessential fabric of life in Australia, including the ever popular “Snowball Drive”. He gave me a couple of samples and they are delicious. A far cry from the marshmallow I made as a child, these snowballs are enveloped in the most wondrous organic chocolate with silky smooth marshmallow inside. The brand is “Ground Hues” and is available at Peaches and Surfcoast Wholefoods in Torquay and good delis in Geelong. Following is a variation on that original marshmallow recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. By all means try it, but it would be far easier (and much less time consuming) to track down Rod’s marvelous creations.
- Melted butter, to grease
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- Extra 85g butter, melted, cooled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 1/2 tablespoon gelatine powder
- 3/4 cup caster sugar
- 1/3 cup shredded coconut, toasted
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 26 x 16cm (base measurement) slab pan with melted butter, then line with baking paper.
Sift flour into a large bowl. Add brown sugar and stir to combine. Add extra melted butter and vanilla and mix to combine. Spoon into prepared pan and press evenly over base.
Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden. Set aside to cool completely.
Meanwhile, pour 1/4 cup of the water into a microwave-safe jug and sprinkle with gelatine. Set aside for 5 minutes or until softened. Cook in microwave on high/100% for 20-30 seconds or until gelatine is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Put caster sugar and remaining water in a large bowl. Beat for 5 minutes or until mixture turns white. Add gelatine mixture and beat for 10 minutes or until a thick, white marshmallow forms.
Spread marshmallow onto cooled base. Stand for 1 hour or until marshmallow has set. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Cut into rectangles, using a large wet knife dipped into hot water between cuts.