Friday, February 18, 2011

Slicegate – The Caramel Slice Showdown

I love caramel slice. Especially the caramel bit. I make it the way I like it, but I started wondering how this would stack up against the commercially available stuff. And there are some brilliant caramel slices out there. Unfortunately there are also some really, really awful ones.

So I made a slab of slice, then went out and bought specimens from three different places to pit against my creation. Nine willing taste testers were easily found within the office, and it was on.

I went to great lengths to try and make sure the test was completely blind. I brought the slices into the office in a plain plastic slice container so no-one could know which was which. I presented the samples one at a time. I was hoping to get people’s honest opinions. I think I achieved that. Or at least I hope I did.

I gave each person a scoresheet where they would rate each slice on a scale of 1-5, 1 being the worse and 5 the best, against 5 criteria: base, caramel, chocolate, visual appeal, and overall enjoyment.

Final scores were out of 225 for each slice: a score of out 5 for each criteria from 9 people

Here are the results.

4th place:

Slice B
Base: 21/45
Caramel: 20/45
Chocolate: 24/45
Visual Appeal: 30/45
Overall Enjoyment: 23/45For a total 118/225

3rd place:

Slice A
Base: 23/45
Caramel: 24/45
Chocolate: 26/45
Visual Appeal: 24/45
Overall Enjoyment: 23.5/45
For a total 120.5/225

2nd place:

Slice D
Base: 23/45
Caramel: 31/45
Chocolate: 25/45
Visual Appeal: 27/45
Overall Enjoyment: 26/45
For a total 132/225

And 1st place:
Slice C
Base: 33/45
Caramel: 33/45
Chocolate: 31/45
Visual Appeal: 38/45
Overall Enjoyment: 35.5/45
For a total 170.5/225

I will now reveal the origins of each slice.

Slice B came from Coles. At $4.49 for a pack of 6 slim fingers it was the second cheapest option. As you can see, though, it didn’t rank highly at all with the test group which, I think, means any saving in $$ isn’t worth it in the flavour stakes. Personally I found this slice to be quite plastic with a flavour that I didn’t like at all. In fact, I took one bite then turfed the rest of my piece into the bin.

Slice A came from Michel’s Patisserie. At $3.95 per piece (and they weren’t the biggest pieces: Slice D comes in slightly larger portions) it was the most expensive of those sampled. Comments from the testers include base is “too crumbly” and “a bit dry”, and the caramel “is more fudgy” and “a bit grainy”.

Slice D came from Brumby’s bakery. At $3.20 per piece it rated in the middle of the expense scale. One tester considered this “the best” caramel (and I have to admit, I love their caramel too). They also suggested more base and less caramel. As you can see, the ration of caramel to other layers is... well, the picture speaks for itself. Another tester suggested there was not enough chocolate. For me, if I’m buying caramel slice instead of making it, this is the one I choose and it’s mainly because of the quality of the caramel.

Slice C was the one I made. I can’t work out the cost-per-piece, but it comes down to not-bloody-much. The payoff is, though, the time spent preparing, baking, cooling, cooking, baking, cooling, melting, and cooling. I’m so very proud that my humble little offering ranked so highly. You can find the recipe for it here.

Finally, once the testing was over, I brought all slices back out for the rest of the office to enjoy morning tea. I’m happy to report that C was finished first. A narrowly beat D to be finished next, and I ended up throwing the last of B out.

I really enjoyed this, and I hope my testers did too. I’m already trying to think of ideas to do a similar thing in a month or so with something else I like to bake. Ideas? Suggestions? Taste-testing volunteers?

Monday, February 07, 2011


I watched The Shiralee on Saturday for the first time since I was about 8 years old. Needless to say, I appreciated it rather more this time around. It got me thinking. You may wish to stop reading now, because the rest of this post is both rambling and perhaps not happy, but it’s something that I want to get out of my head. And sometimes I can't quite find the words that I'm looking for.

To a little girl, her daddy is a hero. A veritable demigod. He’s Prince Charming and Superman and Sir Galahad, all rolled into one, no matter how shithouse he is as a daddy.

Sure, little girls grow up, and they learn that their parents are human too, but there’s still a lurking ideal, a belief that your dad can do anything, simply because he’s your dad.

So what must it take for that belief to be damaged? To, in fact, be broken, shattered into countless pieces, to the point where a daughter has nothing left but contempt for her father? For her to want nothing more to do with him? I can tell you what it took for me.

My earliest memory of this man, and my only memory of him before the age of 8 or 9, is not of being cuddled, or of love, or having fun, but of him repeatedly hitting my upper arm when I said I didn’t know what I wanted for breakfast one morning. He asked, and when I said “I don’t know” he held my arm out and started hitting it, asking after each time what I wanted for breakfast. Naturally I did nothing but scream and cry, and it wasn’t until mum came to find out what was going on that he stopped. A lovely memory, yes?

Throughout my entire life, he had been there on and off, seemingly as the mood took him. I’m not talking about being physically there, as admittedly my parents were divorced so he only saw us twice a year, but THERE in even a most general sense. Even those two times a year, he’d take us to his mother’s place and, for the most part, I entertained myself by either playing with my cousin or the neighbour’s kids, or my uncles would spend time with me. I still remember, after my brother left home to go to uni, I didn’t hear from our father for a while. After being used to weekly phone calls this hurt, and my 12-year-old self wondered what I’d done to make him stop talking to me.

In my mid-teens it seems that my father decided he wanted to be “dad” and moved near to where I went to school. There followed three years in which I actually got to know him, this man who called himself my father.

Into my adult life the pattern continued – a couple of months of regular contact, followed by more months of nothing. And yet all of this I forgave, because hey, it’s your dad, right? And you’re meant to love your parents. The problem is that I’d learned that my father was someone that I didn’t particularly like. This caused me no end of guilt and grief from the conflicting emotions it raised.

Even up until the final time, the only time it seemed my father initiated any contact with me (bear in mind, he lived 5-10 minutes away) was when his partner prompted him. The final episode happened late last year. Suffice to say there was a falling out, and I claim responsibility for my part in it. I think we could have overcome this and probably continued on as we had been for many years to come, except for what he did. What did he do? He lied to me about his mother’s health. He contacted his brothers and threatened them that if they attended my wedding then they would no longer be part of the family. He called my brother and told him to think “very carefully about the consequences” if he attended my wedding. He spread lies to the family about things I had allegedly said and done. He defamed my fiancĂ© (now husband). He not once actually spoke to me during all of this. Oh wait, I tell a lie – he did speak to me: when I called him to find out which hospital my grandmother was in. All of this over something that, one year ago, he agreed with me on.

The neglect and other shit throughout my life I have forgiven, time and time again. This last I will not. His last words to me were vindictive and childish, and that is his burden to bear. He has lost more than a daughter, I have lost far less than a father. I am now at peace within myself, the conflicting emotions and guilt are gone, as I feel absolutely no requirement to love or honour him as my parent. I thank him for setting me free.