By the time I hit 6th form, I had a bitch of a drama teacher and was just a bit over it all, really. After a year gap-studenting at a performing arts school in England, my goals shifted to wanting to do something really challenging at University. Really push myself, or something. For better or worse, I went to law school, and all I can say is it's just as well I didn't have a blog back then.
Both as a child, and at university, I liked to bake. Whether it was because of the simple list of ingredients, or maybe, subconsciously because of the name, hollywood slice has always been one of my signature baking dishes. It's a very sweet and very simple slice, and I believe that it was these buttery sugary foundations that have got me to where I am today. Cooking on TV, a dayjob as a lawyer, writing about food, and sitting at home, single, housesitting for my parents, surrounded by cats on a weeknight crying into my laptop watching Oscar acceptance speeches on YouTube.
My workmate the other day said if I was looking for a life insurance broker, he knew a good one. I asked him if he thought I was really in the market for life insurance, as someone without dependants, or assets? He said no. "Oh, and you don't have a partner" he added. Whilst the 'woe is me' gag is entertaining (my workmate squirmed and apologised when I pulled a 'thanks for reminding me' face), having no dependants and no assets and no partner is actually awesome.
It gives me the ability to spend an hour and a half on a weeknight watching aforementioned YouTube speeches unashamedly, without any demands on my attention (by kids or boyfriends or books to balance). It gives me the ability to go on dates at the drop of a hat (
It also gives me the shameless ability to console myself from workmates' life-insurance and cute-baby bragging, with $40 afternoon tea lipstick purchases, and virtually no guilt at buying a $17 bag of cocoa. It sounds outlandish. And it is. Growing up, and at uni, I never would have dreamed of it. And I'm sure my expensive baking ingredients days are numbered, which makes them all the sweeter.
For old times sake, and because it dragged me away from Colin, and Dame Julie, and Julia, and Robin, and Ben, and because baking seriously helps whenever I'm a bit mopey or a bit down, I made hollywood slice this week. I used my fancy-pants cocoa, and my fancy-pants vanilla paste, and it was nostalgic but relevant, and sweet and just really great. A blast from the past but full of promise for the future. All wrapped up in a biscuit filled chocolate slice. Who would have thought?
The original, and not-quite-as-glamourous sounding "Unbaked Hollywood Cake" can be found in the Gwen Rogers Kindergarten cookbook; my Mum's copy I would estimate as being from around 1989. It's always just been hollywood slice to us.
1/2 cup sugar (brown or white)
vanilla (the recipe doesn't stipulate, but I would use 1 teaspoon of the best you have. Most recently I used 1 teaspoon of Heilala vanilla paste)
1 tbsp cocoa (because I could, I used Sabato's valhrona cocoa powder, from Nosh)
1 packet wine biscuits (vanilla, round, or super wine all do the trick)
1 egg (fresh and free range, always)
Crush the wine biscuits in a food processor (at times of food-processor-less-ness, a plastic bag and a heavy object works a treat).
Melt butter, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla, together in a saucepan. Beat the egg, add to the mixture, and stir for three minutes (I did this off the element so as not to have the egg scramble).
Add the pulverised biscuits to the mixture and mix well. Press into tin (I used a greased and lined brownie pan). Leave to set in the fridge. The recipe says you can leave it uniced, but don't be silly.
Before the days of fondant and ganache and buttercream, there was only one way to make chocolate icing in my book, and it was like this. Quantities are very approximate.
Icing sugar - about a cup and a half
1 tblsp cocoa
1knob of butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 tblsp boiling water
Put all ingredients in a bowl, then add the water. Stir like crazy. Like a crazy person who is possessed. If it's too runny, sprinkle over more sugar. If it's too much like paste, the teenciest bit of water should be added. You can lose whole bags of icing sugar this way though, so proceed with caution! You should get a glossy paste of thick pouring consistency, which will set on the slice, in the fridge.