One of the first books I read was the first volume of an autobiography by Lauris Dorothy Edmond - Hot October. Edmond is a well-loved New Zealand poet. You can read more about her life in my book review, but the book was also useful as an insight into food of the 1930s and 1940s. I previously made and posted about rock cakes, but had a chance to make Sydney Special. The following passage comes from her childhood.
"Greenmeadows was a village, and we took part in local activities and performances without question. Our mother was a faithful member of the Women's Institute, intermittently secretary or president of the Gardening Circle and always president of the Drama Circle. They wrote away to Samuel French and Co for hired sets of plays, English drawing-room comedies mostly, and either rehearsed or performed them in the Taradale Town Hall or did readings in one another's sitting rooms. When it was our turn there was much preparation, the making of peanut brownies, rock cakes, Sydney Special (a concoction of rolled oats, coconut, sugar, butter, also known as Doormat) and orange cake."
I looked at quite a few recipes before selecting the recipe I used. Some didn't include coconut, some didn't include oats, some didn't have cocoa powder in the lower mixture. It almost has the texture of a Rice Krispie Treat, which you then cover in chocolate. It all sounded so sweet that I elected to use dark instead of milk chocolate. This rendered everything not very sweet, but my tasters (work colleagues!) preferred it this way. I think if I made it for kids, milk chocolate would be the ticket. This recipe also has cornflakes in it, an ingredient I came across multiple times in New Zealand sweets. It must be of the same era where every housewife was discovering the usefulness of processed food!
Another reason this makes a great treat for kids is that it is easy to make, and I can see involving kids in crunching together the parts in the layer before baking, and sprinkling the chocolate chips on top, spreading them as they melt.
Sydney Special (aka "Doormat")
Recipe from Leeks and Limoni, where she also refers to it as "Chocolate Crunch Slices"
50g dessicated coconut
1 tablespoon cocoa
150g self raising flour (or AP flour + a few additions)
200g milk (or dark!) chocolate for the top
A baking tin, 17 x 26cm approx, greased and base lined with greaseproof paper (I used a 9x9 pan and parchment paper.)
Preheat oven to 160°C (I did 350 F.)
Melt the butter and sugar together over a low heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Pour and press evenly into the prepared tin (pan).
Bake for 20-25 mins. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin (pan).
Melt the chocolate and pour over the top. (I let the heat of the baked part do this for me!)
When cold, cut into squares or rectangles as you prefer. (The chocolate, once firm, dictated how big the pieces would be, and I just let it break apart as it seemed to desire.)