Crunchies (a South African biscuit)

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of many German foods and drinks: Lebkuchen (and all the other Christmas cookies), Stollen, marzipan, anything with Holunder (elderflower), Knödel (dumplings), rye bread, quark, Mohnkuchen (poppyseed cake), Bergkäse (a smokey cheese), Mandelhörnchen (an almond confectionary), and so on. But as an expat, sometimes you just feel like eating something from home. As a result, every now and then my mother gets emails asking for recipes for things we used to make, and my latest craving is for Crunchies, an oaty baked square that is great for a quick breakfast or in-between snack. I honestly didn’t realize it was a South African thing until I noticed you can’t find them anything else. The closest thing we ate to them outside of SA was in the UK, and it was also good, but not as crunchy and a bit sweeter.

Here is the recipe she sent: (complete with her notes)

250g butter or margarine
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 cup* sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 heaped cups oats
1 heaped cup flour
1 heaped cup coconut
pinch of salt
Melt margarine, sugar and syrup on stove
Add bicarb.  It will froth  (mine didn’t)
Add all other ingredients
Press into a greased baking tray
Bake at 140-150 C for about 30 minutes (usually less)
Cut into squares while still warm
*1 cup is 250ml in SA

So I got all psyched up to make them and headed off to the supermarket to buy the ingredients.

Problem number one:  I couldn’t find golden syrup. It turns out you don’t get it in Germany, at least not the version we are familiar with that is made from sugarcane. However my colleague told me that you can buy a syrup made from sugar beets, which should be quite similar. This is called Rübenkraut. They do sell Ahornsirup (which I think is maple syrup), however using that or honey would make the Crunchies taste completely different, which sort of defeats the purpose when you’re craving something from home, but it might be worth trying as a variation. My colleague told me you can also buy a kind of syrup made from apple juice, which gives an apple flavour to whatever you’re baking.

Update: after reading this blog post, my mom informed me that she’d left some golden syrup here when she visited last year. It was so busy during their visit that I forgot completely! Problem solved.

Problem number two: I couldn’t find bicarbonate of soda. Searching online revealed that there is something called Natron available that is the same. I haven’t seen it before, but I’ll hunt for it next time I go to a larger supermarket. Another option is to  just use baking powder, but I have a feeling that will taste different  – the Crunchies have a specific taste that I think comes from the bicarbonate of soda.

Update: I found the Natron.

Problem number three: I couldn’t find desiccated coconut. Maybe they’ll have it in an Asian store?

Update: Happily , i found desiccated coconut in one of the bigger Rewe’s, so it seems you can get it in Germany after all.

So, the Crunchie baking mission turned out successfully after some intial hiccups…they didn’t taste exactly how they taste when I make them at home, but they were still a nice breakfast snack.

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