One of the issues I have faced with my international travels and country-hopping is figuring how to translate recipes between countries. Things like temperature and measurements are easy to switch between metrics and imperial but other things like ingredients can be trickier. I grew up in the USA but immigrated to Australia when I was 19 years old. I moved back to the USA ten years ago, for a few years, and drove myself crazy trying to cook my favourite Aussie recipes there. It turns out Corn Flour is called Corn Starch, Capsicum is called Bell Pepper, Rockmelon is known as Cantaloupe, and… horror of horrors… Golden Syrup and Copha had NO equivalent in the USA. Whaaaat??? Tragedy!!!
One of my ‘crowd favourite’ Aussie recipes is the Mars Bar Slice. One dear friend deemed it to be “evilly brilliant”. He’s right; it is. The recipe is so ubiquitous in Australia that I don’t even know who first gave me this recipe or who the original author is but I have had it in my recipe files for decades. When I moved back to America I discovered I could not make it there – no golden syrup or copha which are two very important ingredients. I trawled the internet for solutions. With relief, I discovered that Karo syrup could be substituted for Golden Syrup but there was almost no information on a substitute for copha. My illusion that Google knew everything was shattered. I did finally find one site that recommended substituting Crisco shortening for the copha… NO NO NO NO NO! Please do not do this! Learn from my horrible, terrible mistake and NEVER do this. They are not the same thing and Crisco affects the taste considerably making ‘evilly brilliant’ completely ‘inedible’! Eventually I gave up. I cried tears of frustration, filed the recipe away, and tried to forget how much I loved this slice…. until I returned to Australia where I promptly made a big batch and ate them till I was sick.
Fast forward a number of years and I am once again visiting the United States. My youngest daughter decided not to return to Australia with me, and promptly married a wonderful American man. They recently gave birth to my first grandchild – a beautiful little boy – so I am visiting them and learning how to be a grandma. It’s early days yet, but this may end up being the ‘hat’ I am happiest to wear in life! Anyways, my daughter asked me to make the Mars Bar slice for her Bible Study group tomorrow night. I totally forgot the horrible conundrum I found myself in 10 years ago – there is no substitute for Copha in the USA – until I opened my recipe file on Evernote (I finally digitised almost all of my recipes and put them in Evernote so I can access them anywhere, anytime). But it’s been 10 years… so maybe now someone sells it here? Or the internet has better advice for substitutions? So off I went to Google it again. The same awful, misdirected advice to use Crisco showed up. Ugh. However, I kept scrolling… and thanks to the hipster movement and the trendy popularity of coconut oil…. I found a solution. Coconut oil is a substitute for copha. Because copha is also made from coconut! Hallelujah!
So, armed with this knowledge, I checked my daughter’s pantry where I found the necessary dark Karo syrup and coconut oil. I then hurried off to Walmart to buy the remaining ingredients. Which is where I hit another snag… there were no Mars bars in the candy aisle. I started to panic before remembering… they’re called Milky Way in America, which is not the same thing as Milky Way bars in Australia. Mars (AUS) is Milky Way (USA). Mars (USA) is a US Milky Way with Almonds. Milky Way (AUS) is like a miniature US 3 Musketeers Bar. Are you confused yet? They’re all made by the same confectionary company, so why do they have different names in different countries? But back to the story… with a joyful cry, I grabbed a 6-pack of Milky Way bars from the shelf, found the Cadbury Chocolate bars, and got the other ingredients I needed before heading home to make the slice, American style.
This is a good place to put in a friendly warning about what chocolate you buy for the topping on the slice. This is not the time to skimp on quality. The chocolate you melt and pour over the top has a huge impact on the taste. I tend to use Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate for these. There is a well-known American chocolate that I won’t name here that might be fine for eating, but it is too ‘waxy’ tasting for the slice, in my humble opinion.
So, now the slice is made and of course we had to sample it before we subjected my daughter’s friends to it. I mean, what if the recipe conversion failed? We didn’t want to serve others something that tasted terrible or could make them sick, right? The verdict? It’s pretty darn close to the original Aussie recipe. But I think we need to eat more to be sure. Which means I need to make another batch or two before tomorrow’s Bible Study.
Both recipes are below so whether you are in Australia, America, or somewhere else in the world, you should be able to make your own batch of evil brilliance.
Some helpful hints:
- Three of the candy bars can be roughly chopped (they’re going to be melted down). One should be chopped as finely as possible as it will be mixed in with the rice bubbles. I discovered that a santoku knife does a better job of this than a chef’s knife (which is what I mainly use when I cook).
- Don’t skip lining the pan with wax paper or baking paper. You will regret it. These slices will be impossible to get out if you don’t use paper and they will stick to aluminum foil and you will spend ages picking little specks of foil off them that stuck to them when you tried to peel it off. Please don’t ask me how I know this. Just trust me.
- The paper will stick to the pan better if you put some spray oil on the pan first. Also, cutting a diagonal line in each corner of the paper means you can fit it to the rectangular pan better. Trim any excess bits inside the pan so the paper lies flat against the sides. Leave the paper sticking up over the top of the pan. You will pull on this to get the slice out of the pan later.
- There are several methods for melting the chocolate and copha/coconut oil. In the USA, I used my old Wilton electric chocolate melter which my daughter still had. Oh how I’ve missed this appliance! In Australia, I use one of two methods. Method A: put the chocolate and copha/coconut oil in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir constantly until it is melted. Method B: put the chocolate and copha/coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl and put it on medium-high (not high!) in 30 second intervals, stirring between intervals. When you melt chocolate in the microwave, it keeps its form no matter how hot it gets, making it easy to mistake it for having not melted and therefore burning it. Stirring it is what causes it to lose its form so it is really important to stir between short microwave intervals to avoid burning it.
- Do not eat the whole pan in one sitting. Yes, they are that good. But they are also that rich and I won’t be responsible for you either getting sick or gaining a ton of weight. 🙂
The recipes for both versions are below. Feel free to comment on this blog or head over to the Homemade by BridgetA facebook page and comment there! Don’t forget to share pictures of how your version turned out!