If there is one dessert that is synonymous with school dinners, for me at least, it is chocolate crunch. This hard biscuit was always served with custard and it was usually either pink or, on special occasions, green (and mint flavoured!)
I always thought this was a dessert that was unique to my primary/infant school. However, it seems that almost anyone I speak to had the pleasure of this jaw-breaking treat. Always served with custard of some description, many of you will also know this dessert by another name: chocolate concrete. Either way, the name says it all… Chocolate-flavoured, and hard enough to break your teeth as a child.
I am from the era before Jamie Oliver waged war with the humble school dinner lady. My school dinners mainly consisted of processed meat product (usually in the shape of a dinosaur) with a side of chips. I recall once trying to be health and going to the kitchen to ‘order’ a salad for lunch. You used to have to go at morning break if you wanted a salad. They only served two a day (for the whole school!) I truly am from the era of the turkey twizzler. Terrible food aside, I was always amazed by the culinary prowess of our school’s dinner ladies when it came to desserts. Dessert was always good. There was no semolina pudding, no tapioca. No, dessert consisted of syrup sponge, spotted dick, chocolate cake… Chocolate crunch!
Just as important as the ‘crunch’ itself was the custard. Chocolate crunch has to be served with custard (and not only because it is too hard to eat otherwise!) Custard was always served from a large copper jug at school. Sometimes their was two to choose from. Mint-flavoured, green custard was a rarity. It usually went fast when served, as a result. Pink custard, though, was an almost-daily occurrence. So, with that in mind, I shall divulge the secret to pink custard in my recipe (psst… It’s just food colouring!)
Talking of custard, this recipe doesn’t include a recipe for homemade custard. It would never have been ‘homemade’ at school, in any event. It would have been Birds custard, of course! I promise I shall write up my recipe for a real custard soon. For now, however, behold the instant pleasure of Birds custard!
For the Chocolate Crunch
- 200 g plain flour
- 200 g caster sugar
- 75 g cocoa powder
- 100 g butter melted
For the Pink Custard!
- 35 g Birds instant custard powder
- 15 g sugar
- 500 ml milk
- 4-5 drops pink gel food colouring
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 9" square tin with baking parchment.
- First, melt the butter in a saucepan and leave to cool.
- Next, in a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and cocoa powder.
- Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread it out with the back of a spoon.
- Once smooth and flat, create a cross-hatched pattern with the prongs of a fork (going across the mix horizontally first then vertically).
- Bake on the middle shelf for 20 minutes. Leave to fully cool on a wire rack.
- In a bowl, milk together the custard powder and sugar.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of the milk to the custard powder and sugar, to make a paste.
- Next, heat the remaining milk in a saucepan until nearly boiling.
- Pour the hot milk over the custard paste and whisk until combined.
- Return the whole mixture to the saucepan and gently heat whilst whisking until the custard is thickened.
- Add the food colouring and whisk to combine. Serve over the cooled chocolate crunch in generous amounts.