Ginger crunch is a classic New Zealand slice that's best described as a cookie bar topped with ginger icing, but this dramatically under-sells this tasty treat. The base is buttery shortbread and the topping rich, smooth and sweet, all with a wonderful ginger kick. Deliciously good, and easy to make too.
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When we were living in Australia, one of the things I loved about many of the cafes was having some tasty sweet slices to choose from as a treat with your coffee. Slices are what may be described as a tray bake or cookie bar elsewhere, and come in a whole range of flavors.
Some have British roots or overlap, like millionaire's shortbread (known as caramel slice in Australia) while others are classically Australian like passionfruit slice or no bake lemon slice. Then there's this tasty one that's from New Zealand.
Origins of ginger crunch
While a few dishes cause debate on whether they are from Australia or New Zealand, like pavlova, a few others are more clear in their origins, and this is one of them. Apparently the first confirmed recipe for ginger crunch (also called ginger slice or ginger crunch slice) was in Edmond's Cookery Book, which is a bit like the Joy of Cooking or similar classic cook book in New Zealand, in 1955.
However whether it existed before then, or at least evolved from something else, is a little unclear. Since the original version has a shortbread base, some suggest Scottish roots. And indeed there's a strong Scottish connection in many parts of New Zealand, so it would fit.
Either way, it's a delicious treat that is a firm favorite in New Zealand, and also one you'll find here and there in Australia too. Some versions have a more oaty base or make it thicker, these days, which drifts away from the original. Here I've kept closer to the traditional style and it's certainly a version we find delicious.
Common ingredients (apart from maybe one)
In general, this slice uses a short list of common ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, ground ginger and baking powder. Both the shortbread base and the icing have ginger in them, to give lots of tasty gingery flavor.
The icing has one other key ingredient, though (other than powdered sugar): golden syrup. If you have any Australian/New Zealand/British connection, this will be a pretty familiar ingredient, as it goes in the likes of Anzac biscuits and flapjacks. However it less known elsewhere.
Golden syrup is a sugar cane syrup, technically a light treacle. It has a rich, distinct flavor that you really can't quite replace with other ingredients so is worth getting for this if you don't have any (and then you can make them again and other things too!). It stores well, so you have plenty time to find more uses for it.
If you can't get hold of golden syrup then a mix of honey and maple syrup is probably about the closest substitute.
Steps to make ginger crunch slice
This comes together in a few easy steps:
- Mix the base ingredients then press into the baking tin. It may seem a bit crumbly, but don't worry, it will hold together better than you might think.
- Bake the base - you don't want it to brown too much, just very lightly.
- Warm the icing ingredients as the base bakes - you want all the ingredients to melt and combine, but don't warm so much that they boil.
- Pour the icing over the base when it comes out the oven and is still warm - this helps the icing spread evenly and be nice and smooth once it cools.
- Leave to set, remove from baking tin then cut into squares or rectangles.
You can use the edges of the parchment to help lift the whole block out of the baking tin before you slice. It's a lot easier to cut when you have it on a board as one block rather than trying to cut inside the tin.
Top tips: preparing the base and adding icing
These are relatively easy but a few tips to help them come out well:
- Don't forget to line your baking tin - it really helps to get them out after baking.
- Make sure you press the crumbs in relatively flat - you can't adjust after baking, and an even base helps give an even thickness of the topping, too.
- Add the icing when the base is still warm - you want to use that heat to help the frosting spread when you pour it on top. It also helps it stick rather than be a separate layer, and be smooth.
- Don't be tempted to spread the icing too much - only spread briefly after pouring then leave it alone, or else the top won't be smooth.
These cookie bars store well in a sealed container at room temperature for a few days. That is, if they get a chance as they are pretty addictively good and so are all too easy to get through quickly!
Ginger crunch is a hidden gem of a treat - it might be well known in New Zealand and less so elsewhere, but that needs to change, as you'll soon taste why! Easy to make, with a great ginger flavor and a wonderful balance of textures, too.
Try these other tasty sweet treats with a touch of spice:
- Zimtsterne (cinnamon star cookies)
- Swedish cardamom buns
- Piernik (Polish gingerbread cake)
- Kleicha (Iraqi date cookies with a touch of cardamom)
- Plus get more snack recipes and Australian recipes (plus the odd New Zealand one, like this!) in the archives.
- 1 ¾ cup all purpose flour plain flour
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 9 ½ tablespoon unsalted butter softened
- 9 tablespoon sugar (9tbsp = ½ cup plus 1 tbsp)
For icing (topping)
- 6 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup powdered sugar icing sugar
- 3 tablespoon golden syrup
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- Line a 9 x 9 inch (20 x 20cm) baking tin with parchment (can also use a 18x28cm slice pan). You may want to lightly butter under the parchment to help the paper hold in place. Have some paper come up at least two opposite sides to help with taking the slice out once done. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
- Mix the flour, ginger and baking powder together. Separately, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth - you can use a hand mixer, stand mixer or food processor as you prefer. Add the flour mixture and mix to form an even crumb mixture. You want everything mixed but don't over-mix.
- Tip the crumbs into the lined baking tin and press into an even layer with the back of a spatula/spoon or your hands. Make sure the top is as even and flat as possible.
- Bake the base for around 20 - 25 minutes until gently brown on top.
- Meanwhile, towards the end of the baking time, place all of the icing ingredients in a small saucepan (butter, powdered sugar, golden syrup and ginger). Warm over a medium-low heat to melt the butter and stir regularly to combine everything so that you get a smooth icing. Keep cooking until everything combines well but don't boil.
- Once the base has cooked, immediately pour the warm icing over the top while still warm and in the tin. Gently spread to the corners and smooth the top but try to only touch the icing minimally (the more you spread, the more likely you are to make it become uneven when it cools).
- Leave to cool and firm up at room temperature for at least an hour. Once the top is firm and dry, use a thin knife to loosen from the sides of the baking tin then use the parchment to help lift it out as a whole block.
- Score the top to mark your slices then cut into pieces - I suggest around 16 squares, but you can make larger or smaller as you prefer.
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