Sunday 27 November 2011

Chocolate crackles and the copha conundrum

Chocolate crackles!  They fill me with a nostalgic glow.  They bring memories of childhood friends, baking with my mum, cake stalls, fetes and birthday parties.  Where there was fun, there were chocolate crackles.  Yet I haven't made them for years and years.  Why?  I don't like one of the main ingredients: copha.  This weekend we had Sylvia's child care fete so I took the opportunity for a wee experiment.

Firstly let me tell you about the weekend.  Though it has mainly been baking, shopping and bubbles in the backyard, it has been full as a state school.  I headed off to the shops yesterday in heavy rain.  I had to circle the carpark many times before I found a parking space and that everyone else had decided to do their Christmas shopping as well.  I came home laden down.  In my bag was Sylvia's first pair of thongs (photo above for those who might not use the same term).  She loved them.

Fortunately I remember E arriving in Australia and learning to wear thongs or I wouldn't be nearly so sympathetic to her funny flippy floppy steps.  I have worn thongs for so many years that I can't remember what it was like not to do so.

Likewise I was making chocolate crackles from a young age.  They were just part of my life.  Yet when I made them last night I was amazed at how long it took for the copha to melt.  It made me dislike the stuff even more.  Those of you outside Australia will probably be unfamiliar with copha.  It is described as a vegetable shortening.  It is made of hydrogenated coconut oil and soya bean lecithin.  It was once ubiquitous in Australian children's sweet treats but is less so today now that such fats are looked upon less favourably.

I decided I would experiment with one batch with copha and one with coconut oil, which is more popular among the health-conscious these days.  Yet I am not so keen on coconut oil either.  Then I found a recipe that used melted chocolate instead of any oils.  Having read that use of copha has declined because chocolate is more affordable, it made sense to try this alternative recipe.  The darker chocolate crackles are the ones with melted chocolate. 

In addition to the chocolate crackles, I made a Banana Cake and Gluten Free Brownies.  Then I worried about how to take the food along to the fete.  Why did I make a rectangular loaf when it is far easier to find plates to fit round cakes?  Should I package up individual chocolate crackles?  Was cling film enough to cover them?  Did I have enough room to write the ingredients on my labels?  NB These days all the ingredients need to be written down for cake sales.  I was glad I found some freezer bags to cover the brownies after I dropped the plates covered with cling film.  They remained on the plates but I thought it would be hard to carry them about at the fete.

The fete was busy and chaotic and colourful as all fetes should be.  This is our first experience with this centre so we had to work out the ticketing system.  Thankfully there were vegetarian sausages and pizza on offer for lunch.  I was even more impressed that there were little tubs of salad to go with them.  Sylvia enjoyed some of the art activities and got green flowers painted on her face by a fairy.  E took along his ukelele and strummed on it in the garden.  Even dolly got a new crown.

At the end of the fete a lot of my baking was sold but not all.  I was not surprised that the copha chocolate crackles were less popular.  The only advantage of this version is that they were more appropriate for vegan and dairy-free diets.  I much preferred Geoff's chocolate crackles.  They were far richer and had less of the oiliness that I don't like so much.  It is a joy to find that I can now make chocolate crackles without having to buy copha ever again.

Other recipes using rice bubbles:

From Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Mars Bar Slice
Pooh Bear Honey Slice
White Christmas

From elsewhere:
Corn and chive bubble pikelets - Kelloggs (Australia)
Almond butter rice crisp treats - Oh She Glows
Chewy rice bubbles bar (with condensed milk) -
Strawberries and cream muesli bars -
Two tone chocolate crispies - Chocolate Log Blog
Walnut surprises - Kitchen Maid

Chocolate crackles
From the Kelloggs website
makes 24

1 cup icing sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
250g copha, chopped
3 tbsp cocoa
4 cups Rice Bubbles

Melt copha in a large heatproof mixing bowl in the microwave.  It seemed to take ages compared to butter.  Mine got so hot that I left the last few lumps to melt in the heat of the mixture rather than returning to the microwave. Gradually stir in icing sugar and cocoa.  Now add the coconut and rice bubbles, stirring very gently until they are all covered.  Spoon into patty pan papers and cool in the fridge.  I think these are ok to keep at room temperature once firmed up but if you are keeping for quite some time, I would probably keep them in the fridge.

Geoff's chocolate crackles
From the Sydney Morning Herald on 18 August 2010
makes 16

200g milk chocolate (I used melts)
100g dark chocolate (I used 50% cocoa)
3 cups Rice Bubbles
1 cup dessicated coconut

Melt melt chocolates in a large heatproof mixing bowl.  Gently stir in rice bubbles and coconut.  Spoon into patty pan papers and keep in the fridge to firm up.  As with above chocolate crackles, can be kept out of the fridge unless being kept for more than a few days.

On the Stereo:
Bill Breathes: Phish


  1. I know these as chocolate crispy cakes, and we always made them with just melted chocolate and rice krispies (rice bubbles!). Or if you were being fancy, a bit of butter or marg and some golden syrup. But usually just the melted choc. I understand the copha problem now. I always thought it was just a little copha, as I would use butter in my style of recipe, not the copha holding it all together! Reminds me of childhood too - I always used to make them with my mum, and it was the first thing we ever made in infant school!

    Thanks for the pic of the thongs (they're lovely ones!), I had heard the term before, but it refers to a different item of clothing here, not really suitable for Sylvia's age group ;-)

  2. I have never seen chocolate crackles made with chocolate before, but it makes sense - they look delicious! Sylvia's thongs are really cute. Wasn't Saturday's weather atrocious!

  3. I've always hated copha, but loved the idea of chocolate crackles. I remember people thinking I was a strange child for never finishing a chocolate crackle (because the copha would melt and they'd go all oily and gross). Now I'll have to make Geoff's recipe and catch up for all my lost chocolate crackle time haha.

  4. Oh yes, the dreaded copha! Funnily enough, I remember that even as a kid I didn't really like the taste of chocolate crackles, and would always spend my fete money on toffees in pattypan cases instead :) And would ask mum to make mars bar slice with rice bubbles, not crackles! Definitely like the sound of the all-chocolate version, and guess what? I still have some rice bubbles left after my own recent baking adventures! Just gotta figure out a way to add peanut butter...

  5. Thanks for the post. We are currently living in Dubai and have not been able to find copha. Glad to have found an alternative recipe to try. My daughter got a few long hard stares here when she call out to me in the mall that she had lost her thong! :)

  6. I remember these! AT pot lucks, they are very popular :)

  7. I have to admit I love these kind of crispy sweets, especially with peanut butter, we used to use marshmallows, now we use brown rice syrup, it seres the double purpose of holding all together and sweetening. Dangerous stuff to buy though as I'm convinced Adam eats it right out of the jar, and once I dropped a jar on the floor, not easy to clean up!

  8. The second chocolate crackles sound much better - and may prompt me to revisit that childhood memory too. My grandmother liked to use copha but it has such a distinctive, slightly icky, taste! I don't like it at all, even aside from the health issues.

  9. I am wearing thongs right now! It never occurred to me that people had to learn how to wear them! I really liked honey joys as a child :)

  10. I love the photo of Sylvia's feet, so cute! I call them thongs or flip flops. Geoff's chocolate crackles sound like they'd be more delicious than the original kind. I've never had crackles but they sound really good especially with the coconut. Interesting that that cereal is called rice bubbles! Here it's rice krispies. I wonder hwy they made it different.

  11. I'm sure my mum made something very similar when we were kids--we had them alternately with Rice Krispies (aka Bubbles!) or crushed Corn Flakes. The original recipe used Crisco, which I suspect is similar to Copha--always hated that stuff, too.

  12. Thanks C - E said they had similar cakes in Scotland when he was young and I think I have heard of others talk about them in the uk - we do have some Australian recipes where it is just a little copha with melted chocolate (such as chocolate caramel slice) and you can substitute butter easily but chocolate crackles really are full of copha - I thought I had better make sure no one thought sylvia was wearing inappropriate underwear when I said she was wearing thongs!

    Thanks Cakelaw - I liked how geoff's recipe keeps that particular chocolate crackle taste albeit a bit richer - the rain at the moment is intense - we have had some heavy showers today

    Thanks Amie - enjoy catching up - even if you like copha I think chocolate crackles are often too big for kids - I thought maybe I could try making them with mini muffin cups

    Thanks Hannah - I didn't discover mars bar slice until I was older or else I think I would have preferred it - and I loved toffees - haven't made those for ages! will look forward to a chocolate peanut butter rice bubble slice (oh she glows has an interesting recipe for this sort of slice)

    Thanks Shar - hope you enjoy these - they are so rich that I wonder about mini muffin cups for young kids - I know what you mean about "thongs" - I remember my colleagues in the UK laughing when I told them about my sister losing her thong while climbing a cliff!

    Thanks Anh - I think they are popular because the texture is great, you can't go wrong with chocolate and fill so many of us with nostalgia

    Thanks Theresa - that is interesting about brown rice syrup - I have a rice syrup but am not sure if it is the same thing - wouldn't like to drop the jar - I like the idea of peanut butter in these but had a bad experience trying it in a recipe a while back and now that sylvia has her peanut allergy it is far less likely to be used that way

    Thanks Kari - I know what you mean - when you find out copha isn't really that good for you it is a relief!

    Thanks Lorraine - try seeing an adult wearing thongs who has lived his life wearing shoes and socks!!! Sylvia actually has trainer thongs with little elastic loops around the heels - I loved honey joys too - must revisit them too

    Thanks Ashley - strangely enough I never think of them with coconut but I think that is probably one of the reasons I loved them so much because many of my childhood favourites have coconut - my understanding is that rice bubbles and rice crispies are pretty much the same - might be merely a matter of who owned what name

    Thanks Ricki - I am never sure what crisco is but I did read some info suggesting copha might be like crisco - but when we were kids we weren't so picky :-)

  13. Thank you so much! My sister has been begging me to make her some chocolate crackles but I've always found the copha to be bleurg!!! so I told her NO! (Mind you, my sister is 47) I then told her that if she bought the ingredients that my 14 year old daughter would make them, but she was screwing her nose up too as none of us really like the old originals. I am most definately going to be making the chocolate version of the chocolate crackles. In fact, I am going to buy the ingredients today and give them a burl.



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