This classic Doncaster childhood dessert recipe will take you back in time
Chocolate concrete has been a staple in dinner halls in Doncaster for decades - columnist Kirsty-Jo Muddiman shares her grandma’s recipe so you can recreate it at home.
In an effort to cut down on our family single use plastic I have stopped buying chocolate biscuits, chocolate bars and cakes.
This move has not gone down very well with anyone in the family.
We all miss the sweet treats in our pack-up. What can I do?
Lots of the changes I’ve made to reduce my plastic consumption in July have brought my Grandma to mind; the things she did echoing back in my life now, and I’ve found myself asking, “What did Grandma do?” when I’m faced with a plastic dilemma.
Grandma Betty, worked on the school meals in Doncaster and I was lucky enough to inherit her hand-annotated notes on the staple dishes of school meals and I remember my absolute childhood favourite.
You might have had it with pink sauce, custard or chocolate custard and depending on what cook prepared your concrete it might have been soft in the middle or rock hard.
I remember one catastrophic day at primary school when my concrete flew out of my bowl to be lost forever.
Sad, sad times.
Still, our school cook, Mrs Mars, also made a mean chocolate concrete and so it remains that chocolate concrete brings back happy childhood memories for me.
If you’re of a certain age, and you went to school in Doncaster, we can share in a nostalgic recipe which won’t break the bank.
I found the recipe for “Chocolate Crunch” in Betty’s notebook.
The recipe is for a bulk batch, what with it being for school dinners, and warns, “keep hot otherwise crunch will set hard”!
Well, all chocolate crunch is, is a tray-bake, to use an Americanism.
You can make some for Sunday dinner pudding to have hot and the rest you can cut up for a packed lunch and snacks during the week.
Because the nutritional value and the financial cost per child was at the heart of school dinners back then, the recipes are designed to be cheap but to give a balance over the five days, the month, and actually over the year too, taking into account the seasonality of fresh produce.
So whilst we didn’t get chocolate concrete too often at school, it’s an affordable change from chocolate biscuits and you’ll know exactly what’s in it.
You can put nuts, seeds and dried fruit in to have a change or you can keep it just how it is.
One thing I will say is that if Betty asked us if we wanted it hard, like concrete, she would drop the tin on the floor from about a foot high after about 10 minutes cooling.
As I said, the recipe was for catering quantities, so I needed to trial a scaled-down version- Betty did all of this in her head but I’m not too hot on imperial weights and I much prefer to work in grams.
As it’s difficult to cut eggs in half, the recipe I came up with has more egg than the original but the good news is that if you use vegan fat, you should be able to substitute the egg in this recipe with silken tofu (2 large teaspoons), making this a vegan treat too.
Most ingredients I have based the costs on are plastic-free but the cocoa powder has a plastic lid and the baking powder comes in a plastic pot (which could be reused).
Sign up to our daily newsletter
The i newsletter cut through the noise
It may be possible to get plastic-free alternatives for these if you have the time to search.
If you have a school-dinners recipe you’d like me to look for, just get in touch, it might just be in Betty’s notebook!
Cost of ingredients:£1.23
Number of portions:
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time:30 minutes
250g Margarine (Tesco baking block, 55p)
250g Caster sugar (29p, Aldi)
340g Plain flour(10.2p, Aldi)
30g Cocoa (13.1p, Aldi)
2 tsp Baking powder (4.2p, Aldi)
1 egg (11.5p, Aldi)
Set oven to 170oC.
Grease a 20 cm round cake tin (or similar).
Put all dry ingredients into a food mixer (or bowl if your doing it by hand).
Rub in margarine until fully absorbed (crumbly texture).
Add egg and mix until mixture has bound together.
Push mixture into greased tin (about 3 cm thick).
Decorate the surface with a fork if you fancy it. Bake at 170oC for 25-30 minutes.
When cooked, sprinkle with caster sugar (optional).
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before covering until ready to serve.
Cut into portions whilst still warm.
Enjoy hot with custard or cold with a cuppa.