4 Sowerby St, Goulburn, New South Wales
One fine autumn Saturday we took a driving trip to Goulburn, the first inland city established in Australia, proclaimed as such in 1863. Goulburn is mostly known as a former stop on the long drive between Sydney and Melbourne, and held the distinction of having the most patronised McDonalds outlet in Australia. But with the opening of the Hume Highway bypass in 1992, many travellers now avoid stopping in the city, and it has reverted to a more sleepy country nature.
The biggest tourist attraction in Goulburn is The Big Merino, a giant concrete sculpture of a ram. Directly across the street from the Big Merino is Trappers Bakery, which was the first hit when I pulled out my phone and searched for “best bakery in goulburn”. So we pulled into the large car park for what is obviously a very popular place. Trappers Bakery is housed in a large rural style brick building with a corrugated iron roof, and it was doing a roaring trade around lunch time, with customers arriving every minute or two. Not only is it a bustling food stop, but adjacent is the Trappers Bakery Motel, offering rooms for travellers on the road.
We grabbed a scarce free table inside the covered verandah area of the bakery, then went to have a look at the offerings. I was a little surprised to find that the selection of pies was quite limited and fairly mundane. They had plain minced steak pies, chunky steak, steak and potato, steak and mushroom, steak and kidney, and chunky chicken, and that was about it. I’m used to city pie shops that have branched out into more exotic fillings inspired by the multicultural community, such as East Asian and Indian curries, Mexican, and Mediterranean flavours. But not out here in the country!
After queuing for a few minutes amidst the rush of patrons, I selected the sausage roll and vanilla slice, naturally. To make it a full lunch I also wanted to try the chunky chicken pie, but was told it would be a ten minute wait while they made a new batch. Rather than wait, I settled for chunky steak. I took the goods, on individual small paper plates loaded onto a plastic tray, back to the table for evaluation, as we stare out the window to the majestic Big Merino across the street.
The sausage roll is smooth on the outside, with a dark golden brown pastry, surrounding and almost smothering the small ends of meat peeping through the thick blanket of pastry. It’s a little on the small side, and doesn’t look particularly exciting.
Picking it up for a bite, I find the pastry is light and very flaky, with many well defined layers. It’s cooked nicely, without either burning on the outside or sogginess on the inside where it sits next to the filling. The meat in the middle doesn’t live up to the pastry though, being fairly average, with that boring mince and breadcrumb texture and a truly unexciting flavour. There are some onion pieces, but scant evidence of anything approaching herbs or pepper. There is, however, an odd slightly sour flavour present. I don’t know what could be causing that. It’s not bad or off-putting – just kind of bland and undistinguished. It’ll do to fill the tummy, but isn’t anything you’d travel to Goulburn for. I’d score this solidly average but the pastry is nice enough to push it up a point.
After the pie, which is decidedly better, I move onto the vanilla slice. It’s generous and very promising looking. There are three slices of fairly thick, biscuity looking pastry that shows shattery layering. The two layers of custard between are fat, creamy looking, and the perfect shade of yellow, with the cut edges showing that it stuck to the knife a bit as this slice was carved from a giant slab. It’s topped by white icing decorated with semi-random diagonals of hair thin brown stripes – possibly the thinnest brown stripes I’ve ever seen on a vanilla slice – very delicate! It comes on a brown paper cupcake pan (removed for the photo) which is entirely inadequate to contain the extremely long and tall but slightly thin slice. There’s an odd crater in the icing on top that prompt Mrs Snot Block & Roll to ask “Is that a thumb print?” But I don’t think it is – it’s too smooth and has sharp edges. Perhaps someone pressed the spatula into the icing a bit too hard at that point.
On handling, the icing is firm with a hardened surface that does not stick to the fingers at all. The slice is so tall that it’s difficult to take a vertical bite and I end up attacking it laterally. It holds together well, and is a bit cold to the touch indicating some refrigeration in the display case. Some custard oozes out in a bit of spreading under the bite pressure, but doesn’t pose any serious risk of falling out. Disappointingly, the pastry turns out to be soft, and has only residual crispness in the form of an al dente pasta bite, but at least it hasn’t migrated all the way to fully soggy. This is even more disappointing because the rest of the slice is delicious. The custard is creamy but textured like a good home made custard, and has an acceptable although not very strong dose of vanilla. The icing adds sweetness, but is suitably restrained. If this was freshly made I imagine it would be pretty darn good, a solid score of 8 I think. But this slightly soggy version can’t reach that height, alas.
Sausage roll: 6/10
Vanilla slice: 7/10