9 Main Street, Hahndorf, South Australia
Earlier in the morning I had visited Beerenberg’s Strawberry Farm, on the outskirts of the small town of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. When approaching the farm shop, there was the surprising but unmistakeable smell of tomato sauce in the air, which made no sense at all to me. Upon going inside the shop, which had numerous jams and sauces for sale, I discovered the reason. Through a window one could see workers processing fruit and other ingredients to make product, and a sign indicated that today they were making… tomato sauce!
And so we come to Otto’s Bakery, where I stopped for lunch later that same day. They boasted “award winning” pies on a blackboard outside, as well as a vanilla slice. This seemed to bode well, so I ordered the obligatory sausage roll and vanilla slice. (I neglected to take a photo of the exterior of the bakery, but a quick search online will reveal several photos.)
The roll got things off to a bad start. It looked decidedly average, like a roll from a warmer in a petrol station. The pastry on top was an anaemic looking pale golden brown, with evidence of thick crocodile-skin-like flakiness rather than delicate thin flakiness. Biting into the roll confirmed my worst fears, as the pastry was crisp on the outside while not being flaky enough and a bit soggy near the meat. The meat centre was bland and a bit too dry. Not terribly dry, but certainly too dry to be good.
When the man behind the counter had served it to me on a plate, he’d asked if I’d wanted sauce. I said no, as usual. But this once I wished I’d said yes. Some of that tomato sauce they’d been making at Beerenberg’s would have done this sausage roll a lot of favours. And I mean a lot. On that note, the roll actually came with a tiny bit of tomato sauce smeared on the side of it, a relic of the fact that if you say yes to sauce, they squirt it on from a squeeze bottle rather than give you an individual sauce packet like most bakeries. And then they re-use the tongs for the next customer’s hot pastry order. But the tiny residual scrape of sauce wasn’t enough to save this roll from being consigned to the negative side of the ledger.
The vanilla slice on the other hand was a good looking affair. It had a generously thick slab of rich-looking mid-yellow custard between two layers of fairly thick, flaky pastry, topped with a thin layer of medium-hard white icing with diagonal brown piped lines. It picked up in the hand well, but the thickness of the custard promised an oozy first bite. At the first bite the bottom pastry layer cracked and snapped in two at the middle, which actually made things neater as it enabled a bite without squeezing too much custard out. The flavour was good, as the custard was strongly vanilla and showed a slightly chunky hand made texture on breaking, but flowed creamily for a nice mouth feel. It was excellent custard.
The icing layer was very firm and resisted finger indentations well, allowing good control as the slice disappeared and the structural integrity went a bit dodgy. At one point I almost lost control and dropped part of the slice, but it was salvaged with a slurp of drooping custard. The pastry was perfectly serviceable and positive, with a good thickness of layering, but not outstanding. It was in that twilight zone of crispness between really firm and soggy. The icing was sugary sweet, but thin enough not to interfere with the overall effect. In summary, pretty good.
Coda: Still hungry after this, and so disappointed by the roll, I went back to try a chunky beef and mushroom pie, prompted by the “award winning” sign. Well, the filling was pretty good, but the pastry was awfully similar to the sausage roll, and honestly I don’t know how a pie could win an award with pastry like that. Stick to the slice.
Sausage roll: 3/10
Vanilla slice: 7/10