September 28, 2011


My initial impression upon moving here was that South Africa is a baking-challenged nation. Why else should it be so hard to find an ingredient as basic as the chocolate chip?

At first I thought maybe I was the challenged one. What with biscuits called scones and cookies called biscuits and pretty much everything else called pudding. Seriously, I had brought a beautiful home-baked apple galette for dessert to a friend’s house, made from a recipe I take great pride in – a buttery and incredibly flakey dough, with just the right amount of sweetness. She called me the next day and thanked me for the pudding.

But subsequent visits of baking aisles at the various grocery stores made me wonder. Maybe South Africa is baking-challenged because it has put its entire baking prowess into the production of the perfect rusk, leaving no room for anything else? You’ll find an entire aisle full of these things best eaten after dunked into your tea, similar to a biscotti in concept but sadly not in actuality.

I’ve now got “chocolate chips” permanently etched on my mental shopping list, and every once in a while I’d think I finally scored. I tried the kind from Woolworth – a store I worship – but they were more like a fine dust of grated chocolate. Definitely not the same. I found a package of what looked like large flat chocolate chips at Pick n Pay one day, but they tasted so awful I actually had to throw them away. I tried chopping up chocolate – there is a lot of good chocolate to be had here, just not in morsel-format – but if you’ve ever done that you will know that you end up with more chocolate  flying into all four corners of your kitchen than will end up anywhere near a cookie.

And if you think “what’s the big deal, just go and buy some cookies  – uhm, biscuits - then,” you’ve got it wrong. South African cookies, let’s face it, are just not very good. That’s the plain and honest truth, sorry my friends. There are lots of foods I love here – I could go on and on just about yoghurt – but cookies are not amongst them. Every once in a while, a person needs a good chocolate chip cookie (or, frankly, just a tub full of the cookie dough) when she’s had a rough day.

What I did find one day on my quest for chocolate chips was a nice looking package of baking mix. Maybe South Africans just don’t like to bake from scratch, I thought, so I gave it a try. But it was exactly as if I was baking from scratch! I was asked to add milk, and butter, and eggs, and it seems like maybe the flour and sugar as well. It was an “Emperor’s new clothes” kind of baking mix, but it seems South Africans are quite happy to go along with it.

Last week my search for the elusive chocolate chip took a turn to the serious: Sunshine, age 9, was having a market day at school and had volunteered to provide – you guessed it – chocolate chip cookies to sell. Too bad my kids never consult me before making such rash pronouncements. What now? I already told you how our ancient hand-held Braun mixer had to come to the rescue due to our transformer going up in smoke, but I still had no chocolate chips.

This is when I remembered a friend telling me about a shop called Kadies, way early into our tenure here, when I had voiced a similar complaint. Back then I couldn’t be bothered going to five different stores every time I shopped. I guess I was still determined to bend South Africa to my will. But with your pride on the line when your daughter has volunteered your baking skills, you have to make concessions. So on to Kadies I trudged (just go straight across William Nicol if you're coming out of Montecasino, and it will be down a bit on your right hand side next to a small Spar), and what a worthwhile visit I had!

Kadies at Kingfisher Shopping Centre, 011 465 5572

Kadies is nothing short of amazing. They’ve got everything you could ever imagine that is in any way connected to baking. Including chocolate chips. Not just a few bags, but an entire aisle dedicated to them – dark, white, milk, 52% cocoa, 60% cocoa, small bags, big bags, gigantic bags… You name it, they had it, and I was seriously challenged making any type of decision.

It was as if all of Joburg's chocolate chip supply was stored in this one single place.

Chocolate Chips to your heart's content at Kadies

It turns out there must be some pretty serious bakers out there to warrant such a store. So perhaps it’s not so much that South Africans don’t bake. It’s just that they love going from one specialty store to another to do their buying.

Kadies had baking supplies I couldn't even have dreamed up

They will also make cakes for you or let you rent the sheets/tins for baking your own

The cookies turned out great, and Market Day was a big success (with my pride intact). Here is the recipe from “How to cook everything,” one of my trusted cookbooks:

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 sticks (250 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (finding the right type of brown sugar is also a bit of a challenge, but I'm sure Kadies would be the place for that as well)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (9 oz or 255 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla exrtract
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F or 175 C
  2. Use an electric mixer to cream together butter and sugars; add eggs one at a time and beat until well blended
  3. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and add them to the batter, stirring just until blended. Stir in vanilla and chocolate chips.
  4. Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheets covered with parchment (make sure you leave plenty of space around them or they will run together) and bake until lightly browned, 8-10 min. Cool 2 minutes on sheets, then transfer to rack to cool completely. Or eat them warm!


Gaijin said...

Ooh! Thanks for the info. I love to bake/decorate cakes and make desserts/puddings. I will definitely give this shop a visit. I'll be moving to Jo'burg at the end of the year.

cat said...

Thanks for your recipe - I am going to try them. And do you have a"real American brownie" recipe for me - pretty please?

Saffers are actually great bakers - I love baking, but if you look around at the baking stores you will know. And go visit a loval "Home industry/ tuisnywerheid" and have a look around. Ever tried making our milktart?

And another great baking shop quite close to you - on the corner of Hobart and Grosvenor in Hobart Grove Shopping centre (one of my projects) - there's a Bakers warehouse on Hobart road - similar greatness.

Sine said...

Hi Cat - for the brownies I'd also go with Mark Bittman, here is a link. The only problem I have with that recipe is the unsweetened chocolate, which I've had trouble finding, but now that I know Kadies (and yes, I'll try that store of yours) that should not be a problem. Let me know how it works!
I have had milktart and admit I'm not a big fan, but maybe it wasn't homemade. I love malva pudding and wouldn't mind getting a good recipe for that, so far I've been best off with the ready-made Woolies one.

Sine said...

oops, forgot the link:

Jozie Days said...

I am so glad you found Kadees. I often go there to stock up on baking stuff. I also love the cooking chocolate and use that to make marshmallows dipped in chocolate or strawberries! I also recommend Bakers Warehouse. It is sometimes a little more convenient for me on the way to collect kids from school in Bryanston. Thanks also for the recipe. I am sure my kids will enjoy a couple of those biscuits in their lunch boxes.

Gerda said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

This post was so great -- very on-the-money about SA rusks and cookies. (Although I do like a nice rusk now and then, now that I know what to expect from them.)

I'm also very interested in this subject because I've been having a terrible time baking brownies here. They are the only thing I know how to bake -- my mom's recipe -- but I simply cannot make them come out right here. First, I couldn't find unsweetened chocolate (thanks for the tip about Kadies -- will have to check it out the next time I'm up your way). But I stocked up on it while I was back in the US so that problem is solved for now.

But now I'm having trouble with the consistency. The brownies are supposed to be dense and fudgy, but here they come out fluffy and cakey. I think it's the altitude, or maybe my crappy old oven, or maybe the fact that I can't get the measurements exactly right because 250 grams of butter is not exactly equivalent to one pound of butter. Or maybe I'm just a lousy baker. Argh! Any advice?

Jozie Days said...

2summers - have you checked the flour? You should perhaps use plain flour - not cake flour. I know when I make fresh pasta I use plain flour and it gives it a harder texture.

Stephanie said...

I love that cookbook also Sine. It's also available as an iPhone app which is helpful.

I love to bake and struggle with the stick of butter conversion. Oh how I miss the premeasured sticks of butter from the States. I can quite honestly say that that is the one thing I miss the most. I bake that much... I have found that one stick of butter is not 125 grams, more like 110 grams. That's very generous and if you are using a bit of butter, it's easy to really screw a recipe up by putting too much.

2Summers, I would also not use cake flour -- it is made to be light and fluffy. Also research the high altitude bit; in college in Montana I had to adjust my baking for the high altitude.

Here's a conversion site that I've been using:

To all who love brownies and choco chip cookies, here's a recipe with a nice combo of brownies, peanut butter and chocolate chips. Very easy recipe and YUMMY results. Make this recipe. Trust me. A 9x13 pan doesn't last the afternoon at our house. I chop up chocolate bars in lieu of chocolate chips (a sharp knife is the key Sine or a food processor)

Happy Baking!

Sine said...

Who would have thought a blog post on cookies would get such a response? I'm loving it!

2Summers: I've also had trouble with brownies. I think it IS the altitude. I consider myself a good baker but have to admit that my brownies I usually make from a mix, like Pillsbury (the Ghirardelli from Cosco's was even better), but when I use the Pillbury mix here, the measurements are totally wrong. They are way too dry!

Regarding butter - yes, one stick is about 110 grams making 2 sticks about 220 grams, but you know what, I don't think you can go wrong with too much butter, ever! So I now always use about half a packed when it calls for one stick, and it's fine. The other day I made a pie crust (the German, sweet kind) and accidentally used DOUBLE the butter, and it turned out great (just not very healthy but then again healthy is not the reason we eat pie).

Stephanie - I will try that recipe, perhaps right now, they sound so good! Alas I have neither sharp knives (oh how I loved living in Singapore, the guy who sharpened knives came right by your house!) nor the food processor (transformer blew - might have to steal the one powering the xBox, you think anybody would notice?) but now that I have a huge bag of chips from Kadies I should be ok.

By the way, what have you guys found about brown sugar? It's not the same consistency as in the US either!

Madelein said...

I bake a very plain cookie/biscuit and add smarties(those things that's like M&M's) The chocolate is nice and it's colourfull- kids love it. On the brown sugar- you get caramilised brown sugar, normal brown sugar or yellow sugar-otherwise ask Kadies what would be appropriate for what you want to do. said...

Thanks to everyone for the advice on brownies. The flour I've been using is indeed cake flour and not plain flower. I'm going to try switching it.

Sine said...

Madelein, I also love the plain sugar cookie with smarties variety, or I should say, the kids do. I like plain better but they love the colors. By the way Stephanie, tried the peanut butter brownies and wasn't too happy, but I think I know what I did wrong. it said to melt butter and stir in sugar until blended. Well, I stirred and stirred thinking the sugar should become smooth, and that made it into something like caramel, and the brownies ended up way too tough and dense. If they had just told me to put sugar and melted butter into my kitchenaid and beat, I would have done it the right way. I also added the choc chips too early and they melted, so the texture wasn't right. But even so my kids loved it so I will have to try again!

mahesh said...

I actually enjoyed reading through this posting. Many thanks.

Bakery Equipment

stephpais said...

Thanks for the interesting article. I could not agree more. I have been hunting high and low for unsweetened chocolate and still have had no luck finding it. If anyone has any suggestions or knows where I can get it in south Africa please let me know. Thanks

W. A. Jeffrey said...

I know next to nothing about baking as I usually farm out the work to my mother. However, a recipe I have been trying to find for ages is one for soft English shortbread. I find the cookies at bakeries from time to time but every time we have tried to make our own they come out as hard as Lorna Doones.