A Peek into Australian Fairy Bread History and Some Facts about It
If you have been born and brought up in Australia or have been living here for some time now, you are no stranger to Fairy Bread. If you check Wikipedia for what fairy bread is, it will tell you that it’s sliced white bread that has butter or margarine spread over it, and is covered with hundreds and thousands of sprinkles that stick to the bread. Typically, it’s cut into 4 small triangles and is very commonly served at kids parties in Australia as well as New Zealand.
Though putting hundreds and thousands on bread isn’t a very new concept, the very first reference of this particular dish being referred to as Fairy Bread was in April 1929, in the Hobart Mercury. This article referred to a party held for child inmates at the Consumptive Sanatorium – it stated that the children will commence the party with Fairy Bread & butter that has 100’s & 1000’s, and tarts and home-made cakes.
Fairy Bread – A tea cake of sorts
However, there is a distinct possibility that this term “Fairy Bread” referred only to the actual bread itself, and the colourful sprinkles that stuck to the butter topping were almost like an afterthought. Some earlier references to this bread don’t make mention of 100’s and 1000’s at all. At the start of the 20th century, Fairy Bread used to be a type of Tea Cake – it was essentially bread without any yeast, and was made using eggs & baking powder.
In 1923, a Mrs R. Lear received a very notable mention of her special version of the recipe that she had submitted to the newspaper – Perth Sunday Times. At this time the term Fairy Bread was commonly used to describe very thin bread slices that had been slowly crisped in the oven; these used to be served with savoury & sweet dishes; somewhat like the current day Melba Toast.
When Hundreds and Thousands were first mentioned
The very first time Hundreds and Thousands were first mentioned as being sprinkled on buttered bread was in the Plaistowe Confectionery Company (Perth) advertisement in 1921; by 1928 it had begun to be accepted as kids’ food. The confectionary company used to refer to these multi-coloured sprinkles as “nonpareils”. This was the general term used for any small sugar beads that were used as dessert decorations. People had been using these in cookery since way back in the 17th century.
There isn’t too much clarity as to when the term “Hundreds and Thousands” came into the picture. It seems to be a term used in Britain, Australia as well as in New Zealand. In parts of the north-east, products such as these are called Jimmies and in the USA, they are called sprinkles. Regardless of the origin of this term, Fairy Bread is an intrinsically antipodean name; and in its current meaning, was almost definitively established in 1935 – The Sydney Morning Herald had recommended the bread as a Christmas day festive treat for children.
Another Fairy Bread story
Some stories mention that the name was derived from a Robert Louis Stevenson poem called Fairy Bread, in A Child’s Garden of Verse (1885) – but the antecedents we mentioned earlier seem to be a more plausible explanation of the origins of Fairy Bread as we know it today. Despite all the health concerns surrounding white bread, sugar and butter, Fairy Bread continues to be a favourite food at children’s birthday parties.
At Ganache Patisserie you will find fantastic basic and exotic breads and gourmet tarts for everyday consumption as well as for accompaniments with special dishes. Come; explore our delicious and scrumptious world of goodies.
Thanks for reading,
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