The first conversation I had with my colleagues at America’s Test Kitchen was, naturally, about the kinds of food I grew up with in Australia. Having moved to Boston from Sydney only a month ago, I expected the small instances of culture shock to be the lack of Vegemite in the grocery aisles or the need to convert from imperial to metric on the fly. I certainly didn’t expect my childhood snack nostalgia to be the watershed moment for my American peers.
It’s certainly not unusual to have never heard of fairy bread here in the United States, but take a trip across the Pacific and you’d be hard-pressed to find a true-blue Aussie who has never eaten or prepared this classic kids’ party delicacy. I, of course, am no exception.
So what exactly is fairy bread? It’s the simple combination of sliced white bread, a generous swoop of butter, and a healthy helping of sprinkles (or, as they say down under, “hundreds and thousands”). But really, this unassuming yet completely delightful snack is so much more than the sum of its parts: It’s the food-dye watercolor masterpiece left behind on your fingers after a poolside nibble, the snap-crackle-pop of the sprinkles between your teeth, and the buzzy head rush of sugar and butter that brings kids’ party snacks into a league of their own.
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In fact, constructing a fairy bread spread is so easy that kids can do it themselves, with a little bit of supervision. Simply have your sous chef butter one side of the white bread slices before indulging in the pleasure of scattering (or, more likely, heaping) the sprinkles across the top of the bread. Once you’re done, cut each slice diagonally into quarters—resulting in little triangles —and watch the kids pounce on this delightfully uncomplicated snack.
Simple, right? Well, if you’re after the real deal and want to recreate this delicacy just right, here are a few tips and tricks amassed from a lifetime of eating fairy bread for the quintessential Aussie experience:
- Just like the perfect piece of toast, don’t butter your bread all the way to the edge; give yourself some room to grab your slice without leaving half the sprinkles on your fingers.
- Speaking of bread, I don’t want to see a single whole grain or sprouted seed. We’re after the fluffy, nutritionally void Wonder Bread–style loaf that is so airy that you can roll it into a condensed, sticky ball in the palm of your hand.
- If you can, source hundreds and thousands—otherwise known as nonpareils in the States—in place of regular sprinkles. Yes, there is a difference. These tiny bead-like balls completely transform the texture of the sugary top layer, giving you that extra-satisfying crunch.
- If you do find yourself using hundreds and thousands, however, take this piece of advice from the foremost Aussie fairy bread expert (my mom): Don’t pour them directly onto the buttered white bread from the packet. “Those slippery little buggers roll everywhere . . . it’s like glitter, it lives on forever,” she told me. Instead, pour your hundreds and thousands onto a baking tray and press your bread into them buttered side down for mess-free assembly.
- Using salted or unsalted butter is a matter of preference, but after polling my Australian friends, salted butter was the winner for that salty-sweet flavor combo the adults will really appreciate.
If this matter-of-minutes project isn’t enough of a challenge for your budding chef, you can even give this kid-friendly DIY sprinkles recipe a go the day before your party and create a colour scheme all of your own for this simply magical snack.
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