Chocolate Hazelnut Squares

Today I had the pleasure of accompanying my son and his class to the Auckland Zoo.  It was a bit daunting having so many little people to look after but as we hadn’t been to the zoo in ages, it was also rather exciting. The bus trip took us back in time with a mixture of 80’s, 90’s and more recent music being played by the driver, with the kids all bopping away.  After a few hours of walking, many of them were getting tired and whiney so a delicious sugar/chocolate filled snack was exactly what was needed.

Yes, many would say that fruit and other snacks would have been better, and of course that would be a far healthier option, but Chocolate Hazelnut Squares did the trick!

The bus trip back wasn’t as rowdy as the one into the city, but travelling through the tunnel on our way to the bridge I had to smile when most of the kids raised their arms and excitedly called out “wooooo” as we entered the tunnel – amazing how we lose the excitement for something so simple.

It was an enjoyable day and one I was happy to share with these lovely kids.  It made me want to share this delicious slice recipe too, it is by one of my favourite TV Chefs – Rachel Allen – so here goes:

Chocolate Hazelnut Squares

Chocolate Base

200g butter
50g cocoa powder
300g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
225g plain flour

Hazelnut Caramel Layer
125g butter
1 x 395g tin condensed milk
2 tbsp golden syrup
75g caster sugar (not sure if you really need this as it makes a lovely caramel layer without it)
125g toasted and halved hazelnuts

Chocolate Topping
200g dark chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (light flavour preferably, like sunflower, rice bran or grape seed)

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC and line the base or grease a small swiss roll tin measuring approximately 20 x 30 cm.
  2. In a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat, melt the butter for the chocolate base, stir in the cocoa powder and then the sugar and mix until smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the eggs until mixed and then the plain flour.  Spread the chocolate base over the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 20 mins until firm on top.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the hazelnut caramel layer.
  3. In a medium-sized saucepan and over a medium heat, melt the butter and then add the condensed milk, golden syrup (and sugar – if using).  Turn the heat to low and stir continuously for 12 – 15 mins until the mixture is dark caramel in colour – do not let it burn.  (My note: mine took a lot longer than this but I had the plate on very low – a little more heat would have helped, but you HAVE to stir continuously).  Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts. Spread evenly over the chocolate base and allow to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water (also known as a bain marie).  When it is melted, stir in the oil and then pour over the caramel layer and smooth out, leaving to cool and set.  Cut into squares.  These will keep for a week in an airtight container.  (My note: this recipe makes lots so I froze some – easy to cut and eat straight from the freezer – great for those unexpected guests!)

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Roast Pumpkin Soup with Nutty Yoghurt Bread

Today was the perfect day for hearty comfort food. Opening the fridge the first ingredients I laid my eyes on were half a pumpkin and a bottle of cream – the decision was made: Creamy Roast Pumpkin and Garlic Soup with home baked bread.

My husband’s first words after tasting the soup were “Rich, but delicious.” A perfect lunch.

ingredients:

half a small pumpkin (honestly, I didn’t weigh it so just judge – about 1-2 kgs)
1 onion
2-3 large garlic cloves
olive oil for drizzling
salt
2 cups chicken stock (more if using a larger pumpkin)
1 cup cream
1 Tbsp honey
sour cream to serve

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C.
  2. Remove skin and pips from pumpkin and slice into thick slices.
  3. Cut onion in half, without removing skin.
  4. Place pumpkin, onion and whole garlic cloves onto baking tray.
  5. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt.
  6. Roast for 1 hour but begin checking after 45 mins as you don’t want it to caramelise too much.
  7. Remove from oven and place pumpkin into blender, along with onion flesh. Squeeze squishy garlic out of the skin carefully – you don’t want any of the skin falling in – and add to blender.
  8. Add 1 cup chicken stock and blend until smooth.
  9. Pour mixture into a pot, add remaining stock liquid, cream and honey. Stir and reheat gently. Don’t let it boil.
  10. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream.

Nutty Yoghurt Bread
Makes 1 loaf
Preparation time: 10 mins (yay!)
Cooking time: 1 hour
125g cake flour
375g whole wheat flour
5ml salt
10ml bicarbonate of soda
100g mixed nuts
50g pumpkin seeds (I added sunflower seeds as well)
15ml oil (a mild flavoured oil like Rice Bran or Grape Seed)
500ml plain yoghurt or buttermilk
15ml honey
a little milk if necessary
  1. Heat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease the loaf tin.
  2. Combine the flours, salt, bicarb, nuts and seeds in a large bowl.
  3. Add the oil, yoghurt (or buttermilk) and honey to form a soft dough, adding a little more milk if necessary. You don’t need to knead this bread, but I find that working the final mixture with my hands to form the dough works well.
  4. Place into the prepared loaf tin and level out the top without squashing it.
  5. Brush the top with a little milk if you like and sprinkle a few seeds over the top.
  6. Bake for 1 hour or until done.
  7. Rest in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
Enjoy!
 

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