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Gluten Free Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Bar with Cocoa Puffs


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Finally! A gluten free version of my most requested hazelnut chocolate crunch bar for you all!  Be warned: it is as addictive as the normal version and super easy to make. No baking required.

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What makes these chocolate bars so irresistible? Two things: the hazelnut taste and the cocoa pops crunch. I tested many different type of gluten free cocoa pops before I was finally satisfied with the taste and texture. I settled on Hubbards’ Thank Goodness Gluten free cocoa puffs. These stayed completely crunchy!

Regarding the hazelnut-chocolate combination, you can certainly change it to suit your latest cravings. Think peanut butter, salted caramel, macadamia butter, almond cacao and also peppermint to name a few.

You can dress the bars up with whatever you like: a dusting of cocoa powder; hazelnut; hazelnut praline crunch; fresh-dried berries. Or left naked. Your options are endless which makes this an ideal ‘bring-a-dessert’ that *potentially* satisfies everyone.

Makes one square tray, cut bars sized to your liking. I got 39 (3 rows of 13 bars of  about 1.5 cm by 8cm)

For the crunchy Bottom layer:

  • 250g milk chocolate (33% cacao), melted
  • 100g roasted hazelnut paste (Nocciola from Equagold)
  • 125g (about half cup) chocolate-hazelnut spread (instead of the hazelnut paste and chocolate-hazelnut spread, you can use the same amount of Forty Thieves’ Cacao Hazelnut butter instead.)
  • 2 cups Hubbards Thank Goodness gluten free cocoa puffs

For the filling:

  • 300g dark chocolate (70% cacao) broken into small pieces, (I used Solomon’s Gold or Whittakers 72% Ghana will work too)
  • 300ml cream
  • 50g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  1. For the bottom layer, line a narrow rectangular tray (or shallow slice box) with 2 pieces of baking paper, with the paper hanging over the sides of the tray. (This will help you lift the slab off from the tray effortlessly.)
  2. Melt chocolate over a pot of simmering hot water. Once smooth, add the roasted hazelnut paste and chocolate-hazelnut spread; stir until smooth. 
  3. Fold in the cocoa puffs until the chocolate is combined (It should look like a mess!) Scoop the chocolate mixture to the prepared tray. Press the mixture down into a smooth, even layer. Let it chill in the fridge while you make the filling. 
  4. To make the top layer, place the broken chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream till it is just simmering and pour over the chocolate.
  5. Shake the bowl a little and let this sit for about 2 minutes, this is so that the chocolate melts smoothly, avoiding any lumps in your final product. 
  6. Add the cubed butter and whisk until ganache is smooth. As you whisk, the cream will magically homogenize with the melted chocolate to form a shiny smooth, pourable ganache.
  7. Pour the ganache over the cocoa puffs and smooth with a spatula. Leave in the fridge to set, about 1 hour. 
  8. Decorate with whole hazelnuts, hazelnut praline crunch, freeze dried fruits or anything you wish! Place in the fridge to set it a further 2 hours. Slice into bars before serving. 

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Styled by my little chef.

 

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Cassis Sorbet


Kohu road cassis sorbet atop a paneton chocolate pastry with chocolate ganache. Bright and cheerful.

There are times when you want a fancier dessert for a special occasion. Think entremets but no time to make mousse, sponge, crispy layer and mirror glaze?

This is where you need joint forces of best quality products. 

Make a delicious chocolate tart with handmade pastry (Paneton Bakery) and ganache with good quality chocolate. Dress it up simply but elegantly with a big scoop of good quality ice cream or sorbet on top. Decorate with chocolate pearls, chocolate shards, cocoa nibs and cornflake crumble for extra crunch and texture. Voilá!

Here I’ve paired it with Kohu Road‘s Cassis sorbet, simply delicious!
See my earlier post Chocolate Tarts for the recipe for an easy chocolate tart.

(I’m not paid to write these articles – all opinion based on my honest love for artisan products!)

Chewy fudgey perfect chocolate brownies


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After years of trial and error, I’ve finally got a fail proof chocolate brownie that appears to satisfy the fussiest and hardest-to-please of all critics (aka Miss 8). These brownies are fudgey and chewy, just how we like it. Best served warm with cold milk or ice cream!

Ingredients

  • 125g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 150g good quality 70% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 290g caster sugar
  • 115g plain flour, sifted
  • 35g Valrhona cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste (not essence)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cocoa nibs, hazelnut praline, extra chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C fan forced. Grease a 20cm square cake pan and line with baking paper.
  2. Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
  3. Stir with a heatproof spatula until melted.
  4. Remove from heat and quickly stir in all your ingredients, except the toppings, until just combined. Pour into the lined pan.
  5. Sprinkle in your choice of cocoa nibs, hazelnut praline or extra chocolate chips.
  6. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes or until the toothpick test comes out with moist crumbs on the stick.
  7. Set aside to cool completely before removing from pan.

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The secret here is the combined use of dark chocolate and cocoa powder, and with less sugar than normal brownies. This makes it distinctively brownie, not cake.

I hope you will love this as much as we do. These are perfect for school bake sales or bases of entremets. You can easily make more and freeze whole slices in two layers of foil and an air-sealed bag.

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Authentic Bánh Mì – Vietnamese Sandwich recipe


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On our recent trip to Melbourne, Australia, we came across many bakeries and stores selling traditional Vietnamese sandwiches – Bánh Mì. These are the result of French and Vietnamese cuisines coming together, and boy, what a glorious effort.

Bánh mì sandwiches are different to the normal western sandwiches. The bread is crunchy on the outside and pillowy inside, serving as a light encasement for the delicious fillings inside. More on that later.

While watching our sandwiches being made, I duly noted what was included – the ingredients all play a part in achieving the balance of sweet, sour, savoury, spicy, umami, warm, cold, softness and crunch. That’s a lot achieved in one sandwich.

Here are the list of ingredients for you to create your very own bánh mì!

    • Bread – choose a light bread with pillowy centre and light crusty crumb. (J’s wanted to make sure I mention not to get bread that is so crunchy that it scrapes the roof of your mouth. Coz that will hurt. Noted, darling 😊) Baguettes or Ficelle from Paneton French Bakery would be my choice (in New Zealand).
    • Mayo – adds a creamy flavour to the sandwich.
    • Pate – this is essential to any good Bánh Mì, giving it the umami flavour.
    • Cucumber – Cucumber adds freshness and crunch, juxtaposing the other soft elements of the sandwich. Slice them lengthwise for even layering.
    • Herbs – for freshness and an earthiness, coriander leaves and sliced spring onions are added. I would also suggest Thai basil as well, if you wish.

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    • Pickles – this is a must! Easy to make: 1:1.5 ratio of white or apple cider vinegar to caster sugar to fill to just over half of a glass jar. Warm jar and sugar slightly in microwave to dissolve the sugar. While it is cooling, sprinkle a bit of salt over thin batons of carrots/daikon/rings of onions. Massage and squeeze the carrots the diakon (no need for the onions) to get rid of their juices. Pat dry and add to the cooled jar of pickling liquid. Ready to use in just an hour.

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  • Protein – you have lots of choices here: vietnamese ham, lemongrass pork or beef, grilled pork, chinese BBQ pork, chinese roast pork or even grilled tofu. Champagne ham works too if there is nothing else!

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  • Sauce – You can add squirts of hoisin sauce or Maggi Seasoning for extra flavour. For me, a good grind of black pepper was enough.
  • Fresh Red Chillies – a spicy element is a must and thinly sliced red chillies are commonly added to taste.
  • Fried shallots for extra crunch.
  • Add more meat if you wish.
  • Close the sandwich and enjoy!

Perfect scrambled eggs


Eggs on toast. Simple. Breakfast.

As a child, I very much disliked scrambled eggs. I think I decided this in association with the airplane breakfast smells, which was very disagreeable with my stomach. So attached was I to this memory, I decidedly refused to cook or order it throughout the years. I didn’t see a need to change.
In 2016 I stumbled upon a new way – THE Gordon Ramsay video – to make it and was surprised at how wrong that memory was! Now it is a fav at home and an easy weekend breakfast. Scrambled eggs, where have you been all my life! Thank you Gordon Ramsay!

Ingredients (for 2 hungry adults)

  • 6 large eggs
  • 25g cold butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • freshly ground pepper and flaky sea salt (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
  • 4 slices wholegrain or sourdough bread, toasted, to serve

Directions

  1. Break the eggs into a cold, heavy-based pan, place on the lowest heat possible, and add the butter. Using a spatula, stir the eggs continually to combine the yolks with the whites.
  2. The eggs will take about 4-5 minutes to set and scramble – it should still be soft and quite lumpy. As the eggs set, keep moving the pan off and back on the heat to make sure the eggs don’t overcook.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the bread.
  4. Add the crème fraîche and season the eggs at the last minute, then add the chives (optional). Put the toasts on warm plates, pile the softly scrambled eggs on top and serve immediately.

The key to creamy, fresh-smelling eggs is:

  • Use a heavy based pot
  • Stir eggs gently instead of whisking
  • Cook at low heat with constant stiring
  • Season only at the end

You can stop reading here if all you were looking for is the scrambled eggs recipe. However, I am going to share some thoughts/reflections about this photo above and the year 2016.

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In 2016, I had a go at pottery and made these plates. The process was like nothing else. From a clump of clay to something functional. All in your hands. I was incredulous at the calmness and out-of-this-world happiness I experienced from such a hands-on activity.

The amazing thing about it was, I could decide what to do with it, whether it is to be a plate, a bowl or a mug. It didn’t matter that it didn’t look perfect, what mattered was the learning and relieving myself of the need for it to be perfect, because that stopped me from enjoying the process.

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Sometimes you can’t get too comfortable. Life will be boring without constant challenges, which are all learning opportunities. I was forced to get very uncomfortable this year. It was hard with the unknown, but my faith carried me through. I accepted the learnings and faced the challenges head on, knowing that God’s grace is enough, it is always more than I ever need.

I also believed in myself and that is sometimes the biggest help you can get when facing difficult situations.

Give yourself a chance.

Learn new things.

Face your fears.

You will thank yourself for it.

Welcome, 2017!

#learnings
#2016
#2017
#fatherslove

Hand thrown ceramics plates bowls