Bars & Slices

A Tale Of A Felted Koala

Since discovering the Pagan wheel of the year over thirty years ago, I’ve celebrated the harvest festival of Halloween (Samhain) on April 30th. I still remember that first, long ago Halloween held in a Victorian forest on a bitterly cold night. After the ritual we warmed ourselves by an open fire. We watched the smoke rise in waves and patterns, trying to scry for messages in the fiery air. As the logs burned, the bright red embers turned to charcoal, making strange shapes as they transformed. We drank, laughed and talked through the night. We told jokes and shared stories until the sun rose and May Day dawned.

This Halloween I would like to share a story of a tiny felted koala, an idea forged during the horrifying Australian bushfires, and created by my dear artist friend Anne Belov as a symbol of comfort, hope and rebirth – perfect symbols for a Halloween tale.

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Many of you know Anne Belov as the creator of The Panda Chronicles. Anne is also a multi-talented professional artist (an incredible painter) who has recently branched out into the field of felted creations. Most of her creations are, not surprisingly, pandas, but in the mix there is a very special critter, Kevin the Koala, or as he is now affectionately known – Kevin the Scorched Koala. Before Kevin was born in felt he was introduced to the world in ink in a very special cartoon in The Panda Chronicles.

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Kevin was a huge hit and when Anne toyed with the idea of making a felted version of him we all said “Yes!” When she suggested adding scorch marks to her creation the more diabolical among us said “Hell Yes!” It wasn’t long before Kevin, complete with scorch marks, moved from the world of ink into the world of felt. I’m happy to say that I am the proud caretaker of the very first Kevin the Scorched Koala.

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To honour Kevin’s arrival to his ancestral homeland I created a special recipe that blends some Aussie ingredients (eucalyptus honey and macadamia nuts) with an imaginary cookie bar – the Binky Bar! If you’re a fan of The Panda Chronicles you’ll know that the pandas love eating and drinking and Binky Bars are one of their favourite treats. But what are they? No-one knows as it’s been left to our imaginations to visualise these tasty treats. When a Kevin fan suggested a Kevin Binky Bar would be fun I naturally volunteered to create one. Kevin’s Binky Bars feature a shortbread base topped with a sweet and chocolatey filling.

In honour of Kevin’s adorable scorch marks, I’ve served my Binky Bars with scorched macadamias. Scorched nuts are an Australian and New Zealand name for roasted nuts that are covered in layers of chocolate. Don’t worry if you can’t get them, or any other ingredients, just experiment and have fun. After all, nobody really knows what a Binky Bar looks like – or tastes like. 🙂

Kevin The Scorched Koala’s Honey & Macadamia Binky Bars

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Special Note:
These bars need to set overnight.

Ingredients
for the shortbread base
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
125g unsalted butter, cut into pieces

for the chocolate topping
50g unsalted butter
1/3 cup double cream
1 tablespoon eucalyptus honey*
50g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
100g Anzac biscuits (cookies), broken into various small and medium sized pieces**
1/3 cup macadamia nuts, chopped into various small and medium sized pieces

Instructions
For the shortbread base:
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a baking pan (approximately 23cm x 17cm / 9” x 7”) with baking paper.
Place the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor.
Process until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Spread mixture into the prepared pan, pressing it down with fingers or the back of a spoon to compress it slightly.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until lightly browned.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before adding the topping.

For the chocolate topping:
Heat the butter and cream in a medium sized saucepan over low heat.
Stir in the honey.
Add the chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate melts.
Allow to cool for a few minutes. (You have to allow it to cool long enough so that the biscuits don’t turn to mush when added, but not too long or the chocolate will set.)
Add the broken biscuits and chopped macadamias to the chocolate mixture and stir until combined.
Spread over the shortbread base.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Cut into bars.
Serve with scorched macadamias.

*koalas love eucalyptus but you can use any honey you like or any other syrup such as agave, maple or golden.
**if you can’t find Anzac biscuits you can make your own or use my recipe here!

Blondies for Blondie

I thought I would make some blondies in honour of Blondie, the beautiful European brown bear that made our stay at Jamala Wildlife Lodge so awesome 🙂

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Blondies are a variation of brownies. They are usually made with butter and brown sugar which gives them a lovely butterscotch taste. For these brown bear inspired blondies I decided to brown the butter which gives it a nutty flavour. I also added macadamia nuts and white chocolate for a bit of crunch.

Brown Butter Blondies

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Ingredients
165g unsalted butter, roughly chopped
1 + 3/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup demerara sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
170g white chocolate, roughly chopped

Instructions
Place the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Carefully swirl the pan and cook until the butter becomes tan in color. Be careful as it is easy to burn. Once tan, remove saucepan from heat and pour butter into a heatproof bowl.
Heat the oven to 200C / 400F.
Line a 20cm square baking pan with baking paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Stir the sugars into the cooled butter.
Stir in the eggs and vanilla.
Gently fold the wet ingredients into the flour.
Add the white chocolate and nuts. Stir until just combined.
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Place on a wire rack to cool before cutting into pieces.

Evolving Oat Slice

When my friend Sue from New Zealand shared a recipe post on FB, I took one look at the Oaty Ginger Slice and knew I would be making it! The recipe is an adaption by Chelsea Winter, a past winner of MasterChef New Zealand, of a Jo Seagar recipe, a much loved New Zealand chef. Inspired by these talented women, I had to make my version of this classic treat 🙂

The oat base looked too good to mess with, so I followed the recipe exactly for that. While the ginger icing also looked delicious, I really wanted to make my stamp on the recipe so I went for a coffee icing. I replaced the golden syrup with maple syrup and the ground ginger with ground coffee. This is another great base for a recipe that you can add your own flavours and tweaks to 🙂

Coffee & Ginger Oat Slice

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Ingredients
for the oat slice
150g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
3/4 cup plain flour, sifted
1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted
1 + 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, sifted
1 + 1/2 cups whole oats
3/4 cup desiccated coconut

for the coffee icing
150g butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon instant coffee
2 – 3 cups icing sugar, sifted

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 32cm x 22cm baking pan with baking paper.
Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir gently to combine. Once combined, remove from heat.
Stir in the flour, baking powder and ginger until combined.
Fold in the oats and coconut until combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, pressing into the sides.
Smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until it reaches your preferred level of crunchiness*
Remove from the oven and leave in the pan while you make the icing.
Add the butter, maple syrup, coffee and 2 cups of icing sugar to a saucepan.
Stir over medium heat until melted.
If the mixture is too liquid and not coming together, slowly add more icing sugar, but no more than a cup. Stir until you have a smooth, pourable icing.
Pour warm icing over the warm slice.
Leave in the tin to cool then cut into slices.

* The longer you bake it the crunchier it gets but you don’t want it to be too crunchy to eat! You may have to bake a few to decide your optimum crunchiness.

A Touch Of Tahini

I found this gorgeous recipe for Peanut Butter Blondies on Brittany’s blog Life In Lipstick. As a peanut butter fan I had to give them a try. The recipe was so easy and the blondies were so good! The peanut butter flavour was perfect. The only changes I made to the recipe were minor technical ones to suit my own style. I lined the baking pan with baking paper rather than greasing it. I beat the egg before adding it to the recipe. I also used a wire whisk and spatula for mixing rather than an electric mixer. This is another recipe I will make again and again 🙂

When I first read through the recipe I thought I would add 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder to give it a bit of a rise. The result was a little cake-like and very good. Next time I decided to follow the recipe and leave out the baking powder. The result – a crispy outer and a soft, chewy centre. In other words, perfection!

Naturally I had to experiment some more. As a big tahini fan, I decided to try substituting half of the peanut butter with tahini. It worked! It brought back memories of one of my favourite desserts – tahini halva. I might play around with other nut butters and see what happens 🙂

Peanut Butter and Tahini Blondies 

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Ingredients
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup flour

Instructions
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 20 x 25cm baking pan with baking paper.
Using a wire whisk, mix together the melted butter and light brown sugar. Add the beaten egg and vanilla. Whisk until combined.
Add the peanut butter and tahini. Whisk until combined.
Add the salt and flour. Using a spatula, mix until combined.
Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared baking pan. The batter will be very thick, so spread it out as flat as you can.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Place on a wire rack.
Allow to cool before cutting into pieces.

A Taste of Death, Chocolate & Olives

The first Wiccan ritual I ever attended was Southern Hemisphere Halloween 25 years ago.

I can still remember walking towards the circle. The night was cold and I was happy that I was wearing a cloak. A drum beat an eerie rhythm as we walked towards our destiny. I saw the drummer and realised he was naked. My first thought was one of horror “NO, don’t tell me I have to get naked!”. My second thought was “isn’t he freezing?” Thankfully we didn’t have to remove our clothes. The night passed in a cacophony of drums, chanting, invocations and prophesies by campfire. We ended, as most rituals do, with cakes and wine.

So for Halloween tonight I would like to share with you one of my latest creations – my version of Death By Chocolate. These rich and decadent dark chocolate and black olive brownies are the only way to die.

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death by chocolate brownie

Ingredients
olive oil for greasing
170g unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup finely chopped black olives

Method
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 25cm x 25cm square baking pan with baking paper. Allow paper to drape over the sides. Lightly oil the paper.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan then add sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Vigorously whisk in the eggs one at a time and stir until the mixture looks shiny and well blended.
Add sifted flour and baking powder. Mix vigorously until well combined. Add the olives and mix until just combined.
Pour evenly into prepared pan.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Make sure the centre is still slightly moist.
Allow to cool before lifting out.
Cut into squares and serve.

I’m always looking for new recipes and food ideas. Let me know your favourite Halloween recipes or Autumn/Winter foods.