caramel hazelnut chocolate bars


New Zealand does the cafe thing very well. Excellent coffee with highly trained baristas and healthy, hearty and varied cabinet food. Calgary has the coffee thing spot on – great baristas (ahem, many of which are kiwis) and excellent locally roasted beans. On the odd occasion we have even been able to order Flat Whites.

But the cafe food is a little lacking. Generally, most of the baking in our favorite cafes is done off site and is pretty limited to a loaf bread (like pumpkin or banana), a scone or a muffin. Sure there are sandwich bars and places to grab a bowl of hot soup, but not the glass-front cabinets overflowing with original, gourmet filos, hearty fruity carrot cake and such.

tea and caramel bars

I soaked up every opportunity during my month in New Zealand to visit the numerous wonderful cafes. In my small hometown with a population of around 60,000 my mother and I enjoyed a cafe date at at least 10 boutique cafes, all with top-notch espresso, made-from-scratch baking and excellent lunch service with a wide variety of nutritious options in the cabinet.

For those visiting New Plymouth, you cannot go past:

Chaos, 36 Brougham Street – for excellent tortilla stacks, stuffed kumara and mile high hearty Carrot Cake. Excellent hot chocolates (served with a Whittakers Sante bar)
Petite Paris, 34 Currie Street – for authentic French cuisine from petite fours and pain au chocolat to crêpes au champignon. Excellent homemade lemon & ginger tea on a rainy day.
The Federal Store, 440 Devon Street West – true Kiwi decor with excellent filos, salads and always a new and original sweet treat. Excellent flat white.
Cafe Govette Brewster, King & Queen St corner – fantastic savoury muffins served with relish. Excellent flat white.

We also popped up to big-city Auckland to ‘cafe crawl’ some of the boutique cafe’s I have been following while running my own in Norman Wells. They all turned out to be as wonderful as the photos depicted – excellent raw treats and crazy healthful smoothies at raw cafe Little Bird Unbakery, a much awaited felafel, beetroot, tabbouleh and tzatziki sandwich and toasted coconut bread with honeyed brown butter at Honeytrap, and a frangipane tart and Flat White at Little & Friday.

caramel hazelnut bars
Caramel Slice
Makes 24 slices
From Treats from Little & Friday

Little & Friday has a special place in my heart, having relied on their cookbook throughout my 6 months at my little cafe in the North. I give them full credit for this recipe, they are onto something good. Although this slice (the NZ term for any sort of bar or square) is common at any New Zealand bakery or cafe, Little & Friday gave it a new life it with a chocolate shortcrust base, kept light and fluffy through use of icing sugar rather than granulated, and the mind-blowing addition of roasted hazelnuts to the caramel layer. The caramel calls for golden syrup, a syrup made from sugar cane, which I’m yet to find in Canada. My visit to NZ this last month was the first opportunity to make it with the real thing, rather than maple syrup. Both are excellent but nothing like the true kiwi version.

175g unsalted butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 egg
1/2 cup dutch cocoa
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 150˚C (300˚F). Grease a 25cm square tin and line the bottom and sides with baking paper. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, icing sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until well combined. Sift cocoa, flour and salt together then mix thoroughly into the butter mixture. Press mixture into base of prepared tin. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes in centre of oven.

2 x 396g tins sweetened condensed milk
200ml golden syrup
100g unsalted butter
1 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped

While base is cooking prepare caramel. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and melt slowly over a low heat. Pour over cooked base. Return to oven for a further 15 minutes or until set.

The recipe calls for 3/4 cup chocolate ganache made by melting 200g dark chocolate with 1/2 cup cream over a pot of simmering water. But I find the following more useful, especially when I am rarely in possession of cream, but also because it creates a firm topping rather than the soft fudge as formed by ganache.

200g dark chocolate (Whittakers Dark Ghana is ideal), roughly chopped
30g butter

Place chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and heat until almost melted. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Spoon topping over filling, smoothing surface with back of spoon. Once chocolate is cool, slice using a very sharp knife dipped in boiling water.

8 thoughts

  1. I agree completely about the “cabinet food” in most cafés – not worth the dollars or the calories, especially the baking. These caramel bars, however, look amazing!

    PS, I think corn syrup is an approximation of golden syrup (obviously made from corn rather than sugar cane), and I have seen Lyle’s Golden Syrup in the import section of a few grocery stores – I’m sure you’ll be able to track it down in Calgary.

    • It’s a lot more like treacle than corn syrup – and a much nicer flavour. It doesn’t crystallise and it has a very toasty flavour. But yes, similar in how its made! Ah yes, Lyle’s should be available somewhere here!

  2. Hi, a cousin in Calgary suggested you order your Golden syrup from a online company called Out of Africa Imports in Vancouver. She orders all her South African goodies from them.

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