No hedgehogs were harmed…

Continuing our tour of Australian treats!

While in Melbourne we visited the Queen Victoria Market several times. Like Vancouver’s Public Market, Florence’s Mercato de San Lorenzo or even Los Angeles’ own Original Farmer’s Market ,  Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market is an eclectic circus of produce, fish, meat, and bespoke food stuffs.

While it was delightful pursuing the long rows of fresh produce and authentic Australia goods (kangaroo paw anyone?), our true fascination (read infatuation) was with the collection of tiny fine goods stalls in the original building.

We spent a good deal of enjoyed time oggling the fresh cheese, pasta and cured meat stalls.

And of course there were the patisseries and bakers.  It was while TD was standing in line for his daily flat white that I spied a new-to-me treat at one such shop.  The handwritten card labeled the brownie type good as “hedgehog slice.”  Intrigued, I bought a wedge of the zebra (not really hedgehog) like confection.

First things first, the term “slice” appears in tandem with many Australian treats: hedgehog slice, caramel slice, cherry ripe slice, lemon slice, jelly slice…you get the idea.  Generally, slice in Australia seems to fall into the same category as square or bar here in the U.S.

Sometimes slice is baked, while other times, like with the hedgehog, things are just sort of thrown together and then refrigerated (kind of like magic or nanaimo bars).

And, as with nearly every Australian baked good and candy we encountered, coconut plays a central roll.  Our first impression (in the name of research) of hedgehog slice was that they were a sort fudge with vanilla cookie bits lightening up the deal (bet you never thought you’d see “cookie bits” and “lightening things up” in the same sentence).

Luckily, a review of recipes revealed that these are even easier to make than fudge.  They require no baking and can be infinitely varied (I suggest subbing-in Tim Tams for the Marie cookies).

And, like the Anzac biscuits, these were a surprise hit.

About the name.  I couldn’t really find a single answer as to why they’re called hedgehog slice.  In fact, hedgehogs aren’t even native to Australia.  Of course, neither are the British.

Hedgehog Slice

source: I tried out a couple of methods for making hedgehog slice.  The method using sweetened condensed milk was delicious but didn’t set-up properly.  The recipe below worked well the first, second and third times I tried them.  As what happens with recipes, several I came across referred back to an original posting in a magazine called Women’s Weekly.  The recipe below is a repost from a blog called Honey Kitchen

I’ve converted the appropriate measurements to US customary

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ x 200g packets Marie biscuits, coarsely chopped
  • 1 C chopped walnuts
  • ½ C desiccated coconut (shredded works just fine)
  • 250g  (about 1 1/4 C) butter, chopped
  • 1 ¼ C granulated sugar
  • 1/3 C cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 150g  (3/4 C) dark chocolate, melted
  • ½ tsp vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Grease a 9X9 pan and line base and two long sides with parchment paper, extending paper 2cm above edges of pan.
  2. Combine biscuits, nuts and coconut in large bowl.
  3. Place butter, sugar and sifted cocoa in a medium pan; stir over heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; whisk in egg.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture over biscuit mixture; mix well. Press into prepared pan. Cover; refrigerate overnight.
  5. Turn slice onto a chopping board; cut into pieces. Spoon combined warm, melted chocolate and oil in a small snap-lock plastic bag. Squeeze chocolate to one corner; twist bag, then snip tip of bag. Drizzle chocolate over top of slice; refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until chocolate is set.

And the meek (biscuit) shall inherit the earth

I was lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks in Australia last May.  The first week was work in Sydney and then I flew over to Melbourne and met TD for a little RNR.

We’d been to Melbourne before but left behind some unfinished business in the form of the Great Ocean Road as well as a host of untried restaurants, as yet to be imbibed cocktails and un-strummed scenic fall strolls.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I like to pick up a few new recipes while in-country as opposed to hauling back souvenirs.  This practice helps keep my luggage weight under control and is a delightful excuse to try exotic treats in the name of research.

To wit, our last trips to Australia yielded a batch of Lamingtons, Cherry Rip Bonbons and Jude Bolton Bars.

Funny thing about those Jude Bolton Bars…I actually met him while in Sydney during this trip.  The faculty I was traveling with arranged to have him meet our group while we were touring the Sydney Cricket Grounds, where the Australian Football League’s Sydney Swans call home.  My faculty friend is friends with Mr. Bolton and in the days leading up to the visit, she sent him the post I wrote.  Now, it’s been a few years so I’ll remind you, the post was written as a humorous but genuine tribute to Jude’s…athletic superiority.  It was also not meant to be read by him.  Nor did I intend to ever meet him in real life.

When the moment of the meeting came, we were both embarrassed.  His embarrassment was charming.  Mine was that of a dirty old woman who had been caught, literally, with her hand in the cookie jar.  Thanks JP.

But anyway.  Back to baking.

The first recipe I “brought back” with me from Australia is for Anzac biscuits.  I’d heard of Anzac biscuits prior to our trip–mostly through literature.  I swear there is mention of them in M.L. Steman’s, Light between the Oceans.  And there is an entire scene about them in Liane Moriarty’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story (one of my favorites of hers).

Since they aren’t as well known here in the States, I’ll give you the two sentence explanation.  ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps. During World War I, families would pack their soldiers these oatmeal-coconut cookies in care packages because while they would harden, they wouldn’t spoil.    Australian’s celebrate ANZAC Day each year in late April.  Similar to Memorial Day in the U.S., the day is one of remembrance for those who fought and died in any conflict for Australia or New Zealand.

I’ll admit, I completely underestimated these wholesome little treats.  I thought they’d be fun to make once and then I’d be done with them.  Well, I was wrong.  These seemingly simple biscuits are rich and flavorful.  The oatmeal gives them a bit of heft while the coconut and brown sugar make them taste like an exotic far-off-island (or in this case, island nation).  Need further proof that you should make these?  Several people asked me for the recipe.  That never happens!

Anzac Biscuits

(read through the ingredients and my notes first–these call for a couple of unusual additions).

Ingredients

  • 1 C rolled oats (in reviewing recipes I saw calls for both old fashioned and quick cooking.  I opted for old fashioned because I wanted the additional texture)
  • 1 C all purpose plain flour
  • 2/3 C golden brown sugar
  • 2/3 C desiccated coconut (desiccated coconut is hard to find.  The first time I made these I ordered the coconut via Amazon.  After that I just chopped up unsweetened shredded and hoped for the best.  It’s work just fine so far)
  • 1/2 C or 1 stick of  butter chopped
  • 2 TBS golden syrup (you can find this on Amazon.  If you aren’t committed to tryin golden syrup, sub-in corn syrup)
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Line 3 baking trays with parchment.
  3. Fold together the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a bowl.
  4. Add butter, syrup and 2 tablespoons of cold water to a saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Stir for 2 minutes or until butter has melted.
  6. Stir in baking soda
  7. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and fold until combined.
  8. Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls. (as a note, the uncooked cookie balls freeze well)
  9. Place on trays, 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.
  10. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden.
  11. Leave on the baking trays for 5 minutes.
  12. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.