The value of treats
When we polled our Facebook fans on what helps them to recover from a hard day of work, there was a clear winner. Coffee. Praying was also a popular response and of course chocolate had to be included on the list. Today is World Chocolate Day so I thought I would use it as a platform to discuss the benefits of treats as a reward for hard work as well as one of my favourite recipes.
My grandmother always used to say, ‘A little bit of what you fancy is a good rule to live by’. In today’s society when unhealthy snacks confront our eyes at every corner, I feel lucky that I am able to live by this rule and pass on temptation, most of the time, but I know there are others who are less able to resist. Using food as a treat seems something endemic to the human race. So many families talk of ‘mother’s cooking’ as the cement which keeps the family together and a way of demonstrating love when other resources, including finances, are low.
…seems to have that perfect balance between ingredient components which give us all that little lift. It’s not a get up and go lift like caffeine but more of a snuggle down and have a hug lift. Eating chocolate has a way of making us feel better.
As busy healthcare professionals, spending lots of time on your feet, I imagine finding your way to feel better after a long shift is really important. It’s something you can look forward to if the time is passing slowly or if you’ve been working with a non-compliant patient. It might not be chocolate for you, it might be treating yourself to reading for 20 minutes or singing along to the radio as you drive home from work. Whatever it is, you should take your little bit of what you fancy and allow it to recharge your batteries. You’ve earned it.
Macadamia and White Chocolate Brownies
As promised, I’m including one of my favourite chocolate recipes. This one also includes coffee so it’s win-win for those of you who said coffee was just what they needed after a hard day’s work! It’s a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe which I cut out of the Weekend Guardian a number of years ago.
200g macadamia nuts
200g unsalted butter, plus melted butter for greasing
280g plain flour
½ tsp salt
300g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
2 free-range eggs
230g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2tsp instant coffee
200g white chocolate, broken into pieces (or use chocolate chips)
Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Spread the nuts in an ovenproof dish and roast for 5 minutes.
Brush a 22cm square baking tin with melted butter and line with baking parchment. Sift together the flour and salt.
Put the butter and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Leave to melt, stirring from time to time, and the moment the butter and chocolate have melted, remove the bowl from above the water. This is important – you need to avoid the mixture getting too hot.
In a large bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and coffee. Work just until combined – a few seconds only – because there is no need to incorporate any air into the eggs. Fold in the melted dark chocolate, the white chocolate chunks and half the nuts, and then the sifted flour.
Pour this into the lined tin and top with the remaining nuts. Place on the centre shelf of the oven and bake for around 25 minutes. Make sure you check before deciding to remove the brownie from the oven. Once out, allow it to cool down completely before removing it from the tin (you may need to chill it first). Cut into any shape you like and keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
*To check your brownie is done, stick a skewer inside, it must come out covered with lots of gooey crumb, not with dry crumbs, but it mustn’t be the type of wet mix you started off with. It should be thicker and sticky to the touch. Check the brownie long before the baking time has elapsed – if it turns out to be underbaked, chilling it will make it set hard and you will still be able to slice it and enjoy it.