Gluten-Free Nutella Slice and…The Naenae Pool

‘Naenae’ is pronouced ‘Nigh-Nigh’ as in ‘The end is Nigh’ – I hope that helps!

When I was at swim squads this morning, pounding my way up and down the black line, (I do like to talk myself up), I was thinking about the swimming lessons I had when I was growing up.  You may think I have exhausted this topic seeing as I’ve already told you about the lessons at Waiwhetu and the Riddiford Baths, but wait, there’s more; I also had lessons at the Naenae Olympic Swimming Centre.

I’m not sure why we had lessons at the Naenae Centre, perhaps we had these when the Riddiford Baths were closed for the winter.  But don’t be fooled, the Naenae Pool wasn’t indoors either but apparently it was heated so this made all the difference?  After school we would be bundled into the car and off we went to Upper Hutt where there was the infamous Naenae Centre.

Gluten-Free Nutella and Meringue Slice

Gluten-Free Nutella and Meringue Slice

It was perched on a piece of land that rose above the surrounding area just so it could be all the more exposed to the gale force winds and other harsh elements to make the experience all that more ‘character building’.  There were three pools that I can recall.  There was a toddler pool that was only a few inches deep and it had square tiles on the bottom that were plain light blue but every so often there was a tile with a nursery rhyme character on it like Snow White or Bambi and this was to encourage children to put their faces in the water and go look for their favourite story-book hero.  I do remember the heating system worked well in this pool but probably because there wasn’t much water to heat.

A step-up from toddler pool was a square pool where the water was about four feet deep.  Gone were the pretty pictures on the tiles and also gone was the effective heating.  The third pool was an Olympic 50mtr pool with a diving section and very deep water and probably just one tiny heater so this pool was freezing.

Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Slice

Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Slice

I had my lessons in the middle pool.  On my first lesson my older sister and I were introduced to a gruff male coach.  He asked my sister to get into the pool and she was always well behaved so she did as she was told and jumped in and then he told her to start swimming up and down and so she did.  He then asked me to get in and I was already freezing cold from shivering on the pool’s edge in a balmy 13C (55F) with gale force winds almost knocking me over and my feet were now numb from standing on the freezing wet concrete and I was having to stamp my feet to keep the circulation going.  ‘Get in’, he roared and I slowly and reluctantly lowered myself into the water but it was so shockingly cold that I clung to the pool’s edge and didn’t move.  ‘Start swimming’, the coach said.  I just looked at him with my teeth chattering’.

‘Swim’, the man yelled.  I couldn’t move.  I was frozen.  I had my hands holding on to the cold side and my chest up against my arms and if I moved even a millimetre cold water would race between my arms and my chest shocking me’.

‘Do you know how to swim?’  I just kept looking at him.  I couldn’t move and now I couldn’t speak because I was even colder.

‘I need to see you swim.  Move.  Give me one lap.  Freestyle.  Any style.  Give me any stroke you can do.  Ten laps and you can hop out.  What about backstroke?  Do you like backstroke?  How about you give me two laps of backstroke?  All right we’ll start with freestyle.  If you don’t get moving you’ll get cold’.  That was the whole problem.  I was already so cold I couldn’t move.  And my never-can-do-wrong sister just kept swimming and swimming.

‘Move off from the wall.  Put your face in the water and get going.  You’ll love it once you get going.  Give me two laps.  Two laps of freestyle and you can get out’.  This went on for half an hour.  I never moved.  In the end he yelled, ‘Just get out’, and off he stormed.  The next week he wouldn’t let me have my lesson in the middle pool; he made me have my lesson in the toddler pool but I didn’t mind; it was so much warmer.

Chocolate and meringue

Chocolate and meringue

When I was allowed back in the ‘proper’ pool I did comply and unclasp my grip from the pool’s edge.  We’d have our lessons in that pool and then we’d have to get out and run to the Olympic pool where we did laps like we were in a squad.  I learned to do the distance from the square pool to the Olympic pool really quickly as the wind would whip around our wet bodies and in all likelihood it would be raining as well and the concrete would make your feet numb.  We’d dive into the Olympic pool and start swimming to stimulate the circulation.  The cold water give me brain freeze and cause a headache.  ‘You’ll get used to it’, the coach would yell, or ‘If you swim fast you won’t notice it’.  One week later I was so cold I vomited in the pool.  Everyone had to get out.

Nothing was ever done about that freezing cold water.  There was always an excuse; ‘Oh we’ve had such a cold spell it’s caused the temperature to drop’, or ‘We’re getting someone in to look at the heaters’, and the best one, ‘It’s not as cold as you think’.

'I want more', said Alfie.

‘I want more’, said Alfie.

Today you can still swim at Naenae Pool Centre but guess what…these days it’s an indoor centre with climate-controlled air-conditioning and effective pool heating.  I wonder why they thought they needed a change.

Here’s a comforting sweet dessert that’s so lovely it will warm your insides.  I made this for Alfie on his birthday.  If you love Nutella and meringue you’ll love this recipe that combines the two.

'I want more', said Alfie.

You can make this in around 40 minutes.

Gluten-Free Nutella Slice

Makes:  16

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  This is quite an affordable slice to make.  Most items are pantry staples.  I only needed to purchase the hazelnut meal.

  • 125g butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup gluten-free self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cup hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
  • 3/4 cup Nutella
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced.

Grease an 18cm x 28cm (base) slice pan.  Line base and sides with baking paper, allowing 3cm overhang on all sides.

Combine butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, flour, hazelnut meal and cocoa powder in a bowl.  Spread over base of prepared pan.  Bake for 25 minutes or until top is just firm to touch (base will sink slightly).

Spread with Nutella.  Set aside to cool.  Increase oven to 220°C/200°C fan-forced.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until dissolved.  Spoon meringue onto Nutella.  Using a spatula, swirl mixture to create small peaks.  Bake for 5 minutes or until golden.

Cool.  Cut into squares.  Serve.

This recipe is from Taste.


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  1. oh my goodness i cannot believe how cold that pool was! i am glad they finally installed some heating:)

    i’ve never made a slice topped with meringue like this before – looks so good! will definitely have to give it a try 🙂

  2. That looks soooooo good. I ‘ve just got into Nutella and have been spreading it on French creeps lately. Also very yummy.

    We were battle hardened in the 70’s and 80’s no???. swimming in that climate in an unheated pool must have been torture.

  3. I wonder why some grown ups thought being cruel and harsh was somehow good for us! Funny though I remember going to an outside pool in England as a teenager just like this one … choice! its funny how the opposite sex changes your view of outside pools. Brrrrrr.

  4. Oh my goodness, Charlie, that certainly sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. The swim coach sounds mean like Sue Sylvester on Glee.
    These squares look delightful; I haven’t had Nutella in a million years.

  5. After all the cruel and unusual punishment of the pool, you turned out just fine! It built character ;). Amazing though, we’d never in a million years think of doing that to our children.
    These Nutella slices look delicious, I am about to go back on my GF/ Paleo diet and have been filing away recipes in my head of suitable desserts I come across. The idea of no sugar and dessert frightens me.

    Nazneen xx

  6. Why were these swim teachers often so mean? I cannot swim because of a horrible teacher who threatened to throw me into the deep end of the pool if I did not jump into the water. I was scared to death. After that, any attempt to teach me to swim was useless. I certainly hope that today’s swim teachers are more compassionate and kind.

  7. I don’t blame you for not wanting to move in that frigid water! I can’t believe they made you swim in that…i’m cold just thinking about it, hehe.

    Wow, this cake looks so fudgy and delicious! I’m adding it to my list of things to try 🙂

  8. There is nothing worse than cold water. If the water is not bathtub temp I hate to go in. Your Nutella slice would soon make anyone forget about the cold water.

  9. Good for you that you conquered the harsh cold enviroment and the mean coach and moved on to the olympic pool.
    Your nutella slice is very inviting.

  10. I have made my own nutella! Mine was with almonds, though instead of hazelnuts, I am not fond of hazelnuts… It was soooo yummy!! I might just have to make some more and try this recipe with it, cuz this looks fantastic!! 😉

  11. Your story reminds me of the swimming lessons I had as a child–I hated them with a passion! This dessert looks wonderful. My experiences making meringes have been mixed, but I’m willing to brave baking them again if it means I get to eat this.

  12. I used behave in a similar fashion during my swimming lessons and would flounder around like I was drowning. Everyone despaired of me ever learning to swim until one day my father walked to the other side of the pool and held out what was half a crown back then. He said I could have it if I swam across the pool. Guess what? I swam across the pool. I had no excuses after that.

  13. The slice looks delicious, I love these 2 things. Our school swimming sports was outside, but it was always in the height of summer, so it wast too bad.

  14. Oh I remember those freezing outdoor pools. I also remember swimming in The Serpentine, a lake in the middle of London. The life guards would come along in a rowing boat and tip you off your lilo to make you prove you could swim. Never saw them leave the boat to rescue anyone who couldn’t. The water was freezing! Great looking cake – not surprised Alfie wanted more. GG

  15. You are always a riot…you had me at ‘hazelnuts’.

  16. I go to hydrotherapy one day a week at an indoor pool that is so hot and steamy it has caused people to literally faint from the heat. Another day hydro is at a kiddies swim school, and our day is the day they change the water and top it up with the fire hose- it’s freezing. If only there was a happy medium 🙁 Even though it’s annoying, it’s still better than what you went through Charlie- you must have character in spades!
    Did you know the big 750g jars of Nutella were half price this week, sadly I have two and absolutely no excuse for not making your slice. You do realise I’m dieting, right?

  17. that looks amazing!

  18. Oh Charlie it makes me chilly just reading this. I really despise that saying ‘it’s ok once you get in!’ Yes it might just be because you go numb!
    I can see why Alfie wanted a second serving this looks delicious.

  19. I remember doing swimming lessons on cold days. The worst! The vomit story is pretty bad! It must have been soooo cold!
    Love the combo in this slice!

  20. I don’t know, but this post, and the old Naenae, scares me. I guess ’cause I can’t swim. I really should learn.
    The nutella slice looks delicious. Your meringue looks perfectly swirled and cloud-light.

  21. Oh my heavens, I’m imagining this with nut butter instead of Nutella and am filled with longing. The rest of your post, however, fills me with horror. Swimming and freezingness: two of my least favourite things!

  22. I wonder which parent it finally was that mad the noise loud enough for those guys to finally agree to install a heater. Or maybe some of those swimmers grew up, came back and said -” I’ll be darned if I let my kid be tortured the way I was. Here is the money, now get the heater going….”
    Whatever the reason, I am glad it’s heated now.
    You need to stop making such grogeous food. I swear I gain 5 pounds just by looking at it.

  23. Oh dear! That sounds brutal! I had a teacher that was similar and thought that I was just pretending to not know how to swim until I actually almost drowned! I sympathise with those terrible swimming teachers Charlie I really do.

  24. I hate being cold…and cold water is the worst!!! I remember my dad taking the 4 of us girls swimming in the winter (to get out of my mom’s hair). The water was freezing, but the worst part was walking back to the car where our wet hair would actually freeze. We were bribed with ice cream sandwiches (to freeze us from the inside, too?), which was enough to get me to go (the sweet tooth was alive and well back then, too). I think I could have easily been bribed by your nutella slice…whoa, do they look decadent and delish!

  25. Anything with Nutella in it has got to be good!
    I hate the cold too …brr

  26. I absolutely hate cold, cold water. Just hate it. I suppose I am a Florida girl at heart, no matter how long I’ve been gone. I feel for you.

    Love the look of the slice! Easy, and full of yummy ingredients. Hazelnuts and chocolate, oh my yes.

  27. Nice recipe, . . . only problem is keeping the nutella jar full enough to cook from!
    Like the idea of meringue on a slice xo

  28. I used to take my mom swimming for exercise indoors and it was FREEZING. There was nothing worse than swimming in JAnuary in water that was barely warmer than outside!

  29. Love the meringue on top!

  30. Oh my, that does actually bring back some memories of swimming lessons, meets and outdoor supposedly heated pools when I was a kid. So glad your kids don’t have to go through that now…and they get to come home to this nice slice to boot!

  31. Though it’s true that our Winters can be brutal, the pools are indoors and heated. Outdoor pools are open only for June, July, and August, so, they’re only cold early in the season. It’s debatable whether this cold treatment helped you to swim but I think it wonderful that here you are, not quite 20 years later, and still swimming. Good for you, Charlie!

  32. It sounds punishing. I posted earlier but it doesn’t seem to have showed up.

  33. Love that the flavors of nutella are echoed throughout…nutella FTW! =)

  34. Loving the flavors in these slices…

  35. What a horrible swimming experience! I do have many memories of being cold during childhood swimming lessons, but never, I suspect, quite this cold. The slice looks like it would be a safer option all around 😉

  36. I don’t do cold water at all so doubt I would even have made it as far as getting in the pool!
    Fab looking sweet treats.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  37. Totally saving this recipe. I am clearly a nutella-holic.

  38. Here in Colorado, we live in what is called an ‘alpine dessert’, the dry climate makes any water on your skin evaporate so fast it feels cold no matter the temp, so it is vital to be inside for swimming or for the water to be heated, at least to some degree. Swimming lessons at our neighborhood outside public pool was brutal because the pool heater was always broken, or ineffective. The kids could barely focus on what the instructor was saying because they were so cold–all they wanted to do was wrap up in a towel. I didn’t think to make them treats to give them something to looks forward to after their lessons — of course, hot chocolate would have been what they really wanted. Anything to get warm!

  39. That sounds vaguely traumatic actually…I need a slice of this lovely meringue to calm me down after just imagining it!

  40. Just thinking about swimming in that cold pool is making me SO COLD right now 🙂 I love Nutella and this looks so delicious. Love your pictures!

  41. I had to laugh at your swimming story. I had something similar; my mom would send me on the bus to the lake every day one summer. I was supposed to go to my swimming lesson at a given time but I didn’t like to swim so I would go to the other side of the lake when it was time for my lesson and play in the sand. One day she came to watch my lesson. Oh dear, was I ever in trouble when found me playing in the sand ……….. 🙂
    Your Nutella slice looks amazing. I think I might have gone to my lessons had they served these afterwards. 🙂

  42. Really nice dessert. And although your story was funny, it made me wince – you do no good freezing in cold water like that, at least IMO. Glad you survived that!

  43. EEEK there is nothing worse than cold water!! >.< Sounds awful! I would love to try a slice of this, it looks really yummy!

  44. I have so many memories of cold cold pools and terribly long swimming lessons. I’m glad you shared such a sweet cake to warm up my thoughts 🙂 I wish I had a slice. Thank you for sharing your pictures, your recipe, and your words!

  45. I always get purple lips at swim lessons in school and I was terrified of cold water. My jaw didn’t stop moving too. I totally forgot about those memories! These delicious dessert in 40 minutes? Wow that sounds so good!

  46. Oh wow, what a nasty coach! I can understand when grown ups want to toughen kids up but his actions were, in my opinion, unreasonable 🙁

  47. Dear Charlie,

    That puke story in the pool is quite funny. I used to love swimming lessons when I was growing up in Malaysia but it’s the opposite there because the weather is so humid, I can’t wait to jump in a do a few laps. And the best thing about swimming lessons is the club sandwiches, french fries and Welsh rarebits afterwards 🙂

  48. My mother was a swimmimg teacher for the department of education. I think she was pretty nice though. I love this nutella slice Charlie. Skater will love it too if I make it for him

  49. This is a delicious cake, Charlie, and I’d love to make this very soon. I can use some comfort! 🙂 I can’t imagine swimming in such freezing conditions! It’s sounds like torture, and it’s a wonder to me that it didn’t turn you away from swimming for the rest of your life! You’re adaptable! I’m not going to read today’s post right now, because I enjoy savoring your stories! I fell behind, and now I need to slowly catch up…you’re like a box of chocolates! If I read “all at once” I lose out on the pleasure of the taste! oxo

  50. Love it – from the Nutella fan club!

  51. I’ve always been curious what happens if someone has a, er, mishap in a pool. Do they have to drain the whole thing? Dredge it?

    Great look cake. I’m not such a huge fan of nutella but every now and again it’s great!

  52. Your Gf nutella slices look amazing !!! What a real treat!

  53. Oh gosh that is SO harsh that swimming coach! How can he do this to you 🙁 not good enough really!!! But I’m glad that you were able to learn how to swim and I get you’re a great swimmer but still! I don’t think any child should be let to swim in the cold like that!

    Ohhh great recipe 🙂 I love Nutella and I know the perfect person to make this for 😉 thanks for the recipe!

  54. I must be the only blogger on the planet who has never tasted Nutella. This looks very tasty, yet light with the meringue.

  55. This is a must-do! I love Nutella and I’m sure the meringue gives a light texture!
    Best from NY!

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