That said, when I did have some spare time on my hands a couple of weeks ago, I made these magnificent crunch bars that I am thinking of taking to a Christmas party. I did already express with emphatic praise my fondness for this book, haven't I? Well the recipe for these bars came from this book and they just reminded me about how much I adored it.
Made with probably two of the most potent and habit-inducing flavours known to man, these Coffee and Chocolate Crunch Bars are rightfully addictive. Who can resist? Dorie Greenspan’s original recipe called for Heath toffee bits, although I have never seen these in Australia, so I replaced the toffee bits with roasted almond pieces. I cannot imagine what the bars would taste like with toffee bits, but I must say I wasn’t left wondering, the roasted almond pieces were simply irresistible and a great complement to the chocolate.
I have to say that the amount of butter used in this recipe is almost gratuitous; I was a mere 25g short of using an entire block of butter, that’s how much went into them! But when you sink your teeth into the crumbly shortbread base and feel it slowly melt in your mouth all is forgiven, and forgotten. You then begin to exclaim, "Calories...Schmalories!" You know that all that butter was worth it in the end, justified in every delectable bite. Perhaps it is only after your tenth gluttonous bar that you start to negotiate in your head, “I’ll just have five more pieces and I’ll do a 10km run tomorrow”, or “If I polish off the rest of these bars, all I’ll have tomorrow is a leaf of lettuce and one cherry tomato”.
Not only are these bars guilt-inducing, they can also bring out the worst in people in the same way that free samples do. One freebie is never enough and everyone begins to think that it’s the apocalypse and proceeds to stock up with what they deem are extra rations, necessary for survival. Well the same goes for these crunch bars, there were squabbles and bickering over who got what piece and how fast people were eating, as there wasn’t enough to go around for everyone. It turned people into a pack of wild animals, each one scrutinising how much the other had eaten, and disputes broke out about who got more and who didn’t get enough, it was an utter zoo.
Even before the bars were made, everyone could smell them baking in the kitchen and the heady aroma of coffee and chocolate wafted through the air beckoning them to come. Without doubt, people began to stake out a place in the kitchen, plotting the quickest route there the moment the oven door pries open. I sincerely suggest you make these bars alone in some isolation chamber and then just walk away before the wild ravenous feeding ensues.
So don’t tell me you haven’t been warned, make these bars at your own risk and know that I am not responsible for any battle wounds that result during feeding time. I have to say, through all the guilt, all the butter and all the wild behaviour, these bars were more than worth it. I would be happy to turn my kitchen upside down for another taste of these bars.
Also as a sidenote, if toffee bits are available in your area do not hesitate to replace the roasted almonds with the toffee bits. Enjoy!
adapted from this book
1½ cups plain all-purpose flour
1 tsp espresso powder, or finely ground instant coffee
½ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup packed, light muscovado sugar
¼ cup caster sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
80g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
170g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup chopped almonds, roasted
Preheat oven to 190°C. Prepare a 23x33cm shallow baking pan with some parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, espresso powder, salt and cinnamon, set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
Beat in the vanilla and mix until combined.
Sift the dry ingredients over in two additions just until the flour has been incorporated into the batter.
Add the chopped chocolate and mix until combined. Be careful not to overwork the batter.
Scrape the dough together using a spatula, the dough will be quite sticky and heavy.
Fill the baking pan evenly with the dough, using your fingers to press into corners and fill holes to make a nice even layer.
Bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes, or until the base starts to bubble vigorously.
Remove from oven and get ready to add the topping.
MAKING THE TOPPING
Scatter chopped chocolate evenly over the surface of the hot base and replace in the oven for 2-3 minutes.
The chocolate will begin to melt although will not have spread evenly.
Remove from oven and immediately spread the melted chocolate evenly using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.
Sprinkle roasted almond over the chocolate.
Place the baking pan on a rack to cool to room temperature and for chocolate to set. If need be, place the bars in the refrigerator to set the chocolate.
When chocolate has set firmly, carefully lift the bars out of the pan using the edges of the parchment paper.
Cut the bars into whichever size you want and serve.
Make Ice Cream Bars, by placing a layer of ice cream in between two pieces of the bars (chocolate side facing outwards).
Wrap them in wax paper and place in the freezer to firm up again.
When firm they are ready to be eaten!