Friday, December 01, 2006

Summer in Sydney and The Consequences of Making These Bars

coffee-and-chocolate-crunch title

You probably haven't noticed, but the past few recipes were made during my time "away", and I haven't really had time to make anything neew since then. No time for baking? It's shameful, I know and what is even more disappointing is that I haven't even had time to enter a risotto into this month's Hay Hay it's Donna Day. I'm so sorry I missed out and I'll be even more sorry when I see all the wonderful entries.
But I am suspecting that as the days get sunnier and the temperature begins to soar, and the general air of summer becomes all the more palpable and harder to ignore, I will increasingly be more absent from my kitchen. I don’t think I could spend my summer slaving away next to an oven, literally baking myself into a melting pool of sweat. Besides, it's practically a social misdemeanour not to spend Sydney summers outdoors as our city is made for summer. The weather is warm and the sky is blue and the beach is always a better option; were so lucky to be living somewhere that is dotted with gorgeous beaches along our coastline, so why not take advantage of it? And as much as I would love to squander away my summer, baking in my kitchen, I’d rather be baking on a beach.

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.

Coffee chocolate crunch

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!

Coffee and Chocolate Crunch Bars
adapted from
this book

Coffee chocolate crunch

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.

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.

Coffee chocolate crunch

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!


ilingc said...

Wow! You seriously have been busy on your break time. I love bikkies that just melt in your mouth and your bars sounds exactly like my cup of tea.

ps. I love the shot from above of the almonds, the one just before the recipe.

Anonymous said...

You may have been busy while you were away but i hope you enjoyed it. Those bars look we usually bake every year on christmas eve i know what i will be making instead of cakes thanks for the recipe.

Brilynn said...

Bars so good they induce fighting over them? I like it.

Anonymous said...

These look amazing! And like I-Ling said, those photographs are stunning!

wheresmymind said...

Coffay and chocolate...inspired!!

Erielle said...

You posted two winners in a row! I am so torn between these bars and the mascarpone tarts. Well, I do have a snowday today, definitely won't be going to the beach, so maybe both the bars and tarts are an option.

Meg said...

These look fantastic, but dangerous. I think I'll wait until I can get an empty house all to myself to attempt these. They look lovely, though, and the photos are great. Keep it up and have a good weekend!

Anonymous said...

These look wonderful. Great photos as always too.

Anonymous said...

Summer time heat is not my idea for baking in the kitchen.
I can certainly see from reading this recipe that there is just about the right amount of chocolate, butter and sugar to equal a very large quilt trip! And they'd be worth every bite!

Helene said...

Jen: fantabulous! That's what the husband said when I made these, but never blogged about because we shared with others and they were gone before I could take a pic...! Dang they are seriously good

Anonymous said...

oh yes I am not blaming you! I remember my times in Sydney, always in the sun! Enjoy! I might visit Tasmania in March while going to New Zealand ;-)

Your crunchy bars are on my list. I love them!

Anonymous said...

These look absolutely divine! I don't think I can stop muching once I start eating it...