Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goodbye 2006, Hello 2007!

Happy New Year message from Milk and Cookies (Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwich)

Wow! What a year!

It’s been a year of adventure, and a year of challenge,
a year of great joy and achievement; a year of sorrow and mourning.

A year of weddings,
a year of birthdays,
a year of newborn babies.

Mountains and valleys,
exhilaration and despair.
Rough seas, and torturous blows
have shaken us to the core,
but we are still standing.

A year of blessing, a year of opportunity.
A year of great favour,
A year of grace.

Friendships were made,
bonds were cemented
Memories were made,
etched into eternity,
never to be forgotten.

It’s been one heck of a year,
Let’s do it all again, Bring on 2007!!

Baking montage: cookies, creaming the butter, melting chocolate, cookie batter

2006 is the year I started this blog, so it will always go down in history as the year I decided to step out of my comfort zone and embark on something new and foreign. As I tip toe, and feel my way through this venture called food blogging, I know I will stumble upon more and more unlikely surprises. I can't wait.

Above, is a little taste of what has been happening in my kitchen. Look out for it in 2007!

I wish you and your loved ones a safe and Happy New Year!!

Love Jen xxx

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy Holidays!

Bradley's Head

I trust that you all had a wonderful Christmas, filled with laughter, food and a little bit of lunacy thrown in for good measure. I know I did! Our family celebrates with a Noche Beuna, a midnight feast on Christmas Eve, followed by a ritual of opening presents.

Seeing as we celebrate Christmas, on the eve, it meant that we had all of Christmas day to lounge, laze and loll in whatever fashion befitted us, so we decided to do our lounging at Bradley's Head near Mosman. And a
lthough, thunderstorms and rain seemed to be the prevailing overture for the Christmas weekend, there suddenly came a change in weather as the sun managed to make an appearance and emerged from the cover of clouds, just in time. Although I was revelling in the possibility of this rain easing many people’s misery over the Christmas season, I was undoubtedly glad to see the sun after all those dreary clouds.

A great afternoon was spent frolicking at Bradley’s Head and then it was off to Georges Head for some picnicking; with cheese, crackers, a bucket of prawns and the obligatory bottle of champagne. Bottoms up, everyone!

City Skyline from Bradley's Head

As I pat my full rounded belly, all I can say is that I hope you continue to enjoy this holiday season, eat up, be merry and seize every moment you have in 2006!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Oh Mille Feuille, Oh Mille Feuille

Summer Berry Mille Feuille

One more sleep!
Is your Christmas tree up? Are you stockings filled?
Have you hung the mistletoe?
Have you done all your shopping?

Our sun-drenched summers are indeed something to boast about, but we down-under are bracing ourselves for one of the wettest Christmases in years! A statement that would normally, not be punctuated with an exclamation, although for us in Sydney, the wet weather is a more than welcome respite for our drought affected state. Christmas prayers and wishes have been answered as a sizeable downpour has descended on Sydney, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time- a well received gift from the heavens.

As I am writing this post, there is literally a monsoon pouring down from above; a symphony of rain to accompany these words. It’s a well-timed and long-awaited Christmas present for the state of New South Wales, and after flying over the drought affected areas while en route to Melbourne, I never grasped the extent of the drought until that time. So it is good news for all!

Summer Berry Mille Feuille

To offset the grey hues currently draping our city, here is a Summer Berry Mille Feuille that is the perfect dessert for anytime of the year. Berries are the perfect fruits to counter any grey day, their vibrant tints and superb contours are just the thing to chase away your troubles. If berries won’t make you happy I don’t know what will. The apples are soaked in a little drizzling of lemon juice and honey, but if you prefer you can leave them undressed, they taste just as good.

So here's to a very merry and wet Christmas to all! Go and jump in some puddles, run in the rain and may your garden look greener than ever.

Summer Berry Mille Feuille
special equipment: mandolin slicer
serves 4-6

Summer Berry Mille Feuille Summer Berry Mille Feuille

1 red or green apple
juice of ½ a lemon
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup berries

Raspberry sauce
½ cup raspberries (frozen)
¼ cup caster sugar

Place frozen raspberries and sugar in a food processor with the blade attachment and pulse 5-8 times until the raspberries are crushed.
Place in an airtight container and store in the freezer.

In a medium bowl, mix the honey and lemon juice.
Slice the apples thinly, using a mandolin slicer and drench slices in the lemon and honey mixture.
Set aside for 5 minutes to soak.

Spread a thin layer of mascarpone cheese on two slices of apples.
Place one layer on a plate and top with berries, place the second slice of apple on top and top with another layer of berries.
Top with another slice of apple and drizzle, with raspberry sauce.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Numbering the Days

Asparagus and Parmesan Cigars

Summer makes me forget that I have a blog. Don’t get me wrong, the eating doesn’t stop but somehow the blogging part goes by the wayside. Since starting this blog in May, I have never been more disinterested in baking and blogging than today. As I lay in my bed looking up at the golden beams of sunlight streaming through my window, my thoughts turn to how I could possibly rid myself of the responsibilities of work and squander away the day at the beach. It seems that summer also makes me forget that I have a job.

With only 2 more days until I go on annual leave and 6 more sleeps until Christmas, the imminence of the holiday season makes me grow even more eager with anticipation. If you haven't already noticed I love just love summer. And perhaps it’s the romantic, heady wistfulness I get whenever summer comes around, but whatever that feeling is, I am addicted to it. Summer is when you can throw all caution to the wind and forget about everything else, caring only about the things that really matter.

Asparagus and Parmesan Cigars

While most of you in the northern half of the world will be making snow angels and snow men, eating turkeys and egg nog while sitting in front of a crackling fire; we folks below the equator will be busying ourselves with sand angels and sand castles, while munching on prawns in the heat of the summer sun. Yes, that’s what an Australian Christmas looks like. And although I have always been romanced by thoughts of a white Christmas- a whim agitated by all those Hollywood movies, I am still a sucker for a warm Christmas.

And even though the warm weather has somewhat dried up my motivation for blogging, these gorgeous asparagus cigars are making me fall in love with summer all the more. Other than berries, asparagus are probably summer’s other bounty that I am most passionate about. There is just something about these spears that scream “summer’s here!”

Asparagus and Parmesan Cigars

These cigars are so simple to make and are the perfect appetisers when entertaining. They come out of the oven golden brown and crispy; after cooling them for a couple of minutes they are ready to serve. I filled my cigars with some Grano Padano, however you can fill them with whatever cheese you want.

Asparagus and Parmesan Cigars

Asparagus and Parmesan Cigars

2 dozen bunches of green or white asparagus
24 sheets spring roll wrapper or filo pastry
½ cup Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, finely grated
sea salt
cracked pepper
olive oil
small cup of water

Preheat oven to 210°C.
Take asparagus and snap off the bottom quarter by simply bending the stalks until they snap or by taking a knife and chopping the last segment from the base.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and blanch asparagus for 1-2 minutes.
Drain asparagus and run under cold water. Set aside.
Take a sheet of spring roll wrapper and sprinkle some cheese, salt and pepper.
Place a stalk of asparagus at one corner of the wrapper and begin to roll the wrapper tightly around the asparagus, seal the end corner by dipping your finger into the cup of water and dampening the corner before closing the cigars.
Repeat process for the remaining asparagus and then lay them on a baking tray, drizzle generously with olive oil and bake for 10-25 minutes or until the cigars are golden brown in colour.
Remove from tray and place on a serving dish to cool.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Where It's At

Raspberry Friands

Of all the seasons, I think it is summer that smells the best. There is the zesty chill of winter, the fresh fruity bouquet of spring, the crisp apple-scented air of autumn and then there is the sweet berry ripeness of summer. When it comes to fruit, summer is definitely where it’s at for me as I just love berries. To me, they are bite-sized bursts of summer delight, and I could probably wax lyrical about berries in the same way I do about ice cream it’s really not that hard. What’s not to love?

Raspberry Friand

Well, I have to admit that as a child I never did like berries, but nor did I like anything that came from a plant for that matter. Growing up in Asia where fresh berries were far and few to come by in those days, I was never properly introduced to the berry until we moved to Australia. And even then, as a six year-old kid my idea of tasty fodder consisted of great Australian treats like Twisties and Burger Rings, which come to think, never really tasted of burgers at all. Oh how I now envy you fortunate babes who were weaned on berries picked fresh from bushes in the countryside. Don’t you dare belittle your good fortune!

I was a city kid, weaned on
Paddle Pops and Sunny Boys and back then I was more interested in sinking my teeth into a slice of mum’s fairy bread than a biting into a succulent ripe berry, and to be honest I cannot remember when this all changed. My childhood might have been devoid of actual berry picking and frolicking in the countryside, but I don’t think I turned out too bad. Now, I could never again bring myself to place a Twistie or a Burger Ring in my mouth as my palate just won’t allow it. Perhaps my tastebuds have matured and have become too good for all that junk, but I have to say that devouring a bag of Doritos has never been beneath me. That said, I have now come to love the berry in whatever shape or form.

Making Raspberry Friands

Yesterday was an unusually nippy summer’s day; I had planned on making these berries into some sort of berry smoothie, however the weather did not permit and the smoothie had to wait another day. It was so strangely cold that where I wanted to be was next to an oven. An outrageous statement to make mid-December in suburban Sydney, although there must have been some sort of meteorological mix-up because I was fairly certain yesterday felt like a chilly winter’s day. So what became of these raspberries were fillings for some friands.

An all-time favourite at our place, mum always loved the friand and even wrote an irate letter to the Green’s Company when they discontinued their Lemon and Poppy Seed Friand mix. Apparently there just wasn’t a demand for them. Luckily for mum, I have since learned how to make them myself and she needn’t rely on the Greens company for her friand fix. We’ve now moved on from the lemon and poppy seed days and have moved to our berry phase. They lend so well to baking as when cooked the berries pop and burst open their juicy goodness into the cake. What you get are moist pockets of flavour exploding in your mouth!

So when to day turns out to a typical, muggy summer’s day in Sydney, I wish I still had those berries for a smoothie, but I guess you can’t win both ways. But do try these friands as they hit the spot no matter what season.

Summer Berry Friands
taken from
this book
(makes 6-10)

Raspberry Friand

125g unsalted butter, diced
1 cup almond meal
1 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted
¾ cup plain all-purpose flour, sifted
½ tsp baking powder
5 egg whites, lightly beaten
½ cup fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries or strawberries, sliced)

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Prepare a friand tin or 6 individual dariole moulds by lightly brushing them with butter.
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat until golden in colour. Set side to cool.
Place almond meal, icing sugar, flour and baking powder in a bowl and stir to combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy.
Add the egg whites to the flour mixture and stir to combine.
Then add the cooled butter and stir until thoroughly blended.
Spoon the mixture into the tin/moulds, dropping some berries halfway through.
Fill the tins/moulds 1.5cm from the top.
Place a berry on top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops are golden brown and springy to touch.
Cool for 10 minutes and unmould the friands by tapping the bases lightly a couple of times until they are released. Dust with icing sugar.

Placing Value Upon Humanity: Menu of Hope

Menu For Hope Logo

Even in this busy season I pray we find the time to geneorusly open our wallets and put our goodwill into action. The Menu of Hope is now on until December 22nd and here is your chance to help feed another person.

If you live within the Asia-Pacific region, Helen of Grab Your Fork has all the detals here on how to donate and what prizes you are up for. If you are not so lucky to be within the Asia-Pacific region then here are the people who are hosting in your neck of the woods, they will know all about how you can donate and what prizes are on offer in your area:

CANADA: Jasmine from Cardamom Addict
David Lebovitz from
Melissa de Leon from The Cooking Diva
Adam from The Amateur Gourmet
Sam from Becks and Posh
US (the rest):
Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen

Thank you and wish you all the best in the raffle!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

All I want for Christmas...

Triple Chocolate Semifreddo

On my Christmas wish-list is an ice cream maker. It was on the birthday wish-list too, although somehow I don’t think the message was quite heard. Maybe I didn’t give it enough emphasis, but I did manage to get most things I wanted including a Mimco bag that I had been coveting for so long. But perhaps if I blog about my desire for an ice maker, this somehow makes it official. So Santa if you are reading this, please note that I don’t want my two front teeth or two turtle doves, just one shiny new ice cream maker to make those sweltering summer days less disagreeable.

With summer well and truly on her way, and with the temperature set to sizzle even the most heat-resistant, happy-to-bake-in-the-sun type of individuals, having an ice maker in my possession will most certainly be a blessing. And not only for me, but for those fortunate souls that will get to share in the benefits of an ice cream maker. Those that will get to bask in the mutual benefits of me having an ice cream maker should carefully consider their Christmas shopping list before hastily buying me the first scented candle they see in the mall. Not that I have anything against the scented candle, although any more would turn my house into a potential matchstick.

Triple Chocolate Semifreddo

Sydney summers have been known to climb past the 45°C mark, and everyone remembers that ghastly New Years day that probably caused spontaneous combustion statistics to triple. What good was a pool then? It either became too crowded with every man, woman, cat and dog eager to take a dip, causing the pool to turn into a giant pee-infested hot tub, or the heat would cause the chlorine to rise to the top and create a sordid looking dark film over the surface of the water. I’m telling you, what good is a pool then? This is where ice cream becomes your best friend.

Because I have yet to acquire myself an ice cream maker to call my own, I opted to make something not too far off- semifreddo. Semifreddo, which is Italian for “half-cold” refers mostly to a dessert that somewhat resembles a frozen mousse. Its texture is less velvety than that of ice cream although it still melts in your mouth in the most glorious fashion. It’s a great little number, but I confess can be quite a pain to make in comparison to ice cream as that all the “churning” is done by you and not by the ice cream maker. There is also quite a bit of washing involved after as that you need to beat the ingredients in separate bowls.

Triple Chocolate Semifreddo

This semifreddo was a three bowl operation, as opposed to ice cream which would have been a one bowl operation. So for some, the washing factor may be turn off but there are fewer margins for error with semifreddo than with ice cream. Ice cream requires you to make a crème aglaise, that if left unattended and un-whisked for even a second could turn into the thickest lot of scrambled eggs you have ever made. With semifreddo, the eggs and sugar are cooked over a double broiler only until the mixture turns pale, so it is less tiresome with the whisking and less precarious with the cooking time compared to ice cream. How fluffy your semifreddo becomes all depends on you, as you determine how much air you can physically beat into that bowl of cream and eggs. Just don’t get too enthusiastic and beat your cream into butter, which is far from impossible if you are using an electric mixer.

This Triple Chocolate Semifreddo contains dark, milk and white chocolate, hence the “triple” in the title. The dark chocolate makes up the semifreddo base and milk and while chocolate chunks are added to the mixture. When frozen, the chunks of milk and white chocolate are like little explosions of flavour and texture in every mouthful. After a taste of the finished semifreddo, you start to think that the three-bowl thing isn’t too bad at all. When all the washing is over and done with and it is just the eating that’s ahead of you, you forget about all the time it took to beat in all that air yourself. It’s goodness that you can taste and it’s goodness that’s well-earned and that you can't beat.

Although I still think an ice cream maker would be nice to have.

Triple Chocolate Semifreddo
taken from
this book

Triple Chocolate Semifreddo Triple Chocolate Semifreddo

250g dark chocolate (70% cacao)
3 eggs
2 egg yolks, extra
½ cup caster sugar
1¾ cups single or pouring cream (35-40% milk fat)
½ cup milk chocolate, chopped
½ cup white chocolate, chopped

Place the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted, set aside.
Place the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture is pale and the sugar has dissolved.
Remove from heat and beat with an electric mixer for 5-6 minutes or until the mixture has cooled to room temperature.
Using a wide metal spoon, fold through the melted chocolate until well incorporated with the egg mixture and has taken on the colour of the chocolate.
In another large bowl, place the cream and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Be careful not to seize your cream.
Fold the egg and chocolate mixture through the cream and add the chopped milk and white chocolate. Mix until fully incorporated.
Pour the mixture into a metal cake tin or glass overproof dish, cover and freeze for 4-6 hours until firm.
To serve, place scoops of semifreddo into chilled bowls or glasses.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Cheer

Chocolate Madeleines

Now that was a long nap…

Sorry for the long delay, it seems as though the Christmas rush has descended on Sydney in all means and measures. Work has been a frenzied hive of commotion in preparation for the holidays and we have barely even had time to scratch ourselves. For some people, shirts have remained unchanged after days of being at work, unkempt hair has been the style around the workplace and days of lost sleep have resulted in inventive attempts at concealing bloodshot eyes; it’s a glamourous job as you can see. I’ve got bags under my eyes the size of wineskins and I’ve been forced to live on bowls of popcorn and Redskins that will probably make my thighs the size of Grecian columns.

Not only has work been busy, but the shopping centres have also begun to burst with both eager and reluctant shoppers determined to get their Christmas shopping done. The Christmas crowds are quickly filling the shopping centres and you know how much I hate crowds; although it’s ironic that I am one of the crowd, yet they still bother me. I think it’s the fact that it is virtually impossible to walk in a straight line without colliding into another person. And when you are carrying 5 full bags of shopping you are somehow still expected to move out of a person’s way that is carrying a bag equivalent to the weight of a hairless Chihuahua. It almost requires some sort of military training to make your way through those busy aisles, dodging brimming shopping carts and the ubiquitous pram that nowadays seems to take up the same space as a 12-seater bus. Luckily I am what polite people call petite and I can easily slip through cracks in the crowd without infuriating other shoppers.

Chocolate Madeleines

Well, I can’t believe its only 17 days until Christmas and although I do like to bemoan the crowds of which I am a part of, I really am full of Christmas cheer. I absolutely do love Christmas and at the risk of sounding cliché, the spirit of Christmas is all about love, hope and peace, and in reality it’s a message that everyone can share in regardless of what you believe. I think that is why I love Christmas, it’s inclusive, rather than exclusive; homes and hearts are opened up, and in a city like Sydney, Christmas just makes the whole place light up, quite literally, in fact.

If you ask me, another thing that makes me light up are these madeleines (it's a pitiful segue, I know, but bear with me, I am sleep deprived). I have always loved these delightful little treats although never blogged about them until recently, and now I am blogging two madeleine recipes within a week of each other, fancy that!

Chocolate Madeleines

These two recipes, one being Shannon Bennett’s recipe for plain madeleines and this one from Gourmet Traveller’s Chocolate Edition for Chocolate Madeleines are my two favourite recipes, quite simply because they work, without fail. Of all the recipes I have attempted, these two have produced the best texture, taste and crumb by far. That is just my opinion and I have yet to try Dorie Greenspan’s recipe which could possibly make the list too, but don’t quote me on these being the best madeleine recipes ever, I am certain not all of you will find these to be the best. But if you’re interested in finding out here’s the recipe.


Chocolate Madeleines
From Gourmet Traveller’s CHOCOLATE
makes 20 madeleines

Chocolate Madeleines

Soft butter, for greasing
100g unsalted butter, diced
70g plain all-purpose flour
25g Dutch-process cocoa
40g ground almonds pinch of salt
3 eggs
110g caster sugar, plus extra for coating

Brush a madeleine tin with soft butter and refrigerate until cold, then repeat process. Melt chopped butter in a small saucepan until foamy and light brown, then remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve. Cool. Sift together flour, cocoa, ground almonds and salt into a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until mixture holds a trail. Add flour mixture and cooled butter to the eggs and stir gently until well combined. Stand mixture for 10 minutes, then spoon level tablespoons of mixture into holes of prepared tin and make at 190°C for 8-10 minutes. Carefully transfer madeleines onto a wire rack to cool. Repeat process with remaining madeleine batter, remembering to double butter and chill the tin before baking. Brush part of the madeleines with some melted butter and dip in caster sugar. Dust off extra sugar.


By the way, if you’re interested, what I got for my birthday... I received some really wonderful gifts, one being a gorgeous Tiffany’s necklace from G and also this little beauty from some girlfriends, which I know most of you will be excited about…

DH cookbook

Will the next few posts come from this book? Of course!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Nothing To Show

tram melbourne

I spent a whole weekend down in what could be our version of the windy city for my 25th birthday. If you didn’t already know I was in unforgivingly breezy, yet picturesque Melbourne for the weekend and unfortunately all I have to show for it is this photo of a tram. Don't worry, we spent a lot of our time there eating although I was not able to adequately document it all, you'll see why.

So, I admit, do have a few shopping bags, a maxed-out credit card and an empty to wallet to show for it but that I don't want to talk about. It's a sore subject, especially when I don't get paid for another week (I spite whoever devised a monthly pay system at work).

What happened is that I decided to make my mum’s compact and more portable digital camera but being the oblivious packer that I am, I completely forgot to transfer my memory stick into the camera! So of course when we boarded the plane and I wanted to take my very first photo of the trip, the error message flashed “NO MEMORY CARD” Aaarggh! I didn’t think I could go a whole trip without taking photos, but my good friend E did let me use this random photo she took of a tram. Thanks E!

Banana Date Loaf

From my Melbourne trip I have nothing to show you although, from my kitchen last Friday I do have this beautifully moist Banana and Date Loaf that I made just before leaving for Melbourne. So enjoy a virtual slice of this loaf while I enjoy some sleep. Good night!

Banana and Date Loaf
From DH Magazine (Issue 29)
serves 6-8

Banana Date Loaf

125g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1½ cups plain all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ cups mashed banana (about 2-3 bananas)
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 160°C.
Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy.
Gradually add the eggs and beat well.
Fold through the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon and stir well to combine.
Stir in the banana, maple syrup and dates.
Spoon the mixture into a 7x32cm lightly greased loaf tin lined with baking paper.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
Allow to cool in the tin and slice to serve.

Banana Date Loaf Banana Date Loaf

Friday, December 01, 2006

Happy Birthday in Melbourne


Look up! I'm getting on a airplane and heading down, south of the NSW border. Where to?

Im off to Melbourne this weekend to celebrate my quarter-century birthday with a couple of girlfriends. So if any of you Melbournians see three girls getting up to all sorts of shennanigans on the streets of Melbourne come and say hi, It could very well be me! Don't worry, i'll be back after the weekend, so take care of yourselves.

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!