Archive for ‘bars’

June 15, 2011

Key-nadian Twist On A Father’s Day Favorite

I really thought that I’d tried every Key lime dessert recipe known to man.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my dad’s all-time favorite indulgence is Key lime pie, which I grew tired of making about fifteen Birthdays/Father’s Days ago.  Since then, I’ve found ways to incorporate all of those delicious Key lime pie components into many different dessert shapes and forms.  I truly believed that I’d done it all… every Key lime concoction on the planet.  But there was one region of the Earth that I missed… Canada.  Cana..DUH!

Originating from the Great White North, a Nanaimo bar is a layered dessert traditionally composed of a sometimes nutty, brownie-like layer, a custard or buttercream layer, and a chocolate layer.  There are many different versions of Nanaimo bars, leaving me with lots of options to incorporate all of the flavors of the Key lime pie.  I was sold.  As the Vancouver Canucks have demonstrated this season, Canada knows great hockey, just as my dad, a die-hard Red Wings fan, does.   And, as it turns out, Canada also knows a thing or two about dessert!

Upon grocery shopping for ingredients, I also stumbled upon a couple of products that I’d been previously unfamiliar with, pure Key lime extract and natural crystallized lime.  The extract allowed me to achieve a nice, strong lime flavor without having to add too much actual lime juice and watering down the custard.  And the crystallized lime also added an extra kick without ruining the consistency of the filling.  This is an issue I’ve dealt with in the past, having never wanted to sacrifice any of my dad’s favorite lime flavor but also not wanting to jeopardize the quality of the dessert.  Both of these great new products will be of great use to me for years to come as I continue to make Key lime confections for the world’s greatest dad.  Happy Father’s Day, Papa Lew!

Key-nadian Lime Pie Bars

Inspired by: Key Lime Pie

Adapted from “Nanaimo Bars,” The Daring Kitchen  and Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives

Graham Layer

½ cup unsalted butter              2/3 cup almond flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar     1/3 cup flaked coconut, finely ground in food processor

1 egg, lightly beaten                ¼ cup unsalted pistachios, finely ground in food processor

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl.  Melt the butter and brown sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Pour a small amount of the melted butter-sugar into the dish containing the egg while whisking, bringing the egg slowly up to temperature without cooking and scrambling it.  Once the egg has been slightly warmed, pour it into the glass bowl with the remaining melted butter-sugar, stir, and continue to heat.  After the mixture is homogeneous and slightly thickened, remove the bowl from heat and stir in graham crumbs, almond flour, and ground coconut.

Key Lime Layer

3 egg yolks                                           ¼ cup cream cheese, softened

5 tablespoons granulated sugar          2 tablespoons custard powder*

3 tablespoons Key lime extract            1-2 cups confectioner’s sugar

zest and juice of 1 lime                        3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

-optional: crystallized lime, green/yellow gel food coloring

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, lime extract, juice, zest, and cornstarch.  Place over medium-low heat and continue to stir constantly with a wooden spoon.  Allow about 5-7 minutes for the mixture to thicken, and then remove it from heat and transfer it to a small bowl.  Constantly stirring, gradually mix in small pieces of the cold butter, allowing each piece to dissolve before adding the next piece.  Once all the butter has been added and the mixture is smooth and cooled, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the mixture so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Allow mixture to set up in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

When lime mixture has set, remove it from the refrigerator, peel away and discard the plastic wrap.  Set mixture aside, stirring occasionally, and allow it to come to room temperature.  In a large bowl, beat together the room temperature butter and cream cheese until thoroughly creamed.  Beat in the room temperature lime mixture and food coloring (if desired) until homogeneous.  Mix in the custard powder and gradually beat in the powdered sugar.  If an increase in lime flavor is desired, also beat in desired amount of crystallized lime (I used about 1½ teaspoons).  When desired flavor is reached, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until combined and fluffy.

*Vanilla instant pudding mix may be used here.

Chocolate Layer

2 ½  tablespoons unsalted butter

½ tablespoon heavy whipping cream

6 ounces white chocolate

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, bring butter and cream to a simmer, whisking constantly to prevent it from scalding.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a medium glass bowl containing the white chocolate and place it over medium heat.  Stir in the hot cream to the melting chocolate and continue to stir until fully melted.  Remove from heat.

Assembly

Line 8×8 pan with parchment paper, allowing the excess to drape over the sides  for easy dessert removal.  Press graham mixture into an even layer on the bottom of the lined pan.  Spoon on the lime layer and spread evenly across the entire surface of the graham layer.  Then, pour the warm, melted chocolate onto the top, evenly coating the dessert and reach all edges of the pan.  Let the dessert rest until chocolate has cooled and set before removing it from pan and slicing into bars.

April 14, 2011

A Short Tale of Shortbread

The economic troubles our country is currently struggling through have been truly devastating to many people.  Many have found themselves being laid off, receiving a pay cut or have had a lot of difficulty finding work at all.  Even those who are fortunate enough to have gotten or held onto a great job may be making the extra effort to spend their money wisely and making a few cutbacks during this difficult time.  It came as no surprise to me when I heard that even the Girl Scouts of America were making some “cookie-cutbacks” in lieu of the economic downturn.  Upon hearing this, being the food lover I am, I immediately had to see which of their cookies were being omitted from the selection this year.  Regardless of the fact that I don’t think I’ve purchased or eaten a girl scout cookie since I was a girl scout myself, over 15 years ago, I was very relieved to see that all of my familiar favorites would still be included in production.

Scanning through the list of the “chosen” cookies that had made it past the cut, my eyes fell upon the ever comforting ‘Trefoil’ cookie.  Yes, Trefoils are good, but compared to something with rich peanut butter cream or something covered in swirls of chocolate and coconut… aren’t they kind of plain?  How had they made the cut?  I’ll tell you why.  Shortbread is a true crowd-pleaser.  Soft or crunchy, cookie or biscuit, salty or sweet, twice baked or raw dough and spoon… everyone likes shortbread.

The reliability and comfort of the Trefoil inspired me to make a sheet of shortbread of my own.  It turned out just as expected, just as always.  It was sweet, salty, buttery, crumbly, and melt in your mouth delicious.  I divided the cookies into a few different packages to pass out to friends, including quite a few for Evan to bring to work the next day.  Needless to say, the dependable shortbread worked its magic again and was a huge hit at his office.  I love the fact that they even acted as a bit of an icebreaker with a couple of his superiors.  And let’s face it.  In this economy, winning a few brownie (shortbread?) points at work can’t hurt.

Reliable Shortbread

Inspired by: “Trefoils” – Girl Scouts of the USA

-adapted from Marie Simmons’ “Cookies,”  Williams-Sonoma Collection Series

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar         -optional: 1 tablespoon coarse salt for sprinkling

½ cup granulated sugar                              -½ cup semisweet or white chocolate

1 teaspoon vanilla extract                           -¼ cup chopped pecans

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

Cover a shallow 9×13 pan with buttered parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until fluffy and pale yellow.  Add both sugars and continue to beat the mixture until all the sugar is well dissolved.  The mixture should be smooth when rubbed between your thumb and forefinger, not gritty.  Add in the vanilla and continue to beat.

In another large bowl, measure out and sift together the flour and the 2 teaspoons of salt.  Gradually add the sifted mixture into the butter and sugar mixture while mixing on a low speed until crumbly, yet combined.

At this point, I find it helpful to allow the dough to refrigerate for about an hour.  The chilled dough will be much easier to press into your prepared pan then room-temperature dough would be.  Floured fingertips also help to keep the sticky-ness to a minimum.

Once the chilled dough has been pressed into an even layer onto the pan, use a fork to prick holes into the dough wherever you plan to cut the baked cookies.  This scores the dough, making it easier to slice later and helping to ensure that you don’t end up with a crumbly mess.

Sprinkle the pressed, scored dough with the coarse salt, if desired, and place on the middle shelf of  an oven preheated to 300 degrees.  Bake for anywhere from 40-50 minutes, or until desired golden color  has been achieved.  Allow the shortbread to cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before removing them from the pan, peeling away the parchment paper, and returning to the wire rack to cool completely.

Once completely cool, transfer shortbread to counter-top or a large cutting board and slicing along the score lines into desired shapes.  Then, if desired, melt chocolate using a double boiler and drizzle the onto selected cookies.  Sprinkle chopped pecans onto cookies while the chocolate is still warm.  Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.