Friday, February 8, 2013

Almost Candy

Sheila is back with another recipe to keep our Friday recipe tradition alive. You can find her recipe for Quintuple Chocolate Brownies (here)

By the way, next week a holiday will be upon us. The cherub and chocolate, flowers and heart holiday. And while, Valentine's Day is not one of the heavy hitters in the Barefoot Hippie household (you can read our personal Valentine's day history here) if I was home, as opposed to halfway around the world, you can bet I'd be making a dessert to celebrate. Either of Sheila's recipes are great Valentine's day dessert candidates. 

Meanwhile, the Barefoot Hippies will be sweating it out in Borneo on Valentine's Day, supervising around 30 kids-not belonging to us. Happy Valentine's Day. (said in a droll, Eeyore tone)

I've already shared about my love for Dorie Greenspan's book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (I recently highlighted it as one of my top cookbooks, and if you saw my cookbook collection you'd realize just how much that is saying.) , and I'm back with another of her recipes so everyone else can share in the joy that is a luscious bar cookie.

Bars are one of my favorite things to bake - much quicker and easier than a cookie, less fuss than a cake, no worries about making a pretty pie crust, and assuming you're preparing them for some sort of event, you can cut them in advance and arrange them on a platter to look almost as nice as a pretty cake.

Plus that way you can still sneak one in advance and no one will ever know. Try doing THAT with a pie or layer cake! Ahem.

As I was saying, I adore bars. And these are spectacular. Delicious chocolate, and enough oatmeal for me to pretend that they've got something healthy going on.

As is very typical for me, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but my modifications were fairly minor. When the bars were freshly made, the topping was astonishingly good – crispy and crunch and addictive. By the next day the topping had softened, and while the bars were still good, they weren’t as eye-poppingly amazing. Dorie recommends storing the bars in the fridge and serving them cold. I kept the bars in my unheated garage during a cold spell, so I served them somewhere between room temperature and fridge-cold.

The oatmeal layer is very similar to the base of a chocolate-peanut butter bar recipe I’ve made for years, but this one is even better. I think next time I’ll see about using Dorie’s base and the topping of mine and seeing what I end up with. It’s sure to be tasty!

My biggest adaptations were to omit the raisins (I am a firm believer in omitting raisins from everything), to use pecans instead of peanuts because that’s what I had on hand, and to omit the cinnamon in the oatmeal layer. I just do not like cinnamon and chocolate together so always leave it out if a chocolate recipe calls for it.

Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars 
For the oatmeal layer:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

For the chocolate layer:
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Getting Ready: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 13×9″ baking ban.

To Make the Oatmeal Layer: Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, and stir together. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium-high speed until it is soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Mix in the oats and nuts until evenly combined. Reserve 1½ – 2 cups of the mixture. Place the remaining dough in the prepared pan and press over the bottom of the pan in an even layer. 

To Make the Chocolate Layer: Combine the condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the mixture is warm and the chocolate chips and butter are melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and nuts. Pour the warm chocolate mixture over the oatmeal cookie layer and spread evenly. Crumble the remaining oatmeal cookie mixture and scatter evenly over the top of the chocolate. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the chocolate layer is starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into bars as desired and serve.

Well, there you have it! Now, go make you and your sweetheart some great bars for Valentine's Day!