Saturday, 5 July 2014

Caramel Chocolate Bars with Almond Crust and Dried Cherries

The weekend is here, time for some sweet treats! Knowing that there were still a few dried cherries in the cupboard, along with the last of a bag of almonds, I knew exactly what I wanted to make : a bar cookie with an almond crust, cherries and chocolate. This also gave me the opportunity to finish off the whipping cream that someone had bought when I made apple crumble last week.

Whipping cream, whole almonds and dried cherries

First, the crust...pre-heat the oven to 350F, line an 8" X 8" pan with foil and lightly grease the foil.

In a food processor combine 1 cup of all purpose flour
                                            1/3 cup of brown sugar
                                            2/3 cup of whole almonds

Process until the nuts are about the size of peas,
 then add 3oz cold butter and continue to process
 until the mixture is fine, crumbly and starting to
clump together.

Press the crust evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake until it is set and golden. Allow to cool while you make the topping.

Roughly chop 1/2 cup dried cherries and sprinkle over the crust. Next time I will increase the amount of cherries.
Now to make the chocolate caramel ganache topping:

Sugar and water at the start of cooking

In a heavy bottom saucepan place 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup water. Cook over medium low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat slightly and cook until it is dark gold in colour and a candy thermometer gives a reading of 250F.

Caramel when done

While the caramel is cooking, measure out 1 cup of whipping cream
                                                                 3 oz butter, cut into small pieces
                                                                 10 oz semisweet chocolate chips

When the caramel is ready, turn off the heat and carefully add the whipping cream and butter. It will boil up and steam, so be careful...

When it starts to settle down, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and stir to make sure that all the caramel is melted and combined with the cream.

Add all the chocolate chips and gently stir or whisk until all the chocolate is melted and you have a smooth, shiny ganache.

Pour the ganache over the prepared crust and smooth the top gently.
Place in the fridge overnight to set.

Cut into bars and serve....these are best if kept in the fridge.

These bars cookies would be great with any dried fruit. I used what I had, but dried cranberries or apricots would be an excellent substitute for the cherries. The fruit can also be soaked in juice or liqueur for 30 minutes prior to making the bars, to add moisture and depth of flavour. If you choose to do this, drain the fruit and use that liquid as part of the whipping cream.

I used semisweet chocolate chips, but next time want to try this with a good bittersweet chocolate.

For the nuts try hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts...

Sprinkle the top with sea salt before serving, or dust with cocoa that has been spiced with dried chilies or cinnamon.

If you will be serving it as a dessert, instead of dried fruit, use fresh raspberries or sliced bananas, and  include some freshly whipped cream.

Add the zest of half an orange or lemon to the crust.

If you are a fan of candied ginger, add some to the dried fruit. Chocolate and ginger are an excellent pairing.

 Happy weekend snacking!!!

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