Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sky High Bounty Bar Squares

My favourite chocolate bar as a kid was Aero, hands down.

No nuts, no wafer, no caramel - nothing but chocolate. Pure chocolate with something special - texture. The bubbles! Oh the bubbles... It dissolves on the tongue so silkily. Silllllkily...

I also liked Caramilk and enjoyed a Kit Kat, but the second best for me was Bounty. I discovered Bounty a bit later in childhood, but learned to love it quickly. I remember the most significant Bounty that I ever purchased was at the corner store in Little Italy where my grandparents lived. They handed over a $20 bill to the group of us grandkids and sent us off in search of sweetness, as grandparents do (gotta love 'em for it!). I thought I'd sway from my usual and grabbed a Bounty. Great decision. Loved it. Hooked.

It was a texture thing too - soft, slightly sticky coconut filling and smooth chocolate coating. It was a flavour thing too though because who can deny chocolate + coconut?

I didn't care for Oh Henry or Snickers. I hated peanuts.
That's all changed - I love peanuts! If you peruse my repertoire of peanut butter recipes, you will understand...

These squares are just like that bar - moist, chewy, slightly gooey filling with a smooth chocolate coating. Super thick too! I supersized it.

I've added a slightly crunchy and buttery brown sugar base.

The filling gets its stickiness from creamy, gooey, gorgeous sweetened condensed milk. When we use this ingredient, we get a package deal. We get sugar and milk, and we get the functionality of a syrup. So, most of the work is done already.

Because of all the sweetness from the milk, make sure you use unsweetened coconut. And because of all the sweetness, make sure you use salt! Balance, folks.

Another note - make sure you use shredded, not desiccated coconut. The desiccated stuff tends to be finer and will absorb much more moisture due to its larger surface area (smaller particle size = larger surface area). This means that the mixture will be a bit drier. Also, it's a texture thing again - shredded gives us more chew.

Eggs help to hold this thick layer together, but also adds protein. Protein gives extra chewiness to this sky high filling.

The bit of butter in the chocolate coating reduces its melting temperature to help soften it a bit and make for easier slicing at room temperature.

Did I mention they're thick? They're monsters.


Sky High Bounty Bar Squares
Makes 16 squares

For the base:
1 cup (142g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (55g) packed light brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
5 tbsp (70g) unsalted butter, melted

For the coconut filling:
2 ½ cups (160g) shredded unsweetened coconut
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/8 tsp salt

For the topping:
150g dark chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.

Combine flour, brown sugar and salt in a medium bowl until evenly blended and there are no lumps of brown sugar. Add melted butter and stir until well combined. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of your prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool slightly while you prepare the filling. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Stir together shredded coconut, condensed milk, eggs and salt in a medium bowl until well combined. Spread evenly over slightly cooled crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden. Set aside to cool completely.

To make the topping, melt chocolate and butter together very gently in a small saucepan over very low heat until smooth. (Or, melt in the microwave for 30 seconds intervals on 50% power, stirring often). Spread chocolate evenly over top of cooled slice and then refrigerate until set. Cut into thick squares and enjoy with a cup of tea.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chocolate Cheese Toffee Tarts

I worry a lot about my future children.

I worry about what they will think of me when I sit at our breakfast table with a slice of chocolate cake.

I worry about what sort of role model I will be when my afternoon snack is raw cookie dough.

I worry about how they will react to my gigantic stash of chocolate bars and my permanent supply of butter that occupies most of my fridge space.

Often I'll make a cream-filled chocolate cake that needs to live in the fridge, but there's a big cauliflower taking up most of the middle shelf. You can guess how this ends - chocolate cake always wins.

How will my future children know that it's really not OK to eat brownies before dinner if I do it all the time? I might need to change my ways... or find a good hiding place.
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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Egg Surprise Cookies

I have very fond memories of Easter growing up.

There were loads of pastel-coloured foil-wrapped eggs. There was a trail of chocolates from the foot of my bed, down the 20-step staircase, through the hallway, over the carpet and into the living room that led to a wicker basket full of more chocolate. There were always Kinder eggs. Always. There were little presents like new hair ties and pins, a new cook book maybe, a toothbrush even! 

It was like Christmas but without the snow (well, sometimes... ooohhhh Canada).
A holiday about Jesus and chocolate. I love both those things.

I owe a lot to Easter because it was during this time that I first discovered and immediately fell in love with dark chocolate. I dumped milk chocolate instantly and never looked back. It was an immediate connection. Perfect chemistry. And, it came through a Dove dark chocolate egg. It was new and so different. It was so much more superior to the rest of the unbranded generic foil eggs. Firstly, it was wrapped in silver and chestnut brown. Beneath the foil was shiny (not dull), tempered dark chocolate. It was smooth (not mottled). It was everything the other foil eggs were not. It was bliss.

There was also plenty of family and hours of eating. I don't think an Easter ever passed without lasagna, roast beef, potatoes, ham, braised rabbit (not the bunny), cannoli, cheesecake, chocolate, chocolate and CHOCOLATE!
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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sweet & Soy Pecan Chocolate Pie Bars

Salt! Oh goodness I love salt.

And sweet! Jeez I don't know which one I love most.

Just imagine life without salt. Not worth living, if you ask me.

Ask any reputable chef what is the secret behind being a great cook and I'll bet the answer is knowing how to season your food. Do not be afraid of salt. Don't overdo it either. I'm sure you understand - it's a balance. But really, don't be afraid!

If I had to cook without salt for a day, I'd get by but I would not be happy.
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hazelnut Rocher Cake

The chocolate-hazelnut combination is Italy's signature. It is one of their many culinary gifts to the world.

Without it we wouldn't have Baci, Ferrero Rocher or Guylian shells. My grandparents would be clueless - what would they give out at Christmas?

There'd be no Nutella and I'd lose out on one of my favourite gelato flavours. My after-school toast would've been so much less exciting - 9 times out of 10 I'd combine peanut butter AND nutella. It was easier than choosing between them...

Now that I really think about it, chocolate-hazelnut (or gianduja as it is know in Europe) is no different to North America's chocolate-peanut butter combo. But somehow it is so much more sophisticated.

I picture chocolate-hazelnut with a long curly moustache - one that needs expensive wax to maintain. Chocolate-peanut would probably have one of those striped multicoloured beanie caps with a propeller on top. It finds its way into wrapped chocolate bars more than fine boxed pralines like Ferrero. It comes wrapped in orange instead of gold. I could understand the jealousy there...

However, I'd admit that I love them both the same.
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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tender Loving Crackle Cookies

It's no coincidence that the acronym for this cookie recipe is "TLC" because that is exactly what they do. They offer tender loving care.

Tiny little bites chalk full of chocolate flavour.

Even though these look like the typical cookie you might find on your annual Christmas platter or cookie exchange, they are made in a rather unique way.

No creaming butter and sugar. No beating. Just one or two bowls, a spoon and your crafty hands.

The first steps in making these cookies seems a bit deceptive.

You might think you're on your way to making a pie. It looks like the beginnings of chocolate pastry dough but trust that they will turn into cookies. Have faith in the method. Have faith in the science of sweetness.
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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Date & Dark Chocolate Discs

I was thinking about retirement. You can laugh - go ahead.

I'm not sure if it's because of the dates in this recipe that remind me of senior citizens (dates and prunes loved by the 65+, but also well-loved by me), or I need a vacation...

So many people who retire never actually retire. They just end up working part-time instead of full-time. Or they do a day here or there. The difference is, they love it! It's like retirement makes it OK to go to work. 

Like mom always cooking us dinner growing up. The idea of dad having to cook dinner every night would both exhaust and terrify him. But when mom had to work late and dad had to cook, he didn't actually mind and he probably enjoyed it. He knew it was just a once-in-a-while thing, and I knew it meant hot dogs and KD.

Or like work-related travelling. When it's twice a year it is a relief from the office and a bit exciting. When it's every week, it becomes tiring and annoying and you learn that you really hate airport food.
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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cookies & Cream Brownies

It feels almost cannibalistic to put cookies in brownies. I'm sorry.

Cookies & Cream has always been one of my favourite ice cream flavours. It's like the experience of dunking Oreos in milk minus the dunking, so it's even less effort. It's a faster way of getting full cream dairyness and chocolate cookies into my mouth faster.

This recipe features a quality fudgey brownie batter with the addition of crushed chocolate cookies and pure white chocolate chunks to create that "cream" effect.

White chocolate is mainly cocoa butter and milk solids flavoured with vanilla, so it makes complete sense.
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chewy Coconut Oil Chocolate Chunk Cookies

So coconut oil... How 'bout it?

It's everywhere. The internet has exploded with recipes using coconut oil.

Could it be the paleo obsession or the viral (mis)information that it is so super healthy?... I struggle with this.

See - I like coconut oil. It's delicious. Every time I open the jar I think I'm on the beach in Mexico, or Thailand, or somewhere in the Caribbean. It's gorgeous stuff. I need a margarita. Stat!

Here are the things I do with coconut oil:

1. Rub it on my skin - moisturizer.
2. Rub it in my hair - again, moisturizer.
3. Cook Sri Lankan curries, Indian curries and Malaysian satays - it makes them taste so rich and very authentic.
4. Mix it with melted chocolate for a hard crackle topping on ice cream.
5. Use it in place of butter in a classic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe for a super tropical cookie flavour.
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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Creamy White Chocolate Lemon Curd Tart

I only ever have your best interest: consider making twice as much filling because you will end up on the couch with a spoon. This is for real.

This lemon filling is like lemon pudding if lemon pudding won the lotto, bought a black Bentley, drove to the airport, flew to a Polynesian beach, put up a hut and ordered margaritas until the sun went down. It's that rich and that happy. 

A lot of times you'll hear people say "less is more" and that is very sound advice when it comes to great cooking and baking. I practice this advice all the time and make great meals with few quality ingredients.

But sometimes more is more! Like ice cream with split banana, hot fudge, caramel sauce, roasted peanuts, whipped cream and cherries. I'm OK with that. And I'll have two of those please.

Or, like this tart - flaky pastry enrobed in dark chocolate and topped with luscious lemon curd enriched with white chocolate and whipped cream.
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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Maya Chocolate Cookies

Quick fix cookies are what I'm all about today.

Something that doesn't require soft butter because all of my butter is in the fridge... Doh!

I wasn't planning to bake cookies today but sometimes life is more exciting when you're not prepared. Except when you have final exams, or a job interview, or a driving test, or a dream to climb Everest - best to be prepared for that. Cookies aren't as exhausting as climbing mountains so this is totally doable despite the availability of soft butter.

It's hard for me to bake a cookie that doesn't contain chocolate. This one is twice the chocolate - cocoa cookie with bittersweet chocolate chips.

There's plenty going on in here besides all the chocolate. I've added some chili and spice for an old Maya kick.

When cocoa beans were first discovered in Mexico by civilizations known as the Olmecs and the Mayans, they would combine bitter cocoa bean paste with ingredients that were native to the land, including sugar cane, cinnamon, chili and vanilla. Chocolate was first consumed as a hot frothy drink before it was ever made into silky smooth bars.
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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Dark Chocolate & Apricot

Don't tell me it's wrong to want to wake up on Sunday morning and do absolutely nothing until at least 1pm. Can I just make some tea, eat a piece of cake and put my feet up all before noon? I don't want a green smoothie or kale salad right now. I just want cake.

Even if the sun is shining and I could totally get to the beach, I just want to sit here with my piece of cake. Do you get me?

Sometimes doing nothing is more than enough. To quote my grandmother "I'm tired for doing nothing". I get it Nonna. You were wise.

Sometimes doing nothing can be exhausting in itself because when your body does nothing your brain does everything. Thinking is grueling.
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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Soft Date Turnover Cookies

Sometimes eating is more for the mind than it is for the stomach. Like a tasteful time machine that brings you back to the good old days. I can't ever resist pear nectar or Glosettes because it makes me feel 9 years old, watching Muppets, cuddled up with a knit blanket on Nonna's couch. Not a care in the world!

And giant wedges of cucumber with salt and pepper is a snack I'd have coming in from the blow-up kiddie pool/garden hose chaos set in the tiny patch of grass among Nonno's grape vines. Cucumber sounds healthy right? It was quickly followed up with an ice cream cone.

These cookies here today remind me of my schoolgirl days. If you know Nutrigrain bars, then you know what I'm talking about. There was always a box in the cupboard, and I often found one in my lunch box.

My version today is made up of a soft oatmeal & coconut cookie dough with a sweet, smooth date filling. The coconut is key - it's subtle, but I can always remember that flavour being there.
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chocolate Brownie Peanut Butter Pies

Remember Joe Louis? The wagon wheel cake lunchbox snacks. Two rounds of cake with a white as rice cream filling all dunked in fake chocolate?

I would bite around the edges first because the edges had the thickest layer of chocolate. Never save the best till last. Worst phrase ever.

Many things can happen while you are saving...
- that best part of a hot meal will get cold
- someone might eat it before you do
- you could get full eating all the other stuff that you won't want to eat any more
- seagulls

Eat the best part first! End of story.
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cranberry Orange Pistachio Bars

2015 seems like a big number.

I feel like I need to do a lot of stuff this year. Big stuff... like make a 12-tiered cake and travel to Japan for the finest sushi. I want to learn more words in Thai and fall asleep on every beach I see. I want to spend more time with family and feed them big delicious meals. I'm going to worry less and plan more. I want a puppy! (but maybe not this year...)

How about a big fat hair cut? I've always wanted a buzz cut but Britney Spears made that just look crazy.
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