As my regular readers know, I’m part of a group baking our way through Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, Baking Chez Moi. It’s all about Parisian French desserts, and can I just tell you? Yum! Some of the recipes are super-intricate, time-consuming, knock-your-ballerina-flats off, and others are surprisingly quick, like today’s recipe!
This week’s recipe is Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars! It’s a shortbread-type crust, topped with chocolate, and sprinkled over those layers is a layer of…whatever you decide. Dorie suggests caramelized Rice Krispies, but says that dried fruits or shredded coconut is another option, and that even popcorn could be used.
When I read that, I knew immediately what I was going to do! I don’t have any Rice Krispies in my house that I could caramelize, and I doubt that caramelized Raisin Bran would taste the same, so I made up a batch of my favourite Caramel Corn to top these bars with.
And, as per usual, I realized while baking that I had run out of one of the staples needed (white sugar) so I just substituted something else in (more brown sugar). I used my favourite Callebaut chocolate chips, because they melt so nicely on the tongue (apparently, that’s due to the higher cocoa fat content).
As I said above, this week’s recipe is really quite quick! Especially compared to the Pink Grapefruit Tart we made a few weeks ago, or the Gingerbread Buche de Noel we made around the Christmas holidays. All you do in this recipe is blend the crust ingredients together, press it into a prepared pan, bake, top with chocolate, and sprinkle with your toppings. Really, it’s the work of half an hour! Although I will say that it depends on the toppings — the caramel corn takes about an 1 hr. and 20 minutes to make (but an hour of that is just baking time).
I’m sitting on my sofa typing this on my laptop, and waiting for the caramel corn to finish up baking to a crispy crunch in the oven, so that I can pop the crust in to bake. A number of the other bakers in this bake-a-long said that the crust should be baked for a shorter period than what Dorie recommends, but I guess it depends on your oven, and your crust preference. Dorie keeps talking about ‘the French bake’, which is where you brown your pastry so that the butter flavour comes out more. I love the idea, but not the actuality, so I shall be cutting down on my baking time!
Ooh, the kitchen timer went off! I’m going to see how my caramel corn is doing!
[interruption to check on popcorn. And maybe to eat a kernel or three.]
So, as I was typing this, I was hearing a scratch-scratching noise coming from the darkened kitchen (the DH has already gone to bed. I’ve said before that I’m a night owl, right?). I looked in the kitchen. The DH was happily helping himself to a bowlful of caramel corn.
Me: Nooooo! I’m making that for a recipe!
DH: But I want it!
I finally gave him a bowl and sent him on his way. And then sneakily hid the remainder of the popcorn, because I know my boy! Indeed…10 minutes later:
DH: Noooo! Where did you hide it?
Me: Bwahahaha! *steeples fingers a la Mr. Burns*
Sometimes as I make these Baking Chez Moi recipes, I feel like the Pied Piper, except with baked goods! But enough with the chit-chat. What about that delicious square?!?
The recipe verdict: Is…ok. I like the idea, but the execution just didn’t do it for me. Maybe the caramelized Rice Krispies would have been better. I found the base a bit too buttery and crumbly for my taste, and the mouth feel of the popcorn combined with the rest of the square just…wasn’t my favourite. I packed some to bring to work tomorrow, but I’m of two minds — it’s not the best thing I’ve ever baked, and yet it’s still a nice coffee break munchie. Hmm. I’ll sleep on it and decide tomorrow!
Edit: I’ve thought about it, and I think if I made them again, I’d made the caramel corn recipe with half, or even a third of the popcorn, but with the same amount of caramel. I think a crunchier, caramel-ier topping would be a better balance for the base. Thoughts?
Next Post: Probably my Canadian Meat-and-Veggie Galette! The DH devoured it. Would be a fabulous Thanksgiving dish, come to think of it!