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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

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Delicious springtime bars

Tags: Food
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It never ceases to amaze and delight me how a few basic and humble ingredients can turn themselves into mouth-watering, beautiful to behold desserts. It’s definitely a wonderful and magical world that I live (and bake) in.

 

Combine soft unsalted butter with some sugar and flour and you have a winsome and tender shortbread. Add some fruit and a topping and you have not only a sweet for an after work or school snack but a simple dessert as well. Bars or squares are perfect baking recipes because they make enough for a crowd or simply enough to satisfy a family for a few days.

There’s such variety too. Fruits can be changed at whim and toppings are versatile enough to put your own stamp on them. Below, I’ve included a couple of my favourites. Try them and bake up some magic of your own!

 

SALTED CARAMEL CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD BARS

 

These decadent bars, with their buttery ooey gooey centre and their suave dark chocolate topping, are also known as Millionaire Bars, perhaps because they’re so rich. I’ve upped the ante here by sprinkling the bars with a little fleur de sel, so that the sweetness is cut somewhat by the salt. It’s still a match worth a million bucks.

 

Shortbread:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup icing sugar

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

Filling:

1 cup unsalted butter, cubed

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cans sweetened condensed milk

Chocolate Topping:

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 tsp. light corn syrup

1/3 cup unsalted butter, cubed

1 tsp. fleur de sel

 

Preheat oven to 325. Line 13x9-in. baking pan with parchment paper, letting excess drape over sides for using as handles later.

Using upright or hand held mixer, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy. On low speed, add flour and salt, mixing until crumbly dough forms. Working with floured hands, gently press dough into an even layer in prepared pan. Bake in centre of preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on rack.

Meanwhile, in saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sugar together. Add condensed milk. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat slightly; boil gently, stirring often, for 20 to 25 minutes or until thick and a light caramel colour. Immediately pour over shortbread layer, smoothing top.  Refrigerate until filling is set, about 2 hours.

In top of double boiler set over hot, not boiling, water, melt chocolate, corn syrup and butter until smooth. Pour chocolate evenly over caramel layer, smoothing top. Sprinkle with salt. Cover and chill until set, about 2 hours. Cut into bars. Squares can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 5 days. Makes 30 bars.

 

RASPBERRY CRUMB BARS

 

Most bars featuring raspberries use frozen fruit or jams. Here, the real deal shines in all its fresh glory, providing the bars with a refreshing and suitable tartness. On the first day, the base is like a sweet pastry, but as the bars sit, the base softens because of the berries, and it becomes more cake like.

 

Crust and Crumb:

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp.finely grated lemon rind

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed

Filling:

3-1/2 cups fresh raspberries

1/3 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. cornstarch

 

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease 8-inch square baking pan; line with parchment paper, letting excess drape over sides for using as handles later.

In large bowl combine flour, sugar, lemon rind, baking powder and salt. Using pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter until crumbly and well blended. Mix egg yolk with enough water to make 1/4 cup; mix into flour mixture until a rough crumbly dough is formed, adding up to 2 tablespoons more water if necessary.

Pat half of mixture into bottom of prepared pan. In bowl, toss together raspberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch. Sprinkle evenly on top of crust. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture evenly on top of filling. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until top is golden and filling is bubbling and thickened. Let cool in pan on rack completely before cutting into squares Bars can be stored well covered for up to three days. Makes 12 bars.

 

BLUEBERRY OAT SQUARES WITH LEMON FILLING

 

Sweet, tart and sublime all wrapped up in a yummy package. These bars, more like dessert actually than a snack, are utterly delicious served warm. If you do make them ahead and refrigerate them, make sure to bring them to room temperature before you serve them.

 

Crust and Topping:

2-1/2 cups large flake rolled oats

1-1/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup   packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup  unsalted butter, softened

Filling:

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 tbsp. grated lemon rind

1/2 cup   fresh lemon juice

1 egg yolk

2-1/2 cups blueberries

Position a rack in the centre of the oven and heat the oven to 350. Line 9-in. baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-in. overhang on the ends.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using your fingers, blend the butter completely into the flour mixture. Transfer 2 cups of crumb mixture to another bowl; reserve for the topping. Press remaining mixture onto bottom of pan to form a level crust. Bake in centre of preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until dried out.

Meanwhile, in bowl, whisk together condensed milk, lemon rind and egg yolk. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes or until thickened.

Sprinkle blueberries evenly over hot crust. Spread lemon mixture evenly over blueberries. Bake for 8 minutes or just until the lemon mixture begins to form a shiny skin.

Sprinkle the reserved topping over the lemon-blueberry layer. Return to oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until filling is bubbling at the edges and the topping is golden brown. Let cool. Cut into bars. Bars can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days. Makes 12 bars

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