The Gleeful Gourmand: Holiday Treats!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Treats!

Every year I search for something new to bake for family and friends during the Christmas season. With all the glossy, beautiful magazines that stuff my mailbox, each take on holiday treats looks better than the next. Whittling it down to something I know my family will enjoy, and will be easy (hello, it is HARD to bake and also concentrate at the same time when you have twin toddlers!) is not always an easy task. The choice is usually made when I mentally say to myself, "Oh yeah, I could do that and not lose my mind."

This year I decided to stick with a standard from last year: Peppermint Meringues, and take on a new recipe: Crunch Bars. These crunch bars are really versatile, and SO delicious. Highly addictive, the cookie base is just crunchy enough without being too hard, while the salt added to the melted chocolate on top gives it a subtle complexity of flavor. Adding your favorite toppings adds to the fun. This would be a good recipe to do with your kids, and have them come up with their own toppings.
Mmmm...lots of chopped Ghiradelli chocolate.

For my first try, I put coconut on top. The recipe recommends toasted coconut, but I didn't have the time, and I've also been known to toast coconut by way of completely burning it to bits on more than one occasion. I like the idea of doing something like crushed candy canes, and maybe even popcorn.

A couple of notes, though. When the recipe says the dough for the cookie base will be wet and sticky, it really means it. It also says you should work the dough into the bottom of the pan with your fingers. What happens when you work with wet and sticky stuff with your fingers? Yeah, it gets all gobbed up. I'm not sure using another tool would be much better, but I was a little frustrated trying to spread it out with my fingertips. The more gobbed up with dough they got, the harder it was to make it conform to the bottom.
The finished Crunch Bar before slicing.

Also, when it says that you should let the completed Crunch Bar cool for 2 hours until the chocolate sets, that's really crucial. Of course it still tastes great, but the texture of a mostly cooled bar while the chocolate is still a little liquid, versus when it's completely set is different enough that I think it matters. If you plan to give these as a gift, I would recommend absolutely waiting until it's completely set. That way they won't fall apart when you put them in a gift bag or package.

Lastly, I know it recommends "fine sea salt" and also "Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)". Bon Appétit is going crazy for Maldon sea salt right now apparently, but here's my secret: I used Kosher salt and it turned out great. So don't sweat it if that's what you have on hand. Conversely, for the chocolate – and I know I say this all the time – don't skimp on quality. When they call for semisweet chocolate, splurge and buy the best you can. And be sure not to use chocolate chips: The chips have stabilizers in them that will prevent them from melting the way you need them to.
Pairing the Crunch Bars with the Peppermint Meringues makes a nice presentation.

Enjoy, and happy baking! Here's the link to the recipe again, in case you missed it up top: Crunch Bars


Kirsten Oliphant said...

Those sound delicious! I like the pretty peppermint meringues as well! Yum. I never knew that about chocolate chips before! I use them a lot in my melting recipes and haven't had issues, but now I'm wondering if it's secretly a lot easier to use the chopped chocolate. :)

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