Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On Hiatus, Sort Of

It might seem like I haven't been cooking lately. And I haven't. In fact, I can't recall the last time I really made dinner... It must have been sometime last week but I can't exactly remember when. Is that a bad sign?

I've been eating dinner, of course, but its mostly been leftovers (meals cooked by M.) or basic, scrambled eggs or leftover soup type meals eaten alone while M. is on the road. My goal is to cook sometime this week. But with M. on the road and a fridge full of leftovers, I don't know exactly when I'll make it back into the kitchen.

But I have been baking. Oh yes, I have been baking. On Saturday morning I made Coffee Crunch Bars to take to a potluck BBQ The bars come direct from Molly Wizenber's February 2009 column in Bon Appetit and it's actually the second time I've made these buttery, chocolatey little bars.

I baked them somewhat begrudgingly. I wanted to make something new, something I could really get excited about. But for some reason I had no luck finding a recipe that would be spashy enough to shine among the desserts at a potluck and still slightly sophisticated.

So I made more Coffee Crunch Bars. These little cookie bars are good, very good. Molly called them the best cookie she had ever tasted.

Are they THE BEST? I don't know. But really, that is a pretty high bar to set.

In the meantime, while I search for a cookie recipe I am daring enough to call the best, I give you Coffee Crunch Bars a la Orangette:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus two tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature.
1 and 1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325. Whisk first three ingredients in a medium bowl to blend.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another medium bowl until blended, about two minutes. Add espresso powder and almond extract, beat one minute. Stir in flour mixture in three batches, mixing until just incoroprated. Stir in chocolate chips and almonds (dough will be thick).
Turn dough out onto ungreased rimmed baking sheet. Using hands, press dough into 12 inch square. Pierce all over with fork at one inch intervals.
Bake until edges are lightly browned and beginning to crisp about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on sheet for one minute, then cut into 48 bars. Immediately transfer to rack to cool. The bars will crisp as they cool.

* As I type this I realize that the second time I made this I used 1 cup butter instead of 1 cup + 2 tablespoons. And I used coffee extract instead of the espresso powder and milk chocolate chips instead of the semi sweet. And I forgot to prick the bars all over before baking. But guess what? They still turned out fab. In fact, when I left our Saturday evening dinner party to do the dishes I returned to find a very nearly empty plate. So someone liked them...

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