Thursday, February 14, 2008
From one sweet tooth to another, Happy Valentine's Day!
And in honor of such a chocolatastic holiday, I had to make something. Not that I needed another baked good in my kitchen right now, but these just looked scrumptious and Vday wouldn't be complete without something made especially for it. What I made was Heavenly Hash Bars. Isn't that a great name? I saw them on the King Arthur Flour blog and we flirted for awhile as I studied the recipe, contemplating the amount of energy required and the amount of energy I was willing to expend. Fast forward two hours and I've tasted them and fallen in love. They are not hard to make. The bottom is a shortbread crust, and then you make a ganache out of heavy cream and dark chocolate to spread on the crust, and then you sprinkle marshmallows and toasted pecans on top.
I really really love these bars. Growing up watching Pee Wee's Playhouse, I remember Pee Wee regularly retorting "Well if you love it so much, why don't you marry it." That Pee Wee is a smart guy. The Heavenly Hash Bars and I are going to elope tonight. I can't think of a more romantic Valentine's Day!
Heavenly Hash Bars
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups (9 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 cups (18 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
3/4 cup (6 ounces) heavy cream
1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) toasted diced pecans
3 cups (half a 10.5-ounce package) mini marshmallows
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan, or line with parchment and grease the parchment.
To make the crust: In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in the flour. The dough will seem very dry, and won’t seem to want to become cohesive at first. Just keep beating, and it’ll eventually come together.
Press the dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with your fingers or a mini rolling pin (pastry roller). The dough will feel stiff, but just keep pressing on it until you’ve covered the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork; this will keep it from bubbling up as it bakes.
Bake the crust for 35 to 40 minutes, until it’s golden brown around the edges and beginning to brown on the top. Remove it from the oven, and loosen the edges with a heat-resistant plastic knife or a table knife. Make the topping while the shortbread begins to cool.
To make the topping: Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan. Heat in the microwave, or over low heat on a burner, till the cream is steaming and barely beginning to form bubbles. Remove from the heat, and stir. The chocolate will gradually form a lump in the center of the bowl, then will start to expand as it absorbs the cream. Eventually the chocolate and cream will become one; keep stirring till it’s very smooth. If all the chocolate doesn’t seem melted, reheat very briefly, and keep stirring.
Spread the warm chocolate atop the cookie crust. Sprinkle with the marshmallows, then the pecans. Immediately use a knife, or a baker’s bench knife, to cut the bars into squares. You’ll find it useful to run the knife under hot water and wipe it off every several cuts, to keep drag to a minimum. The reason you’re cutting these bars immediately (admittedly, a somewhat messy proposition), is that if you wait till they’re cool the bottom crust is more difficult to cut.
Cover the pan, and place the bars in the refrigerator for about an hour, to set the chocolate. Remove from the fridge, and use a spatula to transfer the bars from the pan to a serving plate.
Yield: 2 dozen bars.
Source: King Arthur Flour Company, Inc.