High Country Baking: Chocolate brown sugar bars
High Country Baking
Imagine a super-rich chocolate chip cookie in a thick, square shape, and you’ll know what to expect from these chocolate brown sugar bars.
The dough boasts that well-loved butter and brown sugar flavor, enhanced by a little bourbon, which sweetens it and adds a welcome complexity. Swirled through this base are pecans and chocolate, chopped large enough to melt to a soft, smooth consistency. Simple but — oh my — the overall effect is good.
The bars are satisfying any way you serve them. Chilled, they’re dense and chewy. When slightly warm, they’re soft and gooey. (Take care, if too warm, they fall apart.) And at room temperature, they’re somewhere in between. When we need a dessert, we cut them into larger squares to use as the bottom layer for a very pleasing sundae. We warm the squares, pile on a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream, add a sprinkle of chopped pecans and top the whole thing with warm chocolate sauce. It’s a fine way to end a meal.
Overbaking these babies will destroy all their decadent qualities, so pay close attention while they’re in the oven and determine when they’re done by their look and feel rather than by the amount of time they’ve been in the oven.
Chocolate brown sugar bars
Make in a 9-by-9-inch shiny, metal baking pan. Adjusted for elevations of 8,000 feet and above.
- 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, spoon and level
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 13 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate, chopped into quarter-inch pieces
- 3/4 cup of chopped, toasted pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the pan with nonstick aluminum foil or regular aluminum foil, extending it several inches beyond the pan on two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the bars. Grease any exposed parts of the pan and the regular aluminum foil with a baking spray that contains flour.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk until well-mixed. Set aside.
Cut the butter into pieces, place them in a large saucepan and heat over medium-low, until about half of the butter melts. Add the brown sugar and stir until the butter is completely melted and the two are fully blended. Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil for about 1 1/2 minutes. Set aside to cool completely (refrigerate to speed up the process).
Add the egg to the cooled butter mixture, and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until fully incorporated, then repeat this process with the yolk, bourbon and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and, using your mixer’s slowest speed or by hand, stir until the dry ingredients are blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed throughout this step.
Add the chopped chocolate and the nuts, and gently mix by hand until they are evenly distributed through the batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, level and smooth it, and bake until the dough is set but soft and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. This takes 25 to 30 minutes in my oven.
Remove the pan to a rack to cool completely. Use the foil handles to remove the slab from the pan and cut into bars. Store the bars in the refrigerator for three days or freeze for a month. Serve cold, at room temperature or slightly warm, if serving as cookies. If using in a sundae, serve slightly warm.
Editor’s note: This recipe is a variation of one published in “Caprial’s Desserts.”
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at email@example.com.
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