Posts Tagged ‘bar’

Elvis Presley Bars (Peanut Butter Banana Bacon Bars – with a vegetarian variation!)

When I posted the invitation on my Facebook wall, I was pretty sure no one was going to respond (except to heckle me.) Imagine my surprise when a couple of my friends -- one from Sunday school and one from high school -- responded that they'd come. That meant it was really happening.

When Saturday evening came, I drove across town, listening to the radio to distract myself from what I was about to do. It was only when I stepped out of my car and surveyed the busy roller skating rink in front of me that visions of ambulances flashed through my head. Was I really about to go roller skating for the first time in 20 years?

My doubts resurfaced a few moments later when I carefully stood up in my skates for the first time. I thought that the four-wheeled skates would provide more, uh, balance than that. They didn't come with, like, knee pads or anything? Maybe some bubble wrap?

I looked at my friends and attempted a confident smile. It must've been about as wobbly as I was, though, because they both looked worried. To lighten the mood, I mentioned that I was actually considering trying to join the roller derby someday. They laughed a little too much at that. Hm. Bad sign.

Nevertheless, we made slow, shaky progress over to the opening in the rink -- which, I noted bitterly, only had a wall around about a quarter of it. At this point I was pretty certain the night was going to end in one or more broken limbs. My left arm ached as if to remind me the Roller Skating Incident in third grade, which left me with a sling for a few months and residual pain well into my adulthood. I stepped gingerly onto the slick floor and pushed clear of the doorway, wondering what I'd gotten myself into.

Turns out my friend Meredith is a total roller skating rockstar. My friend Steven was slower but still relatively surefooted. Next to them, I felt like a roller skating walrus with a coordination problem. They were ruthlessly encouraging, though, assuring me I was doing well despite my tendency to flail-and-scream every 30 seconds or so.

I did huff and puff. And I did hug the wall more than my friends. And I did take several breaks. And my quads did start burning because I'm in roughly the same physical shape as an old lady with a video gaming addiction.

But I want you to know that I did not fall even once! I want you to know that I upgraded to fancy inline skates! I want you to know that Meredith assured me (sincerely!) that I was doing tons better by the end of the night! And most importantly, I want you to know that the only thing louder than the rockin' roller rink soundtrack and the gaggles of middle school girls was the sound of our laughter -- because we had so much fun.

Roller skating was a blast from the past. Meredith, Steven, and I have already decided to make a monthly date out of it. Who knows, maybe after a few months practice, the roller derby will recruit me. No? Okay, maybe not.

Another blast from the past that I enjoyed recently (one that you might actually want to join me for!) are these Elvis Presley Bars. They're based on Elvis's favorite sandwich: Peanut Butter, Banana, and Bacon. Anything with bananas and peanut butter has that elementary-school-lunch nostalgia that I love, but adding bacon for a salty twist makes these bars extra delicious. Don't worry if you're a vegetarian; big crunchy pretzels can be used as your salty component. Either way, I think Mr. Presley would be proud.

One year ago: Fig, Prosciutto, and Arugula Pizza
Two years ago: Chocolate Mousse Pie
Three years ago: Mallow Cookies

Elvis Presley Bars (Peanut Butter Banana Bacon Bars)

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, with peanut butter filling adapted from Fine Cooking
Yield: about 15 bars

These Peanut Butter, Banana, and Bacon Bars are a delicious combination of salty and sweet. Pretzels can be used to replace the bacon for a vegetarian substitute. Since the recipe makes a big pan of bars, they're perfect for taking to a potluck or for pleasing a crowd.

Shortbread Crust Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt

Peanut Butter Filling Ingredients:
2 cups creamy peanut butter (use an emulsified kind like JIF, not natural peanut butter)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons hot water
3-4 bananas
honey for drizzling
5-6 strips bacon OR large pretzels for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with a foil sling with the ends overhanging the pan to facilitate the removal of the bars later on.

Pulse the flour, powdered sugar, and salt together in a food processor to combine. Add the cold butter chunks and pulse about 10-12 times until you have the texture of coarse sand (you can also use a pastry cutter or two knives to accomplish this if you don’t have a food processor). Pour this mixture into the prepared dish and use a spatula or the bottom of a glass to press it down into an even layer. Bake it for about 15 minutes or until it’s lightly browned. Let it cool completely.

In a medium bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the peanut butter and butter until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons of hot water, and half the powdered sugar to the mixture and beat until combined and fluffy. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and another 2 tablespoons of hot water. Once combined, beat for an extra minute until the mixture is smooth and thick like frosting.

Use a spoon to glob half the peanut butter mixture onto the cooled shortbread crust, and then use an offset spatula to gently spread it into a roughly even layer (don't worry if it's not perfect.) Lay banana slices across the entire surface. Glob the rest of the peanut butter mixture all across the top. Again, use your offset spatula to gently spread the peanut butter mixture over all the banana slices (you want the banana slices to be covered because bananas oxidize and turn brownish, so the bars are prettier if you can't see them. It's hard to get them all covered, but just be patient and keep working the peanut butter around, cleaning off your spatula now and then.) Chill the bars for at least 3 hours.

While the bars are chilling, preheat the to 400 degrees F and cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay out the strips of bacon on the baking sheet and bake for 17-20 minutes or until crisp. Let bacon drain and completely cool on a paper towel covered plate.

When the bars are chilled, lightly drizzle the surface with honey (they're already very sweet, so don't be heavy-handed), and crumble bacon pieces over the surface (or top with pretzels as desired). Gently use the sling to pull the bars out and cut them on a cutting board. Serve them within a day or two (before the bananas get too brown), storing them in an airtight container in the fridge if needed.

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Chocolate & Coconut Cream Pie Bars

Several months ago, I attended the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco, California, 2,700 miles away from my home. Traveling alone is always a meaningful, reflective experience for me. To process my trip, I periodically share vignettes that I hope are meaningful to you, as well.

. . .

Normally, I would have said no.

On-the-spot requests for money make me nervous, and I made a rule years ago to always say no. I give food or supplies freely, as I'm able, to anyone who asks me for them. But I only give money if I have a space to sit, read about the organization, and make a thoughtful choice. That's my rule, anyway.

But I wasn't standing at a check-out counter being asked to donate a dollar to a charity, or walking down the street being asked for change. I was sitting on the BART, the Bay Area's system of trains, and the little boy in front of me was adorably nervous. I waited politely as he took a deep breath and began a clearly well-rehearsed speech. It came out as one halting sentence.

"Hi-I-am-part-of-the-Boys-&-Girls-Club-and-we-are-raising-money-to-go-to-our-basketball-tournament-in-Reno-I-have-already-collected-all-but-$55-can-you-help-by-donating-today?" He took another big breath, obviously relieved to have finished his spiel.

I saw his friend delivering a similar pitch across the car and briefly considered that this might be an elaborate scheme to get more video game or snack money. My innate cynicism comes from personal experience, since I may or may not have canvassed my neighborhood when I was a tiny entrepreneur telling folks that I was an orphan soliciting donations for cancer treatments. Not one of my prouder moments. Thankfully, I don't think anyone was fooled. A few people tried to tame their amusement as they slipped me some change, which, in hindsight, was unnecessarily generous.

Regardless of my own childhood scheming, I instinctively felt the child in front of me on the train was being honest, and what's more, I decided I didn't care. He had mustered up plenty of pluck to come ask me for a few dollars, and I was going to give them to him. I opened up my envelope of cash (such a tourist) and pulled out a few bills for him. His relief turned into joy. "Thank you!" he cried as he walked across the car.

I heard him deliver his pitch to another woman with a satisfied emphasis on his new balance: "...and all I need is $48 now!" She grinned at me as she handed him a couple of bills as well.

A few minutes later, I saw another passenger on the train say no. The boy, clearly coached to deal with this politely, veiled his disappointment as best he could and gave a resigned little nod. I glanced over at the woman and noticed she'd been watching the exchange as well. When she looked over at me, her face had the same sympathetic smile I was sure my own face was wearing. I didn't blame the other passenger -- after all, any other day and any other mood and I might have decided to follow my own rule -- but I did resolve to pray for all the boys to get to go to their basketball tournament.

(And you know what? If he's playing video games or eating some cheesy poofs with my money at this very moment, by golly, I hope he's enjoying them.)

. . .

It's funny how sometimes things -- like a brief exchange on a train -- build a little nook in your heart. Some moments are like that. Some people are like that.

I made these Chocolate & Coconut Cream Pie Bars for a special person who occupies her own shelf in my heart. Martha is Mike's great-aunt, for all intents and purposes, and she's truly a crackerjack of a woman. She deserves all sorts of sweet things -- video games and cheesy poofs, even! -- but I decided on these bars for her birthday because I know she enjoys coconut. The chocolate layer was a whim, but what a great one -- the bittersweet ganache is just enough to add a rich background flavor while still allowing the coconut cream to shine.

These bars take a little time and a little arm muscle, but they're easy to assemble and more than worth the time spent by the stove. If you love a good coconut cream pie, you'll love them.

Tell me about a moment when you broke one of your own rules.

Chocolate & Coconut Cream Pie Bars

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking with filling adapted from All Recipes
Yield: 12-16 bars, depending on size

Okay, 30 minutes of stirring sounds like a lot. But now that I know how incredible these bars are, I would stir for an hour if I had to -- maybe even two! They combine all the goodness of an old-fashioned coconut cream pie with the perfect amount of rich ganache. In short, these things are amazing. I used stabilized whipped cream on top of my bars, but if you're serving them immediately and don't anticipate keeping them long, feel free to just use plain whipped cream.

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup icing sugar

Ganache Ingredients:
3/8 cups heavy cream
about 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I love Ghirardelli's 60% cacao chips)
about 3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Coconut Cream Filling Ingredients:
3 cups half-and-half
3 cups coconut milk
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon cold water (for stabilizing)
1 teaspoon gelatin (for stabilizing)
3-4 tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 cup coconut, toasted

Make shortbread crust: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 13 in. baking dish with a parchment paper sling (I use one long sheet across the length of my dish, and two overlapping short sheets across the width of my dish -- just arrange it so that it has some overlap and overhang to help you pull the bars out after they're finished). Cut the butter into the flour and icing sugar and press into the baking dish (I used a food processor to cut the fat into the flour -- about 6 pulses -- and then the bottom of a glass to press the mixture into the pan). Bake 18-20 minutes or until light brown. Set on a wire rack. Keep oven preheated for coconut toasting.

Make ganache: While the shortbread is baking, place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan (or microwave it for a couple of minutes). Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Set it aside until your crust is finished and has cooled for a few minutes, and then pour it over the crust (it's okay if it's not cooled all the way). Place the chocolate covered crust in the fridge to chill until the ganache is set into a firm layer.

Toast coconut for the topping: Spread about 1/2 cup of the coconut flakes out on a baking sheet and toast for a few minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the coconut is golden brown. Spread it out on a plate to cool completely.

Make coconut cream filling: Combine the half-and-half, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking constantly (this can take anywhere from 30-38 minutes. Some folks on All Recipes said you could zap it in the microwave for a minute at a time, stirring after every minute, until it was thickened. It was only supposed to take around 5-10 minutes, but I was too chicken to try. Let me know if you do.) Add coconut and vanilla extracts and the 1 1/2 cups of untoasted coconut and stir. Pour this filling over your chilled ganache and stick the whole thing in the fridge to chill until firm, about 2 to 4 hours.

Make whipped cream topping: Put 1 tablespoon cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top. Let it soften for 2 minutes before microwaving it for 30 seconds and whisking to dissolve the gelatin. Using a chilled bowl and beater, whisk the 2 cups of heavy cream and icing sugar together until the cream forms stiff peaks, stopping to add gelatin mixture about halfway through. Dollop the cream over your bars and gently spread it around. Sprinkle on toasted coconut. Chill until ready to serve to let the whipped cream set up. Use the sling to pull the bars out of the dish, slice with a sharp knife, and enjoy!

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Nanaimo Bars

You know those commercials where a thin, statuesque model takes a bite of chocolate and all her troubles melt away (usually dramatized by a fancy silk sheet blowing through the scene)? Let's briefly ignore the physical ironies and textiles, because I have great news: that kind of trouble-melting food does exist! It's a Nanaimo Bar! Who knew?

The folks in Nanaimo probably did. Nanaimo (pronounced nuh-NYE-moh) is a beautiful town on Vancouver Island famous for a very sweet treat. Local folklore says that around 35 years ago, a woman from Nanaimo entered her bars into a competition, naming them after the city. They were a sensation, and the Nanaimo Bar was born.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

I love Lauren -- her blog is full of delicious recipes and lovely photos. If you haven't already checked out Celiac Teen, you should -- especially if you're looking for gluten-free goodness!

Nanaimo Bars sound to me like the result of one of those urges (do you ever get these? I do.) to combine as many amazing-tasting things as possible into one dish, and then eat yourself silly. They have a thick, indulgent bottom layer of chocolate-bound pecans, coconut, and crushed graham crackers.

Not just any graham crackers, mind you! We're daring bakers after all, so we have to add a little oomph. They were homemade graham crackers in this case -- yeah, that's how we roll! No, literally . . . I was rolling, rolling, rolling out dough into the night to bake up my stack of golden crackers. The crisp, fresh, mild crackers were worth the effort, though, and I can't wait to use the leftovers to make s'mores this weekend! Lauren provides a recipe below for gluten-free graham crackers, which I would've loved to make, but I settled for the wheat version this time around due to flour costs. If you're in a hurry, use some store-bought graham crackers in your Nanaimo Bars. The result will be just as delicious.

The other two layers of a Nanaimo Bar are similarly heavenly. A middle layer of rich vanilla custard balances the chocolate overload, and a thin layer of hardened chocolate on top completes the bar. Each bite has a little crunch, a little cream, and a LOT of sweet, rich, chocolatey goodness.

Graham Crackers

Recipe by: 101 Cookbooks and GF adaptations by Celiac Teen
Yields: varies depending on size of crackers (~10 large)

2 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose wheat flour, or wheat pastry flour*
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup honey (mild-flavored, such as clover)
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.
2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
3. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Might take less, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster.
9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziplock bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

*For gluten-free graham crackers, substitute the following flours for the all-purpose flour (and beware that no cross-contamination occurs):
1 cup sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour; plus more for dusting)
3/4 cup tapioca starch/flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour

Baking time will increase to around 25 minutes with these adjustments.

Nanaimo Bars

Recipe by: City of Nanaimo
Yields: About 13-14 bars depending on size

Bottom Layer Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (see recipe above)
1/2 cup almonds (finely chopped) *I used pecans here.
1 cup coconut (shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

Middle Layer Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder or vanilla pudding mix
2 cups icing or confectioners' sugar

Top Layer Ingredients:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. For bottom layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For middle layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For top layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

A few tips from Willow Bird Baking: Line your pan with parchment paper (not wax, which may melt onto the warm bottom layer) for a quick and easy removal. As opposed to trying to scoop bars out of the pan (we all know how that goes), you'll be able to pull them out and cut them neatly on a cutting board.

Use white chocolate or white candy melt to create a marbling effect. Pipe on thin stripes and, while still wet, drag a clean toothpick through the stripes in different directions. Wipe toothpick between each "drag."

Preparing graham crackers.

Assembling Nanaimo Bars and marbling the top layer.

Top marbled, and then Nanimo Bars all chilled and ready to eat!


Check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see other fantastic Nanaimo Bars!

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