Raspberry Crumble Bars

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: about 16 bars
Recipe: 130/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 72

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     This recipe was fun and simple to make. Pulse all the ingredients except the raspberry jam together, press half of it in the pan and layer the raspberry jam and the rest of the crumble mixture on top. It smelled nice and fruity while baking. Although I was very careful to gently press the crumble top layer, it ended up a bit too compact for my liking. I think it would have been better if the top layer was more loose and more crumbly (these are crumble bars, after all). Adding in some oats to the leftover crumble mixture before sprinkling in atop the raspberry jam would also add a nice texture.

   Unfortunately, I was not really a fan of these bars. Although the texture added by the cornmeal is nice, I found the bars too dense, both in texture and flavour, and could only eat a few bites at a time. There is also something unusual about the taste and I found them too sweet, probably due to the raspberry jam. Perhaps this might be different based on the brand of raspberry jam used, but for me to find a dessert too sweet it must really be in excess. If I were to remake these I would probably try to just puree some fresh raspberries and use that as a middle layer instead. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom or ground allspice
  • 1 cup cool unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 cup raspberry jam

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Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so the paper hangs over the sides a little.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together briefly the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and cardamom or allspice to blend. Add the butter and pulse until crumbly. Alternatively, if you do not have a food processor, whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl, then cut in the cool butter pieces using your fingers until the mixture is crumbly.
  3. Put 3 cups of this crumble texture into the prepared pan and firmly press down so that the mixture is even around the pan.
  4. Stir the raspberry jam to soften it and spread it evenly over the pressed crumble.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture on top and press down gently.
  6. Bake the bars for about 30-35 minutes, until they just begin to brown around the edges. Cool the bars to room temperature, then chill them for at least 2 hours before slicing into 16 or 18 bars, depending on how big you want them. 

Valerie

Frosted Banana Nut Bars

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: 16-18 bars
Recipe: 31/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 66

Frosted banana nut bars

    The incoming weekend could only mean one thing: time to bake and enjoy the weekend with friends! I wanted to make something sweet but light (ish) at the same time. I thus made these seemingly finger-licking good banana nut bars, with frosting! The bars by themselves are very good and savoury, but the frosting gives it that extra touch of sweetness and elegance. I really enjoyed these banana and nut bars. I am sure they will come in handy whenever I need to whip up a fast dessert that tastes and looks good. My only criticism is that the orange zest flavour is too present in the frosting and base for my liking. It almost overpowers the banana flavour. Then again, it may be that I unknowingly picked up some of the orange pith (the bitter white part of the skin) while getting the zest from the orange. Next time I will add less orange zest and I will thus enjoy them even more.

Ingredients for base:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated
  • 2/3 cup mashed ripe banana (equivalent to one large or two small bananas)
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted walnut pieces

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1  1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup or so walnut pieces, for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and line and 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, making sure that the paper comes up the sides (this makes it easier for removal).
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk the ingredients to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and orange zest.
  5. Add the mashed banana(s) and orange juice.
  6. Stir into this banana mixture the flour mixture and the walnut pieces until well blended.
  7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly by tapping the pan hard on a flat surface. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool the room temperature in the pan, then transfer to a plate and remove the parchment paper.
  8. For the frosting, beat the butter with 1 cup of the icing sugar until smooth. Stir in the orange juice, zest, vanilla extract and the rest of the icing sugar. Beat until the mixture is homogenous. Frost the top of the cake and sprinkle the walnut pieces on it. Let the frosting set, uncovered, at room temperature for 1 hour (or 30 minutes in the fridge) before slicing it into 16-18 bars.

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Valerie

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: 15-20 bars
Recipe: 28/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 67

Peanut butter bars

     With Easter weekend coming up, I evidently wanted to bake something to bring to the family dinner. I would not be myself if I did not bring a dessert for such a supper. This peanut butter Nanaimo bar recipe came in second last week when I told my roommate that I would make the desert of her choosing. Hence, this week I decided to make this seemingly complex recipe to bring home to my family (of course as my official food tester my roommate would have no choice but to have a piece anyways…). Albeit it does seem very intricate, the instructions provided in the recipe are well detailed and can be accomplished if one only follows it. The result was a rich, decadent and chocolatey peanut-filled dessert. Without a doubt, these peanut butter Nanaimo bars comprise one of my favorite desserts from Back to Baking thus far!

Ingredients for base:

  • 2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (e.g. the shells of Oreo cookies)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dry-roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Ingredients for filling:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder (optional)
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons half-and-half cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for topping:

  • 6 oz. (175 g) semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, making sure that the paper comes up the sides.
  2. To prepare the base, stir the cookie crumbs, sugar, cocoa powder and coconut together by hand.
  3. Stir in the melted butter, followed by the egg and vanilla extract. Mix with a hand or stand mixer to combine all the ingredients.
  4. Add the peanuts and stir well.
  5. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. The crust will be soft and manageable, so you can use your fingers to press it down evenly. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, then cool while preparing the filling.
  6. To prepare the filling, beat the butter, icing sugar and custard powder together with a hand or stand mixer until it forms a thick paste.
  7. Add the peanut butter, cream and vanilla extract and beat until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Spread this mixture on the cooled chocolate crust and cover with plastic wrap directly on the peanut butter mixture. Press down and rub on the plastic wrap to even out the mixture. Chill in the fridge until firm, about 2 hours.
  8. For the topping, place the chocolate and butter in a metal or glass bowl over a saucepot of barely simmering water and stir until melted. Alternatively, the chocolate and butter can be melted in the microwave at 30-second intervals. Spread this mixture over the chilled peanut butter centre and chill again until firm, about an hour, before slicing into bars. The bars can be cut as small or big as you wish, but keep in mind that this is a rich and decadent dessert, so less may be more.

Notes from Anna:

  • The custard powder, although one of the key ingredients that qualify the Nanaimo bars as such, can be omitted from this recipe without compromising taste or texture.
  • Nanaimo bars originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia, and have now evolved into a treat that we regard as part of Canadian food culture!

Valerie