I'm always on the lookout for new "bar" recipes. I enjoy bars more than brownies (a bold statement, I know), but usually just because bars tend to be a bit more complex than brownies. There are "layers" to bars, more bits and pieces to experiment and fiddle about with.
And they tend not to invoke the almighty kerfuffle that brownies do. You know the one. Cake-like brownies versus fudge-like brownies. Wars have been fought over less.
Bars circumvent this debate entirely because there are literally no limits to their potential.
These, for example, have a nice cocoa-rich shortbread base, an absolute no-no on the brownie front. They also feature (as you can tell from the photo) thick top layer of pure dark chocolate ganache. Now, I suppose that puts them on the "fudge" side of things, but really, that's over-simplifying. Ganache is a horse of an entirely different color, a little bit more delicate than your standard fudge-y brownie.
But, like any fudge brownie, they are dense. I mean, dense. Cutting these into anything resembling brownie shapes would send most people into diabetic shock. For the sake of your audience, cut these as small as you dare. Slivers, even. Trust me, you'll get enough chocolate to last you a lifetime.
Time: 1 hour, plus chilling time
150 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
90 grams confectioners’ sugar (about 3/4 cup)
26 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark cherry jam (to be fair, raspberry or strawberry would probably work just as well here)
340 grams bittersweet (dark) chocolate, at least 62 percent, chopped (12 ounces)
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons kirsch, rum, brandy or other spirit
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel, for sprinkling.
1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and fine sea salt. Pulse in the butter and vanilla until the mixture just comes together into a smooth mass. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment or wax paper. Press the dough into the pan. Prick all over with a fork. Chill for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 days.
2. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the shortbread until firm to the touch and just beginning to pull away from the sides, 35 to 40 minutes.
3. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Brush jam over shortbread’s surface and let cool thoroughly.
4. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
In a saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Pour over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the kirsch. Spread over shortbread. Sprinkle fleur de sel on. Cool to room temperature; cover and chill until firm. Slice and serve.
Yield: 18 bars.