Tonight AW and I had an impromptu meeting — such a welcome surprise in the middle of a stress-filled week. We went for a late-evening coffee and stroll around my favorite local bookstore, and ultimately our ambling led to the cookbook section. Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc caught my eye (I’ve been lusting after that book for a while now), and once I was there, I went in pursuit of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home To Yours. Every week when the Tuesdays With Dorie results come out, I remember with fervor just how badly I want to be a TWD participant. But limited funds have kept me from purchasing the cookbook, so I just look at the pictures, and savor with my eyes.
Well a couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to find this Oatmeal Chocolate Almost-Candy Bars recipe posted on a participating blog. Finally, a TWD recipe I could try! I showed the recipe to AW and he expressed immediate approval of the recipe, so I decided to make them. Unfortunately, these were the bars that spawned the steel-cut-oat debacle, so I had to wait a couple of weeks to try them, but they were well worth the wait.
The base and “crumble” topping is flavorful and moist, and the chocolate layer is dense and creamy. The raisins add a delightful chewyness, and the crunchy peanuts (I used honey-roasted) just sort of round out the palate of flavors and textures. I imagine this is the type of dessert you could bring to any party, or serve to even the most picky eater, and they’d be a hit all around.
Since I was lucky enough to find this recipe sans-cookbook, I’ll share it with you too:
Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars
For the oatmeal layer:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned (rolled) oats
1 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
For the chocolate layer:
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
¾ cup coarsely chopped peanuts, preferably salted
Center a rack in the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, and place the pan on a baking sheet.
To make the oatmeal layer:
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until it is soft and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a minute after each egg goes in. Beat in the vanilla. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until they disappear. Still on low speed, or working by hand with a rubber spatula, stir in the oats and chopped peanuts.
Set aside 1½ to 2 cups of the mixture, then turn the remaining dough into the buttered pan. Gently and evenly press the dough over the bottom of the pan. Set aside while you prepare the next layer.
To make the chocolate layer:
Set a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Put the condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter, and salt in the bowl and stir occasionally until the milk is warm and the chocolate and butter are melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water and stir in the vanilla, raisins (if using), and peanuts.
Pour the warm chocolate over the oatmeal crust, then scatter the remaining oatmeal mixture over the top. Don’t try to spread the oatmeal, and don’t worry about getting the topping even — this is fun, remember?
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the chocolate layer is dull and starting to come away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the baking pan to a rack and cool for about 2 hours.
Run a blunt knife between the edges of the cake and the pan, and carefully turn the cake out onto a rack. Turn right side up, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting.
Cut into 32 rectangles, each roughly 2¼ by 1½ inches. Makes 32 bars.
Someday I really will have Dorie’s book, and it will be glorious. But until then, I’ll keep sneaking peeks and tracking down recipes when I can, and sharing them here of course! Until next weekend…
With love, and sugar. Enjoy!