Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Bistro Baking Adventures

I started following the Food Librarian's blog and on Tuesday, Jan 19th, she made these Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars. I had to follow a couple of links but found the recipe on Confectiona's Realm and also learned about a baking group called Tuesdays with Dorie.
Since it is our once a month Book Bistro club meeting, I decided to give the Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bar a try. And I have to say, it was a win! How fun and easy to make. I couldn't stop eating the stray crumbs (maybe chunks) that broke off as I started to cut it into pieces. I did have to modify it because we have a lot of kids with nut allergies but I kind of liked it (and I can't believe I'm saying this) without the nuts. No one wants their students going into anaphylactic shock!!
I also changed how we run our book club. Last month's meeting was the first time we used our new approach which I read about somewhere and cannot seem to find. Our students have a really intense workload so they pretty much read for pleasure whatever it is they want. We tried the assign a book and meet and talk about it technique but that did not work very well. We only had about 5 kids coming to the meetings. Last month, I talked with Max about running it as a sharing book club where kids can just talk about the books they have read and why they would recommend it to their classmates. We have a lot more kids and a lot more sharing. I think, the way our school is this is the best way to go because the kids don't feel like they are being assigned something specific and they can choose what they want to talk about. If another student has read it already, they discuss that book more and then kids talk about other similar books. I thought, it was a much livelier discussion.
Here is the recipe for the bars above. I did not add peanuts or raisins and it is still delicious. Very fudgy! Almost like the fudgies at UCSC's Stevenson College. YUM!!! Also, when did they move the condensed milk to next to the coffee in the supermarket?!? I spent 30 minutes walking around and around trying to figure out where the hell they put it. It used to be in the baking aisle now it's in the coffee aisle!! That doesn't even make any sense.
The bars can be served at room temperature or out of the fridge or out of the freezer. I ate a piece right out of the oven..I COULDN'T WAIT! Warm it's so yummy too. I would totally warm it up and throw a scoop of ice cream on top. Also, it says that if you wrap it up tightly it stays at room temperature for about 4 days, refrigerated it's good for a week and from the freezer..well, I guess, it's good for as long as it takes you to eat it!
Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars, from Baking: From My Home to Yours
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
Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 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. I just dropped pieces willy-nilly over the chocolate layer.
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.

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