Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Crispy Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars
Like most food bloggers and want-to-be photographers my biggest challenge has been lighting. My kitchen gets decent morning light since my windows face east but really that's about it, and even that's no good on really overcast days. I have read various articles about different kinds of light and set-ups that other food bloggers use, but I never really considered investing in that sort of thing myself.
Well, at least not until I stumbled across this blog post on Steamy Kitchen. I don't remember how I found the post, or what I was looking for when I found it, but it immediately got my attention because the system was fairly small, and fairly inexpensive. Since I have a terrible memory, I copied and pasted large sections of the post into an email and sent it to Chris so that he could remind me later what system I wanted.
Chris, being Chris, went ahead and ordered the lights for me as a surprise. :) I knew I was marrying him for a good reason. And the pictures of these crispy peanut butter bars are the first experiments with the new lighting. Pretty cool huh? I was impressed. Hopefully now that I have decent lighting I will get better at staging my food and might one day even get good at this.
Now, about the actual food. A rice-crispy style bottom, topped with a layer of melted milk chocolate and peanut butter, topped with yet another layer of dark chocolate ganache. I got the recipe from the Baked book which promises that they are super sweet and best served in small pieces. They got that part right, but what they didn't mention was that the cereal layer was so incredibly sticky -- if you have a loose filling you might want to avoid these -- sticky. And, which you can tell from the pictures, tends to crack and break rather than cut nicely. Of course, the texture problem *could* be due to the fact that I forgot to add the butter to that mixture...
They are pretty good, and they certainly quiet the sweet tooth right up... but they were also a bit of a pain in the ass to make, and I thought the dark chocolate ganache overwhelmed the peanut butter. Next time I'm craving peanut butter and chocolate I will probably just make cookies or blondies.
For the crispy crust:
1 3/4 cup rice crispy cereal
1/4 cup sugar
3 tblsp light corn syrup
3 tbsp unsalted butter
For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer:
5 oz good quality milk chocolate
1 cup creamy peanut butter
For the chocolate ganache:
3 oz dark chocolate, chopped into pieces
1/2 tsp light corn syrup
4 tbsp unsalted butter
Make the crispy crust:
Lightly spray a 8 inch square pan with baking spray.
Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.
Pour 1/4 of water into a small saucepan. Gently add the sugar and the corn syrup (don't let it get on the sides of the pan) and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Put candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 degrees.
Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly, stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan in an even layer. Let the crust cool while you make the next layer.
Make the chocolate peanut butter layer:
In a large nonreactive metal bowl (or a double boiler) stir together the chocolate and peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture onto the rice cereal crust and put the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the top layer hardens.
Make the chocolate icing:
In a large, nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove from the saucepan and stir for 30 seconds to cool it slightly. Pour the icing over the peanut butter layer and spread evenly. Put the pan in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour or until the topping hardens.