Monday, June 30, 2014

Baked Fruit & Nut Toffee Chews

I'm sitting here and all I can think about is how much I want the weekend to last a little bit longer.

Two days is not enough and so NOT proportional to 5 days of work.

A 3-day weekend to a 4-day work week would be so much smarter and make me way more productive. Come on guys, let's figure out how to make this happen!

Who do I have to call? Who should I write a letter to? Who do I need to send (persuasive) cookies to?
Just don't let the Lindt factory workers know because I still need my chocolate fix 7 days a week.

There's this thing that happens to me on Sunday evenings that completely cuts my weekend down by half a day. Suddenly it hits and all of the things I need to do and want to get done just tumble through my head. Let's be real guys, I develop dessert mix recipes for a living and love it. But, there's lots of important stuff that comes with it to make sure that the food I make arrives to your supermarket shelf safely and at the finest quality. At the end of the day... it's work!

As much as my daily life involves batters, doughs, mixing, testing, tasting, weighing, whisking, baking, calculating, more tasting and enough dish-washing to make you want to cry... I still crave it. I bake at home on my weekends when I should be doing anything that involves sitting or foot-massaging.

Because I can't help but sneak a bit of baking into every day, and would be completely happy making chocolate everything all the time, I try to make somewhat "healthy" choices. By this I mean treats that contain sustainable energy-providing and snack-worthy ingredients. Sometimes I can't help but still use butter and sugar because I am still baking after all. And, baking without butter is nearly sacrilege (even though I've done it here! Gasp!).

This treat gets its permissiveness through "Fruit & Nut" and deliciousness through "Toffee Chews".

The base is very much a shortbread made to taste like toffee with the addition of brown sugar, vanilla and a hit of salt.

The moist stickiness of brown sugar gives shortbread a denser texture compared to the traditional version, which makes it feel even more like candy.

The topping is really interesting. It's based on the technique for sponge cake, but with less flour and more of the good stuff.

First we whip eggs with brown sugar and a pinch of salt until pale and very thick. This will take a few minutes with a hand mixer. Then we fold in sifted flour, peanuts, almonds, dried cranberries, sultanas and desiccated coconut. The high proportion of egg gives this topping a meringue-like texture and a welcomed chewiness.

After spreading this mixture over the pre-baked toffee shortbread base, we bake once more until it gets nicely browned on top.

These are great in little bites with a nice balance of sweet and salt. Don't miss out on the salt or all you will taste is sweeeeeee--eeeet.

High-protein nuts and fibre-dense coconut help to balance out the sugar and slow down its absorption, making for a satisfying yet reasonably sustainable afternoon treat for a sugar-holic like me.

Baked Fruit & Nut Toffee Chews
Makes 25 bites

For the base:
6 tbsp (84 g) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup (75 g) packed light brown sugar
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup (142 g) all-purpose flour
heaped ¼ tsp salt

Fruit & nut topping:
1/3 cup (65 g) roasted peanuts
1/3 cup (45 g) slivered toasted almonds
1/3 cup (45 g) dried cranberries
1/3 cup (50 g) sultanas
½ cup (30 g) desiccated coconut
2 large eggs
2/3 cup (150 g) packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup (50 g) all-purpose flour

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Cream together butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add flour and salt and stir until combined. Use your hands to help it come together if it feels too dry. Press the mixture lightly into the base of the pan and bake until lightly golden, 10-12 minutes.

To make the topping, combine peanuts, almonds, cranberries, sultanas and coconut in a bowl. Beat eggs, brown sugar and salt in a separate medium bowl with an electric hand mixer or wire whisk until pale in colour and thickened, 3-5 minutes. Sift in flour and fold it in. Stir through fruit and nut mixture. Pour over base and bake until evenly browned, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing into little squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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