Thursday, March 20, 2008
Playing With Marbles
When I was a wee tike my mother, in an effort to encourage my growth and development, and possibly to get me out of her hair, enrolled me in summer classes at the YWCA. I took creative movement which I loved. We got to swish like a washing machine, swim through honey, and flop like limp noodles. And I looked at it as my first step toward becoming a ballerina.
Another year I got to take an art class which was awesome. All of the projects were designed so that with limited art abilities a student could produce something to feel proud of. We pressed thin copper sheets into molds to make raised pictures which we mounted onto boards and shellacked. Mine, of course, was a ballerina. We did string art. And we made ceramics. I loved transforming liquidy gloop into a shape that was then painted, glazed, and fired. I still have the little fox I made with hand-painted accents.
I get a thrill when something I create is lovely. And my family knows I get very grumpy when a kitchen creation turns out.....on the homely side. Even if it's delicious, I pout if it's not a feast for the eyes as well, which happens rather more than I'd care to admit.
These bars were such fun to make. The shortbread base and oozy caramel layer were easy to put together, and I felt like I was back in art class swirling the melted chocolate around on the top. What a bonus that they're delicious, too!
Marbled Bars - adapted from The Cookie Book by Catherine Atkinson, Joanna Farrow and Valerie Barrett
For the base:
2-1/4 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 oz) superfine sugar*
3/4 cup (6 oz) butter, softened
For the filling:
7 Tbsp (3-1/2 oz) butter, diced
1/2 cup (3-1/2 oz) light brown sugar
2 x 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
For the topping:
3-1/2 oz semisweet chocolate
2-1/2 oz milk chocolate
2 oz white chocolate
1- Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Line a 13 x 9-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper and lightly grease it. (I don't own a jelly roll pan this size, so just used a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.)
*If you don't have superfine sugar on hand, just put granulated sugar in your food processor and whir it around until it's fine.
2- Put the flour and superfine sugar into a food processor and blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Continue pulsing until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. This step can also be done with your hands.
3- Put the dough into the prepared pan and press it out with your hand to cover the base. Then use the back of a tablespoon to smooth it and press it evenly into the pan. Prick all over with a fork and bake for about 20 minutes, or until firm to the touch and very light brown. Set aside and leave it in the pan to cool.
4 - To make the filling, put the butter, brown sugar and condensed milk into a pan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Stirring constantly, bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture very gently, stirring constantly, for about 5 - 10 minutes, or until it has thickened and has turned a caramel color. Take care that the mixture does not burn on the base of the pan, as this will spoil the flavor. Remove from the heat.
5 - Pour the filling mixture over the cookie base, spread evenly, then leave until cold.
6 - To make the topping, melt each type of chocolate separately in a microwave or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of hot water. Spoon stripes about 2 inches wide of semisweet and milk chocolate down the length of the pan, alternating semisweet and milk chocolate.
7- Place spoonfuls of the white chocolate randomly over the top. Using a skewer (I couldn't find one, so I used a pointed chopstick), drag the tip through the chocolates, swirling to form the marbled effect.
Allow the top to cool thoroughly before slicing. Cut into 24, this makes generous sized bars. If you cut each bar into thirds, they make dainty nibbles.
Note: When I made them, the few bars that remained and sat overnight had the chocolate bloom (greyish color rises to the surface). I'm pretty sure tempering the chocolate would have prevented that, but I'm no expert at all in tempering chocolate, so....if you know how to, you might try it here. Or just make sure all the bars are eaten the first day!
The winner in the Spot Marilyn Contest is Melinda! She was the first to get the correct number of Marilyn references in my post Gentlement Prefer Blondies. Way to go, Melinda! Your lame prize is on it's way to you right now!