"Is it February 4th already?"
That was my first thought when I glanced at my calendar on Saturday morning. My second thought was, "What happened to January?"
And my third thought was the realization that I was experiencing my very first episode of a little syndrome I like to call Food Blogitis, which I define as "anxiety brought upon by the complete failure to be organized and prepared in the making of food and writing of posts for a blog". And that would be me. Completely anxious because up to that point I had failed to not only bake anything from February’s Flavour of the Month, Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow, but failed also to even organize myself so that I could consider baking something from the book!
But as I learned from my university days, nothing motivates as much as fear and panic. As I leafed through Fran’s book, I quickly decided that I wanted to start off with something that would whet my desire for chocolate, but not necessarily overwhelm me right away. I mean I still have the whole month to get through …
What I was looking for was a chocolate appetizer of sorts and I found it with a recipe for White Chocolate Coconut Cream Bars. I must be perfectly honest, though, the picture is what sold me. I didn’t even look at the recipe. The photo in Fran’s book should be hanging in an art gallery somewhere. Spectacular! You’ll have to excuse my amateurish attempt above, which doesn’t do the finished product nearly enough justice.
When I finally stopped drooling over the photo in the book, I read through the recipe and quickly realized that these bars were not going to be as simple as they looked. The bars consist of a layer of shortbread studded with chocolate, a layer of white chocolate and coconut cream and finally a layer of chocolate ganache. While I wouldn’t describe each step as difficult, especially if you have experience baking, they did require time and attention.
But remembering my commitment to exercise more patience in the kitchen, I took a deep breath and started. As the recipe recommended, I made the white chocolate and coconut filling first. I have nothing but good things to say about this filling. While the flavour of white chocolate was distinct, it wasn’t overly sweet and the addition of the coconut was a nice touch. If I ever make these bars again, however, I would consider adding a drop or two of pure coconut extract to the filling, simply to boost the coconut flavour. (Something you need to know about me … I’m a coconut fiend!)
Having prepared the filling, I set about making the shortbread layer. While this step wasn’t difficult, I did find it somewhat challenging to finely chop the chocolate. I’m not used to working with chocolate and finely chopping it is a bit of a chore! It’s made me question my knife skills, or lack thereof as my wrist was considerably sore after I was done. (Note to self: look into improving knife skills!)
Finally, the ganache, and here’s the only blip that I encountered. I’ve made ganache (the mixing of cream and chocolate) many times without ever encountering any significant problems. While the ganache tasted delicious, I found that it was a bit too liquidy. I followed the recipe instructions to allow the chocolate to set for an hour, but that hour was not nearly enough. As you can tell from the photo at the top of the post, the ganache was still a bit runny. I finally had to put the pan in the refrigerator for an hour for the chocolate to set properly.
At last, the taste test. Eagerly I bit into one of the bars and was pleased. The base was buttery as shortbread should be, but also chocolaty thanks to the addition of the chopped semisweet chocolate. The filling was heaven, but not overwhelming. The ganache layer was firm and provided a wonderful dark chocolate contrast to the white chocolate in the filling.
Overall, I was happy with my very first attempt at a recipe from Fran Bigelow’s book. While I can’t say I was blown away by these bars, they were enjoyed by all and I would definitely try them again.
But more importantly, I overcame my first experience with Food Blogitis. I am now ready to face the chocolate challenges that lie ahead!
White Chocolate Coconut Cream Bars
Adapted from Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow.
Coconut Cream Filling:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
- 1-1/4 ounces unsweetened finely shredded dried coconut
- In a saucepan, heat the cream until it is barely simmering. Remove the cream from the heat and immediately add the finely chopped white chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the coconut and mix well.
- Pour the mixture into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure that the plastic wrap is touching the surface of the cream. This will prevent a sking from forming.
- Let the mixture sit for at least 3 hours so that the flavours can develop. Do not let it sit at room temperature for more than 24 hours.
For the shortbread layer:
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Lindt chocolate)
- 6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (I used Lindt chocolate)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups cake flour, sifted and then measured
- Butter a sheet pan that is 9 x 13 inches.
- In a food processor, pulse the semisweet chocolate for a minute until it is very fine.
- In a double boiler, melt the white chocolate. Remove it from the heat as soon as it’s melted and stir to ensure that it’s smooth. If the chocolate sets then return it to the double boiler until it’s loose again.
- In an electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the melted white chocolate and mix well. Add the sifted cake flour and the semisweet chocolate. Mix on low-speed until incorporated.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it a few times. Using your hands, press the dough onto the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer.
- Put the pan in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to firm up the dough.
- While the pan is in the refrigerator, heat your oven to 325 degrees F.
- After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the refrigerator and bake for 25 minutes. The shortbread will be lightly golden and may be puffed in places as well.
- Let cool completely.
To assemble the bars:
- Once the shortbread layer has cooled completely, take the white chocolate and coconut filling and place in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat at high speed for a minute.
- Remove the mixture from the bowl and spread onto the shortbread base.
- Refrigerate while you make the ganache.
For the ganache:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- In a pot heat the cream until it comes to a simmer. Take the cream off the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Let it sit for a few minutes to thicken.
- Once the ganache has thickened slightly, spread over the white chocolate and coconut filling. While the ganache should set in about an hour, you may have to put it in the refrigerator to fully set.
- Slice into squares with a sharp knife.
Note: This recipe yields 24 bars. Many thanks to my friend Stephany who helped clean up the pictures that I took. Thank you, Stephany!!!