The final version of gooey chocolate almond bars in Wednesday’s post came about after weeks of experimentation. These gooey almond bars are the result of an offhand comment and a family discussion.
When I made the chocolate almond bars for Rich’s parents, they were blown away by them. As far as they were concerned, the recipe was fine as it was. Until I suggested that maybe we make them with a butter crust instead of chocolate. At least Rich’s mother and I were intrigued. The rest of the family wasn’t so sure. We took a vote and the chocolate won by one, with the votes splitting along gender lines. Of course, I was the baker, so I got veto power.
I decided to take pity on the men and made the batch of bars half and half, with one end of the crust chocolate and the other end butter. Of course then we all had to have one of each to make an informed judgment.
The butter crust only enhanced the almond flavor, highlighting the decadence of the bars without competing with the almond at all. The filling was velvety and rich, with a strong almond flavor. And it had the crackly crust on top reminiscent of gooey butter cake. The crust was just a bit softer than the chocolate and the filling was a little gooier. The different bars were baked in the same pan, with the same batch of filling for all. It was amazing, at least to me, how eliminating the cocoa from half of the recipe changed the character of the bars so much. I am still not sure which I like better, and it mostly depends on which flavor I am eating at the time.
Which do you prefer – chocolate and almond together, or almond by itself?
Gooey Almond Bars
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 16-20 bars
If you have some on hand, you can substitute 7-8 ounces of almond paste for the almonds and powdered sugar in the filling. Just cream it with the butter until smooth and then proceed with the recipe. Grinding the almonds fresh makes the filling slightly creamier, with a stronger almond flavor.
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted
¾ cup whole almonds (blanched or natural, I used blanched)
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur, optional
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan or 7 by 11-inch pan and set aside.
Make the crust first. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of your mixer. Add butter and egg and mix until smooth. Press or spread into prepared pan. Set aside. Set bowl aside for mixing the filling.
Grind almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor or blender until finely ground. Transfer to the bowl you used to mix the crust. Add butter and mix until combined and smooth. Add sugar, extracts and amaretto and beat until well mixed. Add eggs and beat again. Stir in salt and flour and mix gently. Pour on top of crust and spread to edges.
Bake for 25-35 minutes. The 8-inch pan will take longer than the 7 by 11 pan. When bars are done, filling will be golden brown on top and almost set. The center will still jiggle slightly when you shake the pan. If top starts to brown too fast, lay a piece of foil lightly on top of the bars to shield them a bit.
Let cool in pan on a wire rack until room temperature. Cut into 16-20 bars. Bars keep for several days at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage.