Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Essential Rhubarb Pie's Biggest Sugar High Yet

I’ll start this post with a joyful announcement about something completely unrelated to the main post topic. 

Hmmm…”Joyful announcement” sounds like something else entirely doesn’t it?  Like something not related to food.  Let’s tone this down a bit.  I had a very happy food occurrence.  

Last week we had  Mardi Gras/Carnivale/Shrove Tuesday/Day Before Ash Wednesday.  Various types of fried pastries and leavened breads are what many folks like to chow down on prior to Lent. Some people do pancakes. I know that doughnuts and fasnachts are popular because they require leavening.  I don’t know where the pancake thing comes from.  All I know is I jokingly asked Sir Pickypants if he wanted pancakes for dinner Tuesday night and he jumped all over it.  

Taking aside the fact that I’m not one of those people who thinks eating breakfast for dinner is the greatest thing ever (I’m just not all that enamored of breakfast foods that I want to eat them all of the time), I am also terrible at making pancakes.  

That’s not true.  I’m not always terrible.  Sometimes it’s okay.  It’s just I never know whenever I make pancakes if they will be good pancakes or bad pancakes.

I made the pancakes.  They were the best pancakes I ever made.  They were thick and super-fluffy and sweet and studded with blueberries.  They gave me hope that I will continue to make good pancakes in the future.  

But that’s not what this post is supposed to be about.

If I were to list the main guidelines for the (dis)Ordered kitchen, there would be three.  The first is that the best foods are made with high-quality ingredients and that I shouldn’t skimp on what I use in my recipes if it can be avoided.  The second is that homemade food always tastes better than shortcuts.  The more love and effort that goes into a dish, the better it tastes.  The third is I do try to aim for good nutrition.  Sure I like to make junkier foods for certain occasions, but usually I’m all about fresh, unprocessed foods.

I threw most of that out the window this weekend.

Periodically my theater group has Open Mike nights as a fundraiser.  They’re not any big production.  People just come into the hall, pay $5, and if they wish to perform, sign up for a time slot.  Sometimes I get up and sing.  I am almost always the emcee. This time I didn't just sing, but did a duet with SPP.  We sang "Falling Slowly" from the movie and musical Once

Since we need to raise as much money as possible, we also sell snacks, soda, and coffee.  We will resell store-bought stuff, but those of us who want to bake are always greatly appreciated.  I try to bake every time.  

I wanted to do something different this time around.  I have done homemade chocolate chip cookies in the past, but everyone does chocolate chip cookies.  I wanted to make something that would raise a few eyebrows.  I wanted to stand out in the middle of a generic food table.  

I ended up inventing these bars.  They are not nutritious, they contain tons of white sugar and processed ingredients, and they contain a shortcut or two.  They were also such a popular item at the open mike night that I don't think I saw an single person in the crowd not eating one.

I started with pretzels.  I learned a long time ago pretzels make a great crust.  I crushed a bag of pretzels and mixed them with butter and sugar.  I baked them up and had my base.

Next I cooked up a batch of caramel.  I suppose if I really wanted to “cheat”, I could have used a jar of caramel sauce.  I find it’s easy enough to make, so I cooked up a batch and let it cool enough to spread over the crust without soaking into the pretzel layer.I covered that caramel with a bag of shredded sweetened coconut.  

Finally I added a layer of fudge.  This wasn’t the slow-stirred corn syrup kind.  This was simply a bag of chocolate chips and a can of condensed milk.  Then I topped the fudge with toasted, salted pecans for a little extra texture and flavor.

I had no idea what to call these bars. At first I thought I should call them Calorie & Cavity Bars, since there is so much sugar that they would provide plenty of the former and give you the latter.  I wasn’t sure if that would hold much appeaI for people considering eating them.  I considered just saying what’s in them and calling them Pretzel-Caramel-Coconut-Fudge-Pecan Bars.  That was just too much of a mouthful.  I thought about calling them German Chocolate Pretzel Bars because they contain caramel, chocolate, coconut, and pecans, but German Chocolate treats should have the pecans in the same layer as the caramel, no?  I finally decided on Five-Layer Pretzel Bars.  It worked as well as anything else.

Five Layer Pretzel Bars

For Crust
  • 4 cups mini pretzels
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray the bottom of a 9"x13" pan with cooking spray.  Line with foil leaving an overhang on the sides.  Spray foil.

Crush pretzels into crumbs in a food processor. Combine crushed pretzels with sugar and butter. Press pretzel mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan to form a crust. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Set aside to cool.

For Caramel Coconut Layer
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbl butter
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
In a small saucepan heat sugar over medium heat.  Give the pot an occasional swirl and a stir to evenly distribute melting process.  If crystals form on the side of the pot, wash them down with a brush dipped in cold water.  Heat until all sugar is melted and is a dark amber color.  Stir in butter.  Remove from heat and stir in cream and salt.

Cool the caramel until is is no longer a thin liquid, but is still soft and pourable.  When cool, spread over crust and cover with coconut.

For Fudge Pecan Layer
  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • Dash salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted and lightly sprinkled with salt.
Heat chips, milk, and salt in a small saucepan until chocolate is melted.  Stir in vanilla.  .

Quickly spread the fudge over the top of the caramel and coconut layer.  Press pecans into the fudge.

Refrigerate until set.  Use the foil to lift the bars out of the pan and cut into squares.  Keep cold or the top layers will separate too easily from the base.


The Duo Dishes said...

Love the Calorie & Cavity name. Hey, why not? Saw a batch of bars that reminded me of this. They had potato chips crushed on top. I don't think you can ever go too far with something like these!

Sue said...

Those pretzel bars sound amazing! They remind me of Nanaimo Bars, but with a big twist. Yum!

You are one of the most well-rounded people I know. Horses, cooking, performing! Is there anything you can't do?!!

Linda said...

I clicked on your blog searching for a recipe for rhubarb pie and found a very entertaining blog instead. :) The bar ingredients and the way you prepared and put them together sound (and look) like a lovely improvisation.