Friday, July 16, 2010

Chocolate Chip Macadamia Bars with Shortbread Crust

Chocolate Chip Macadamia Bars with Shortbread Crust - made July 15, 2010 from

I have both macadamia nuts and miniature semisweet chocolate chips to use up so this seemed like a good recipe to try since it contained both. I downloaded this from long ago and have held onto the recipe for months, if not years. I go through periods when I’m hunting for good recipes and just gather them all up. Then they gather dust until I’m inspired to try one of them.

The recipe calls for a food processor to make the crust and I have one but I’ve already packed it in preparation for my move. But it’s not a big deal to manually cut the butter into the sugar and flour – I do it all the time with lemon bars so I’m used to it. Just make sure your butter is chilled and you use two sharp knives or a pastry blender. I confess I’ve never gotten used to a pastry blender as it seems to drill the butter into the flour/sugar rather than actually cutting the butter. It’s all a matter of what you’re used to and I guess I’m old school. Plus, I don’t need another baking gadget like a pastry blender when two knives will do. Just make sure your butter is cold as that makes cutting it into the dry ingredients easier – you don’t want the butter so soft that it actually makes a paste with the flour and sugar. There should be little bits of butter coated with the flour/sugar mixture but not actually blended into it.

I baked the crust for a little longer than 15 minutes, probably closer to 20. My experience says the best part of a shortbread crust is when it’s – well – crusty. If you underbake it, it’ll be too soft and won’t provide enough of a texture contrast to the filling. Don’t overbake it either as you don’t want it too hard and remember it’ll bake some more once the crust is added. I toasted the macadamia nuts first and let them cool before I added them to the filling. Try to add the nuts last and right before you pour it over the crust – they should soften less by spending less time in a liquid batter before it’s baked. As I’ve said ad naseum, I’m not fond of nuts within a baked good although I’m fine with them on top. It’s a texture thing – nuts will steam and soften when baked so they lose the more crisp or hard texture which is what I like about nuts. I’m actually a little more forgiving of macadamia nuts since they don’t soften as much as nuts like walnuts or pecans.

I only had a small smidge of this since by the time it cooled last night, it was late and I don’t like eating right before going to bed. It was pretty good. The shortbread crust had the right “snap” to it and when I ate this, the filling was still just the tiniest bit warm so it was soft. I didn’t overbake it as I had feared since I left it in the oven longer than the prescribed 50 minutes. I recommend actually timing this one (this from me, the infamous “I never time anything” baker) because the crust on the filling forms pretty early on in the baking so sticking a toothpick into it keeps breaking the filling crust while just underneath, everything’s still too gooey to be done. I only had a vague sense of when I put this in the oven so I had to keep checking and could only go by how brown the crust was and what the toothpick test was showing me.

For crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces

For filling:
1 cup sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts (about 7 ounces)

1. Make crust: Preheat oven to 350˚F. Blend flour and sugar in processor. Add butter; process using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to 8-inch square glass baking dish. Press mixture onto bottom and ¾ inch up sides of dish. Bake until crust is golden brown on edges, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Whisk sugar, flour, eggs, butter and vanilla extract to blend in large bowl. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
3. Pour filling into warm crust, smooth surface. Bake until filling is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. Transfer dish to rack; cool completely. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.) Cut into 16 squares.

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