Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Naked" Twix brownie bars for a Sweet 16

Grandma Lilly's Brownies - made June 30, 2012, recipe adapted into homemade Twix bars from A Country Baking Treasury by Lisa Yockelson
Last weekend, I went to a Sweet 16 party of a remarkable young woman named Zoe.  Zoe is the daughter of Maria, one of my oldest friends from high school (ahem, that "old" refers to the age of our friendship, not my or my friend's age - just sayin').  Despite her young age, Zoe has shone the remarkable fortitude and courage of people more than twice, three and four times her age.  You see, last year, Zoe was diagnosed with stage 4 bone cancer and in the past 10 months, she has gone through more than most of us can conceive of in our lifetime.  Even more importantly, she has gone through it all with grace, courage and faith - the kind that you don't know you're capable of until you have to come up with the inner fortitude to take what's thrown at you, even when it's a one-two punch with Life's brass knuckles.

It hasn't been easy and her challenging journey isn't over yet but in true awe-inspiring fashion, she met a recent bleak medical prognosis determined to "spend the summer happy, not sad".  Part of that happiness was celebrating her Sweet 16 milestone and that we did.  When I asked Maria what I could bring to the party (because you know I'm incapable of showing up anywhere empty-handed - it's just not Filipino), I was glad to hear Zoe's favorite candy was Twix bars.  Because when I had first made homemade Twix brownie bars, I had sent a care package of them to Maria and her family and it sounded like they went over well.  So I went back to that confection to bring to the party.
Top row: Naked Twix Bars
Middle row, left: Toffee Cookies (later blog post coming shortly)
Bottom row, right: Buttery Toffee Cookies

I did mix it up a bit though and while I used the same shortbread base and same recipe for the caramel layer, I tried out this new brownie recipe.  The original recipe is enough for a 9 x 13 pan but I was only making an 8-inch pan so I cut the ingredients in half.  Taste-wise and texture-wise, I liked this brownie recipe better than the one I used earlier.  However, it made a thicker brownie than the other recipe so it made for bigger "Twix" bars.  Not that that's necessarily a bad thing but enrobing in melted chocolate was a bit more problematic as not all of the rectangular pieces wanted to behave and remain upright while being enrobed.  It didn't help that it was warm in my kitchen, almost too warm to work successfully with chocolate.  I ended up enrobing only a few pieces to chill and set in the fridge and let the others remain naked.  Not just because the chocolate was a pain to work with in warm weather but also because I was running late for church and ran out of time to enrobe them all.
The enrobed version
I ended up bringing both enrobed and "naked" versions to the party along with two kinds of butter toffee cookies. A friend captured the shot at one of the dessert tables.  But that was before Zoe's dad, Randy, snuck the plate of enrobed Twix bars to tuck away for later.  That plate was for Zoe and her immediate family so it was a good call on his part, especially when the cookie platter emptied out minutes later.  It was a great party and all I can wish for a special 16-year-old are prayers that she wins this battle and celebrates many more birthdays ahead.
One of the dessert tables
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.      Line an 8-inch pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cookie spray.  Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Make the shortbread layer and bake for 20 minutes until golden.
2.    For the brownies: melt the butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over very low heat; stir well and set aside to cool.
3.    Whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. 
4.     Pour the melted chocolate-butter mixture into a large mixing bowl.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Blend in the sugar and vanilla.  Stir in the sifted mixture, mixing just until the particles of flour have been absorbed. 
5.     Pour and scrape the batter over the hot shortbread crust.
6.     Bake the brownies on the middle-level rack of the oven for 25 minutes (for a very fudgy brownie, bake for 20 minutes).
7.     Cool the brownie cake in the pan on a rack until it reached room temperature, about 2 hours.  Cover with the caramel layer and let set.  Cut into small-ish, thin rectangles.  Enrobe in melted milk chocolate.

Yield: 24 brownies

Cast Party Wednesday