Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chili Lime + White Chocolate Macadamia Bars

     I have been thinking about bars a lot recently. No, not like pull up bars, nor the bars at the trendy ballet classes, or even the bars that fill you with beer and margaritas. I mean, I have been on a complete cake fixation for months, and then about two weeks ago, it hit me- I wanted my dessert to be in bar form. Particularly, brownies were becoming an obsessive thought. How to make the perfect fudgy brownie? I researched and read up on the science of brownies from the classic sources of chocolate knowledge. It was settled; I would go home one night and make a big batch of brownies, open a red wine and relax. 
     I had the chocolate in hand, walked into the kitchen and all of a sudden, I remembered a recipe I had promised to come months ago when my step-mom bought me a bag of macadamia nuts. I had white chocolate. The wheels started to turn. I no longer wanted brownies; I wanted white chocolate macadamia nut bars. I put away the semi-sweet and replaced it with a bag of white. The ideas started to flow...about an hour later, out came these.
      I disregarded all my thoughts of brownies the moment the chili and sugar coated the macadamias and wafted up at me. By the time they came out of the oven, all I wanted was the rich, buttery squares in front of me. The macadamias are toasted in butter, sugar, and chili and achieve a rich creaminess of their own. They provided the perfect amount of buttery crunch, with tingles of chili in every bite. Occasionally, you get a stronger chili-punched mouthful, but its softened and sweetened by the white chocolate melted throughout. The small chips allow the flavor of white chocolate to never overpower, but only hold in check all the strong flavors vying for your attention. Balancing the bar with their unique sweetness.
     The lime adds a bright fun flavor with the same sensation of the chili-prevalent in every, bite but with strong burst hidden throughout. The chili and lime create a competing warm and cool liveliness on your tongue, dancing around in the sweet, the butter, and the hints of salt. Although this is technically a Blondie, the browned butter yields a dark colored bar. It ups the creaminess significantly and adds a nutty richness. I mean honestly, it does what browned butter does best-just makes everything so much freaking better. These are not as chewy as a traditional Blondie, but they are not at all cakey. Instead they mirror their cousin, the cookie, more than I realized was even possible in a bar. I did not realize what that could be until I made these. They are delightful-so delightful and addictive, I made them twice in four days. I admit to that proudly. 
Inspired by the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook's "White Chocolate Macademia Nut Blondies" 

1 C flour
1/2 TSP baking soda 
1/2 TSP salt
1/2 C (1 stick) butter + 1 TBSP
1 egg
3/4 C brown sugar 
3/4 C macadamia nuts 
3/4 C white chocolate chips (mini are great)
1 TSP sugar (or brown sugar)
1 1/2 TSP chili powder*
Zest of one lime 

*You can use 1 TSP to 2 TSP depending on your palate preferences and the freshness of your chili powder. If it is brand new, then go lighter, if it is older, you can use the larger amount. 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and prepare and 8x8 pan by lining it with aluminum foil and oiling it. 
2. Place the macadamia nuts, chili powder, 1 TSP white sugar, and 1 TBSP butter in a pan, until the butter is melted, the nuts are toasted and the sugar and chili powder caramelize and coat the nuts. The mixture will be fragrant of sweet chili.
3. Remove from the pan and place in a separate bowl to cool. 
4. Wipe out the pan and return it to medium heat on the stove. Add the stick of butter and melt then cook over medium heat until foam forms, goes away and the butter browns to a nutty color and aroma. Pull immediately, move it into another bowl and whisk to cool it quickly and prevent from further cooking. 
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
6. Add the brown sugar to the butter and mix until combined.
7. Gently mix together one egg to break the yolk and then stir it into the butter and sugar. Be careful not to over mix here as these bars are prone to a lot of air and you want to avoid creating a meringue effect with an over beaten egg. 
8. Stir in the flour mixture, followed by the nuts, white chocolate, and lime zest. The batter will be dark from the brown butter and a thick, sticky mass.
9. Dump the dough into the pan and spread it out with your fingers to an even top. 
10. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and allow cooling for 10 minutes before taking the bars out of the pan. Allow cooling for 10 more minutes, then cut into squares using a sharp knife or pastry cutter.
   Boulder Butter 

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