For me, February is one of my months of chocolate. Along with December when I load up on all the Santa, Bell and Ball shape chocolates I can justify at our local candy store, Februray is the month of love and my birthday when only chocolate cake with chocolate frosting will do!
If you’ve been reading the blog since the beginning, this will come as no surprise as I speak of it often and have posted lots of chocolate based recipes over the years. Have you tried Espresso Chocolate Mousse Cups or Tailgate Brownies? Glazed Chocolate Cake is easy to whip up, as are Salted Chocolate Caramel Brownies or Double Chocolate Loaf Cake that I adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
You get the point. I love chocolate and sadly, only one of my children inherited this leaning so let’s just say I don’t always have lots of takers when I make desserts of this nature, unless they are a chocolate chip cookie and then my husband is all in.
As I was looking through my extra large file folder of dessert recipes to try this month, I happened upon one I had copied from Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook that I had taken out from the library a few years back. I had read about the Mast Brothers who were among the first to create craft bean to bar chocolate. But I just found this article on Eater that suggests that maybe they were not as authentic as we thought initially. Ugh! From their website today, it looks like their mission has expanded to include other products and they now have two store fronts on the Upper West Side and in Mt. Kisco that you can visit. The power of reinvention I guess! Find out more by clicking here.
The recipe I found was a super easy one for Chocolate Crunch. I added the word Bars to be more descriptive. Think Rice Krispie treat but wayyyy better, less sticky, less sweet and much less likely to give you a cavity upon impact. The ingredients are very simple. First, dark chocolate for all the delicious goodness of chocolate but not much added sugar. Second, unsalted butter. Third, peanut butter for a little sticky texture. I did not use peanut butter, but rather one of my favorite new finds at Trader Joe’s, their Mixed Nut Butter (see photo below). It’s a mix of all the nuts except peanuts and it’s really quite tasty. Fourth ingredient is a touch of honey. Use the best you can find – I have some from Rhode Island that I love that has just a bit of floral notes to it. Fifth, puffed rice cereal. You can use Rice Krispies but they will result in a much sweeter bar and honestly one of the nice things about this dessert is that they are not overly sweet! Rather, see if you can find a bag of the puffed rice you see in the photo below from Arrowmills or another vendor.
Bonus ingredients that I added are a touch of unsweetened coconut flakes and some Maldon salt for finishing. The coconut flakes are completely optional and do not overpower the bars, but I think the salt elevates them nicely.
The process is simple with maybe the hardest part being to shave your chocolate with the sharpest knife in your drawer. I bought a block of Callebaut dark chocolate at Whole Foods that you see below and used my knife to shave it into little shards so that they would melt quickly. Those are added to a bowl with the butter and melted over simmering water. To that, the nut butter and honey are added and whisked until smooth. Add the puffed rice and coconut if using and stir until everything is completely combined. Add to a 9-inch baking pan that has been lightly coated with non-stick spray, or lined with some parchment for easy removal. Pat down to make sure there are no air bubbles and while the chocolate is still soft, sprinkle your flaked salt on top. Allow to cool, cover and then place in the fridge to set.
When you are ready to serve, remove the bars from the pan and allow to sit for just about 5 minutes before using your sharpest knife to cut into 24 squares. I always find it easiest to cut the entire block into quarters and then cut each quarter into 6 pieces. Store in the fridge.
The only change I made to the Mast Brothers recipe was to add an extra cup of puffed rice. The bars were dense and delicious. They had many taste testers including my cook group and some of my bridge friends and everyone seemed to enjoy them a lot. The recipe was requested so I decided to post it to the blog asap!
I hope you have an opportunity to make these soon. As one of my friends said, they are a great gluten free dessert to offer to folks as well. I hadn’t thought about that but it’s true and such a fun little grown up treat riffed off a childhood staple (for some, not this dentist’s daughter who never had Fluff as a child!!!).
Until next time…