Cookies, Bars, and Confections The Book

66. Mocha Toffee Cashew Bars p.694

The recipe.

Opinion varied wildly about these bars. We brought these to dinner with another couple. The guy loved them, my dining companion hated them, and the other girl and I were of mixed opinions. They’re built on a fairly dense espresso flavoured cookie base, then topped with chocolate and salted roasted cashews.

I thought things were going well until the cashews. The cookie base was rich, full of espresso flavour, firm and a bit chewy. All on it’s own it would have made a very good cookie. Adding chocolate on top was a perfectly good idea, espresso and chocolate do wonders together. Adding cashews didn’t seem like a bad idea either, but this is where the problems came in.

The recipe called for a quite a lot of nuts, 3/4 of a cup, which may have been a bit excessive, 1/2 cup would have been fine. The nuts were supposed to be chopped. I thought I’d chop them with a few pulses in the food processor, which resulted in more of a cashew dust than anything else. The real issue with the cashew topping was the salt though. It’s possible that I just picked up particularly heavily salted cashews, but I don’t really think that was the case. Adding this much salt to a sweet bar made things very confusing for the palate. There was definately something wrong with the flavour, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Eventually my dining companion pointed out that they tasted like trail mix. Once she said it my imagination filled in the little bits of dried fruit, and my ability to imagine this as a refined after dinner square to be sipped with a macchiato disappeared. The final effect of these squares is like a coffee flavoured energy bar.

I had some of the leftover bars as afternoon snacks, and they worked much better in that context. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the flavours going on here, other than the excessive saltiness, they were just poorly marketed.

Hors D'Oeuvres & First Courses The Book

56. Rosemary Walnuts p.5

No recipe this time, sorry.

This is the second recipe in the book, with only Candied Walnuts coming before it. It’s a very strong start. It combines my favorite things, simple, delicious, and affordable. It’s a shame that the recipe isn’t available online, but the proportions aren’t that important anyway. All you need to do is melt butter with crushed dried rosemary, salt, and cayenne. Then toss the nuts in the butter and bake the whole thing at 350 for ten minutes.

Those of you who’ve been paying attention will have noticed that the above photo has been contaminated with non-walnut nuts. My excuse? The grocery store was out of walnuts an hour before my guests arrived, so I went with what they had. In combination with the walnuts I had in the freezer I figured it would count. As a matter of fact the walnuts weren’t event the best part. I found that the cashews and pecans really sparkled with this treatment.

The star of the show in this dish is the cayenne, it’s unexpected, and it plays a beautiful counterpoint to the richness of the nuts. But wait! clearly the rosemary is the star. It gives the dish body, and takes the flavours to a more sophisticated place. Without the rosemary the dish would risk being brushed off as “spicy nuts”. Maybe neither star is enough to carry the show, but together they light up the stage like Sonny and Cher.

My only tiny change would be to reduce the butter by about half. Ideally there would be just enough to coat the spices onto the nuts without pooling and carrying flavours away.

These were are really excellent appetizer, and no one could help themselves from having just one more. If you find yourself in the kitchen singing “I’ve got you babe” to a dish of these, I won’t blame you.