Thursday, May 08, 2008

Gooey bars for a surprise treat day...

I debated if we should try and work in a Treat Day this week with everything going on, but while I was on the plane, I noted a recipe that I wanted to try out in one of the several magazines I brought along to keep me busy. Since I was at the market yesterday, I also picked up a bag of fresh sweet cherries to make these Cherry Revel Bars.

To give the bottom of these bars a sturdy base, a dough is combined that is quite reminiscent to a rich, chewy and brown sugar-packed oatmeal cookie. The dough is made first, but then set aside while you continue on with the recipe. Right after mixing, the dough was fairly sticky, but allowing it to rest a bit gave the oats a chance to absorb some of the moisture. The recipe called for quick oats, which I rarely have in the pantry, so I just buzzed up some regular old-fashioned rolled oats in the food processor. If you do the same, you don't want to pulverize them at all - just pulse them enough to break up the thick pieces.

To go on top of the base, a very thick and viscous mixture is combined by heating together brown sugar and butter. Once fused together, the sweet mixture is allowed to cool slightly. You will be beating in a few eggs, so you want it to just cool down enough so you don't scramble them when they hit the pan. After the eggs went in, a bit of flour to thicken it up and a generous handful of chopped bittersweet chocolate is added. This is spread over the unbaked cookie base and the top is adorned with the sweet dark-red cherries. Some of that same oatmeal cookie mixture that formed the bottom is then dotted on top to form golden buttery crumbles. Slivered and toasted almonds for a nutty crunch are the final addition before they hit the oven to bake.

It may be a little tough to decide when they are done - just let the bars bake until the top is a light golden brown. The center should still be moist and just a little jiggly - they will continue to firm up as they cool and chill out in the refrigerator. Dense and a little gooey (the center pieces were a touch more gooey, which is where I took my test piece from!) with a nice chew, I had a hard time controlling my urge to keep "testing" these out after my first piece. Even though the bars were a touch on the sweet side, the juicy cherries with the darker chocolate was an enticing combination, especially when combined with the delicious cookie crumbles and base. One note on the filling - I wasn't sure if the chocolate was suppose to melt into the mixture or stay whole. While my pieces softened, they did not melt into the mixture. I think we liked it better this way, getting chunks of the chocolate rather than having an all chocolate filling.

Jeff has really become a fan of polenta, so I knew he would be excited when he saw this Cheesy Polenta and Egg Casserole I was preparing for dinner tonight. I did, however, make a few changes to the recipe to suit us a little better.

Instead of using all water to prepare the cornmeal, I used a higher proportion of chicken broth to water to add a boost of flavor. When you are making the polenta, know that the time it takes to cook will depend on just how coarse your cornmeal is - our grains were fairly large, so it took us just about 25 minutes or so to get to the texture we like. If it looks like the polenta is getting too thick or dry before the grains have softened enough, don't be afraid to add a splash of broth or water to thin it back down. It should be thick, yet still easily spreadable. To add a rich and creamy note without adding butter, shredded fontina and fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano is stirred into the hot polenta.

The original recipe has you spread the polenta into a 9" x 13" pan to make 6 servings - to me, this amount didn't look like it would cover our pan well, so I opted to place it into a smaller 9" square pan instead. When the polenta was spread into the pan, we used a spoon, dipped in water to quell any sticking, to make 4 divots large enough to hold a whole egg. Once the eggs were slipped into each divot, we gave them a sharp bite with a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

For additional flavor and a dash of heat, the naked polenta around the eggs was topped with browned and crumbled hot Italian turkey sausage. This dish is finished by placing it in the oven to warm up the polenta and set the eggs. After removing it from the oven, try and let it set for 5 or 10 minutes - this will allow the polenta to firm up just enough so you can cut out tidy pieces. Hearty, without being too heavy, we both enjoyed this casserole and were glad we made the changes we did to make it a bit more filling. If you do stretch it out to fill the larger baking pan, increase the eggs to 6 instead and bump up the sausage to around 6 ounces.


  1. I love anything with cherries, those bars sound great!

  2. I don't bake anything with cherries except a real Black Forest Cake. So I would maybe replace the cherries with cranberries. I don't know if that would do. Also, since you did couple dishes with polenta and said that Jeff likes it, I may have to find some time to cook polenta and try it. Because believe it or not I never eat polenta before.

  3. Brilynn - I was never really a cherry fan growing up, but boy am I glad I turned that around a couple years ago!

    Helene - How come? What don't you like about them in other desserts? I'm not sure how well cranberries would work, but if you try them, be sure to let us know!