Sliced to order
You could be forgiven for thinking that bar cookies are sweet nibbles served at places like Dragon I, Aqua and Lotus, along with a martini or cosmopolitan. In fact they are biscuits spread into a tray, baked then sliced into bars (you can also cut them into squares or whichever shape takes your fancy). Also called slices or tray bakes, the best known is shortbread, although they can be almost any composition and some are made in several layers. They don't take long to make because they don't have to be individually shaped before baking.
Raspberry-coconut bars (pictured)
This recipe is based on one found on the epicurious.com website. If made with the wrong ingredients, it can be far too sweet: be sure to use unsweetened coconut and a good quality jam that lists raspberries as the first ingredient, rather than sugar. It's also delicious made with apricot preserve. Use either old-fashioned oats or the quick- cooking type, but not instant oatmeal.
120 grams dried, shredded, unsweetened coconut (preferably 'medium flake')
160 grams plain flour
150 grams soft brown sugar
50 grams granulated sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
180 grams unsalted butter, chilled
120 grams rolled oats
250 grams quality seedless raspberry jam
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Lightly spray a 3cm-deep 22cm x 28cm baking tray with pan coating. Line the tray with parchment, leaving an overhang on the two long sides of the tray. Set aside.
Spread half the coconut on another baking tray and cook until pale golden, watching carefully so it doesn't burn (stir occasionally to colour evenly). Allow to cool.
Put the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter (cut into 1cm chunks) and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the oats and toasted coconut. Reserve 250 grams of this mixture to use for the topping; spread the remainder in the prepared baking tin and press down firmly. Spread the jam over the crust, add the reserved crumble topping in a thin, even layer then sprinkle with the untoasted coconut. Bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the coconut and crumb topping are brown and fragrant and the jam is bubbling slightly (if the surface is browning too quickly, lay a sheet of aluminium foil over the top and continue to bake). Allow to cool then carefully invert onto a large cutting board.
Remove the tray and peel away the parchment paper. Turn right-side up onto another large cutting board and use a sharp chef's knife to cut into squares, rectangles or diamonds.
Hazelnut and vanilla shortbread
Shortbread requires a delicate touch. After adding the flour, mix the dough until just combined - if you overmix it, the shortbread will be heavy. You can use blanched (skinned) almonds in place of hazelnuts; they should be toasted until pale brown.
70 grams whole hazelnuts
90 grams icing sugar
1/2 a vanilla bean
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
225 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened
250 grams plain (all purpose) flour
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Put the hazelnuts on a tray and bake for about 10 minutes, or until they have a nutty fragrance and the skins start to loosen. While they're still very warm, rub the nuts in a clean kitchen towel to remove the papery skin. Discard the skins and let the nuts cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 160 degrees. Lightly spray a 20cm or 22cm square baking tray with pan coating and line the bottom and two of the sides as smoothly as possible with aluminium foil, leaving some overhang on the sides.
Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out the sticky black seeds and put them in a food processor with the nuts, icing sugar and salt. Grind the ingredients finely, taking care not to over-grind or the mixture will turn into nut butter. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add the butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Pat the mixture smoothly into the prepared tray (it's easiest if you use damp fingertips). With the tines of a fork poke holes at 1.5cm intervals across the surface. Sprinkle very lightly with granulated sugar. Bake at 160 degrees for about 30-45 minutes, or until it's firm to the touch and the top turns very pale golden. Allow to cool completely then use the foil overhang to carefully lift the shortbread out of the tray in one piece and place on a cutting board. Carefully slice into small squares or rectangles - a long serrated knife works best. Use a metal spatula to transfer the shortbread to a plate (or airtight container if not eating straight away), removing the foil from each piece.
Styling Corner Kitchen Cooking School