When I noticed that this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection from Baked Elements was essentially a no-bake peanut-pretzel bar, I must confess that I immediately cringed. As this is my personal blog, and therefore I’m guessing I can express my own personal opinions on here without danger of being hazed (ahem, Facebook), I’m not going to sugar-coat it: I detest nuts. This isn’t anything new. You’ve read it all here before. With the exception of almonds and pecans, nuts just aren’t my thing. A baked good containing nuts is best left alone… best left forgotten, as it is pretty much sullied. Why spoil something so wonderful with something so… ICK?
I honestly try to keep an open mind, so I went into making Baked’s revered Bale Bars this week not without with my typical nut trepidation, but with some immediate clarity and understanding that I needed to give them, at the very least, an objective try. I wasn’t going to go rogue and make another recipe. I wanted to stick with the group. I might not eat them once they are made – lest my stomach do its dreaded flip-flop at the slightest hint of a peanut on my tongue – but perhaps I could rely on some good taste testers to give me their honest opinion about these treats for this blog. Here goes. Onward I forge.
The recipe comes together fairly quickly and easily, but I could see at first glance that it might be a touch problematic. To begin with, when working with white chocolate, which – along with caramel-like brown sugar – comprises the ‘sweet’ part of this sweet and salty treat, things can get surprisingly tricky, especially when melting it. Typically, if you’re not careful, melted white chocolate care seize up and become a gritty, oily, quite unattractive mess.
The recipe begins with making a caramel of sorts by combining butter, brown sugar, cream, and fleur de del in a saucepan, then adding chopped white chocolate – stirring it in until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Perhaps it is really quality white chocolate you need here; I used Ghirardelli white chocolate chips, which I don’t necessarily consider to be ‘poor’ quality, perhaps average. Anyhow, once I added the chocolate, the mixture did indeed seize up and turn grainy. Even worse, the butter and the butter solids in the white chocolate seemed to pair up and seep out a lot of excess oil. Not good. I remedied this by first draining out some of this oil (into the garbage), then I whisked in the vanilla extract, followed by a splash or two more of cream before proceeding with the next step of adding slightly more fleur de del, vanilla, and the peanut butter. I used a creamy peanut butter, not crunchy as the recipe suggests. (If the prospect of this white chocolate ‘hell’ daunts you, Baked suggests you can substitute a good quality milk chocolate.)
This warm, somewhat gooey mixture is added to a hand-tossed combination of crushed, salty pretzel sticks (I agree with Renato – this particular type of pretzel is essential), and coarsely chopped salted peanuts. Stirred together, this forms a thicker mixture speckled with nuts and pretzels and somewhat reminiscent of a no-bake chocolate-oatmeal cookie, though definitely NOT as appealing-looking, in my opinion. Honestly, I thought the color of this mixture was very off-putting. With buttered or lightly-oiled hands, press the mixture into a parchment-lined pan, then let it cool to room temperature, or chill in the refrigerator before lifting out the parchment and cutting into squares or rectangles for serving.
I made only a half batch, knowing we might not eat all of these. I was pretty surprised at how thin they were; they reminded me of a nut brittle or bark. Cutting them into individual pieces further enforced this train of thought, as they shattered at the edges in several places. While, for the most part, they held together, they are a crumbly type of bar cookie when eating then. Believe it or not, I did try one… and as I expected, these are just not my cup of tea. I was able to stomach it, which was a surprise – and I don’t mind the peanut butter and the pretzels, but the peanuts are just too much. The piece I ate was smallish and the taste sufficient enough for me to know I won’t be rushing to make these again. My boyfriend Jake thought they tasted fine – but I noticed he wasn’t as quick to grab one of these for a treat later as he was the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies I made right after this (Ina Garten’s recipe; I may post about these in a future blog)! This was probably one of my least favorite Baked recipes – close to the Good Morning Sunshine Bars (though I felt I could tolerate even those a little more, with plenty of milk chocolate drizzled on top and NO peanuts).
You win some, lose some. I’m going to stick to the notion that ‘honesty is the best policy’ and admit these were not a hit for me, but you have to give me credit for trying them.
If the Bale Bars sound like something you would like to try – and you might love them! – follow this link to make your own:
Next time – it’s all about homemade lime angel food cake with a lime glaze! I will skip the suggested sprinkling of pistachios, however. No thanks! Learned my lesson…