Friday, June 11, 2010

Chocolate-Raspberry Bars To Blow Your Mind

Today is your lucky day for I am about to share one of my all-time favorite recipes with you. These Chocolate-Raspberry Bars are nothing short of divine, and you’ll be grateful to have a trick like this up your culinary sleeve. To give you an idea of the powerful effect this dessert can have, a magician friend of mine was once so blown away by this that he actually divulged the secret to one of his card tricks in exchange for this recipe. Since magicians never reveal their secrets, you have to appreciate the enormity of this.

They are ridiculously easy to make but the pay-off is huge. Chocolate and butter are melted together and blended with raspberry jam. Eggs and sugar are whipped into a billowy cloud, and the tiniest bit of sifted flour and baking powder give more structure to the batter. The chocolate-raspberry goodness is gently folded into the egg mixture before being baked in a square pan for 45 minutes. The final texture is somewhere in between that of a dense flourless chocolate cake and a fudgy brownie, and you could certainly enjoy it straight from the pan without any embellishment. But when the finished cake is covered with a raspberry-laced chocolate glaze and topped with fresh berries, you may be tempted to reveal your deepest secrets to the person who serves this to you.



I always develop an overwhelming hankering for these Chocolate-Raspberry Bars in early June, and this year was no exception. As I’ve mentioned in previous Kitchen Fiddler posts, I have a highly unusual memory that causes me to remember every day of my life with extreme clarity. When it comes to food, most people relive memories when triggered by specific tastes, but I usually experience the opposite. My awareness of the current date—and the memories of what happened on that very day in any given year—is often the actual trigger itself for some very insistent cravings.

Chocolate-Raspberry Bars are embedded in my early June memory database, as I first made these in 2002 for a friend’s baby shower (June 1st). I’m continually reminded of this particular recipe each June while mentally scrolling through my previous June 1sts. This memory invariably prompts a severe craving, but I can usually find some excuse to whip up a batch of these decadent fudgy delights on any given each year. Over the past eight years I’ve made them for birthdays (June 2nds and 6ths) and for anniversaries of moving to New York (June 4ths), and my friends and I have devoured them at post-recital receptions (June 4ths and 7ths). Regardless of the occasion, I always find myself with an uncontrollable appetite for this dense chocolate cake topped with bright jewel-like berries at this time of year. And once you taste these magical Chocolate-Raspberry Bars for yourself, you may find yourself regularly craving these too.

Adapted, barely, from a recipe in Bon Appetit, August 1997.

I’ve reduced the amount of sugar from the original recipe, but otherwise I follow it faithfully. I like using different kinds of chocolate within the recipe, choosing a milder bittersweet chocolate for the cake and an extra-bittersweet chocolate for the glaze, such as one with at least a 70% cocoa content. I am partial to Scharffenberger or Valrhona chocolate—Lindt will do in a pinch—but you should use the best chocolate you can afford. I love presenting this beautiful creation as a whole cake and then cutting it into appropriate-sized pieces. Sometimes I'll cut small bite-sized squares for people to enjoy without utensils, but for an even more festive occasion, I’ll cut larger squares and serve it on plates with generous dollops of lightly sweetened whipped cream.

For the cake:
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
¾ cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
generous ¾ cup sugar
5 large eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For finishing:
¼ cup whipping cream
¼ cup seedless raspberry jam
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 6-ounce baskets fresh raspberries, rinsed and patted dry

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil. Butter the foil and dust with flour.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a heavy medium saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring until smooth. Whisk in the jam until it melts. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Beat the sugar and eggs in large bowl with an electric mixer until the mixture triples in volume, about 6 minutes. Sift the flour and baking powder over the egg mixture and gently fold in. Gradually fold in the chocolate mixture; do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top of the cake begins to crack and a tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 45 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, and then gently press down any raised edges of cake to form an even surface. Cool the cake in the pan, then invert onto a platter. Peel off the foil, and trim a ½-inch off each edge of the cake.

Prepare the glaze by stirring together the cream and jam in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until the jam melts. Bring it to a boil and then remove from heat. Immediately add the chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Let the glaze cool slightly but is still warm enough to spread easily, about 15 minutes. Spread glaze over top of cake. Immediately arrange berries over the glaze. Chill until glaze sets, about 10 minutes. (This can be made 1 day in advance, if covered and kept in the refrigerator.)

Depending on how you cut it, this makes 12 rich servings, or many smaller bite-sized ones.


Shari said...

One of the best desserts I have ever had. My friend Michael made these bars for his birthday a few days ago. Today he brought me one for dessert for after our lunch date. I decided to take a nibble before lunch, and needless to say, the bar was gone within seconds. AMAZING!!!! Delicious!!!

louise said...

Fantastic! I'm thrilled that you got to try these, Shari. Aren't they crazy-good?!! When I first encountered this recipe years ago, I couldn't get into the kitchen quickly enough to make them. Thanks so much for the enthusiastic response!