High Altitude Baking: Bailey’s Irish Cream bars worthy of a celebration
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
I love St. Patrick’s Day, but not because of the green beer, corned beef and cabbage, and carousing associated with it. I love it because I get to bake with Irish whiskey, a liquor with a soft, smooth taste that adds a wonderful depth of flavor to anything you make with it. This year I used Bailey’s Irish Cream (which blends the whiskey with fresh cream) in both the batter and the frosting of rich, dense, dark chocolate bars that are worthy of a celebration.
The bars are easy to make and come together quickly, no electric mixer required. While the espresso powder in the frosting is optional, it increases the chocolate flavor and adds a welcome complexity to the overall taste. The bars are at their best the day after they’re made, when the flavor of the Irish Cream has a chance to develop, so plan ahead.
Bailey’s Irish Cream Bars
Recipe works at any elevation
Make in an 8-inch-by-8-inch shiny metal baking pan
- 8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter
- ¾ cup granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s superfine
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons Irish Cream
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, spoon and level
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup Irish Cream
- 1/8 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional
- ½ cup semisweet or bittersweet high quality chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line your pan with non-stick or regular aluminum foil, extending it several inches past the pan on two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the slab of baked bars. Grease any exposed parts of the pan and all of the regular foil with a baking spray that contains flour. Set the pan aside.
2. Cut the butter into 8 pieces, place them in a large microwave-safe bowl, move it to a microwave oven and heat at a medium-low temperature until the butter melts. Remove it from the oven as soon as it does so; the butter shouldn’t bubble or boil. Add the sugar, cocoa powder and salt and whisk/stir until the mixture is fully blended. Add the vanilla and Irish Cream and whisk/stir to combine. One at a time, add the eggs, whisking/stirring until fully mixed after each addition; the batter should be shiny and thick. Add the flour and stir until it’s completely absorbed into the batter, then beat vigorously for one minute.
3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, level and smooth it with an offset metal spatula. Wet the spatula with water to prevent the batter from sticking to it as you do this. Tap the pan on a counter several times to remove any air bubbles and bake until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out with a few moist crumbs attached to it, 20-24 minutes. Don’t overbake or the texture will be cakey and dry rather than moist and dense. Cool completely on a rack.
4. Frost the bars: Add the heavy cream, Irish Cream and espresso (if using) to a microwave-safe mixing bowl, place in a microwave oven, and heat at medium temperature until the liquids are very hot but not boiling. Remove the bowl from the oven, quickly add the chocolate chips, and set the bowl aside for several minutes while the chips melt. Stir gently (don’t create air bubbles in the mixture) until the ganache is smooth and shiny. Let it thicken slightly, then spread it evenly over the slab of baked bars while they’re still in the pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator until the ganache firms up. Cover the pan if you leave it in the ‘fridge for several hours or overnight.
5. Use the foil handles to remove the slab from the pan. With a thin-bladed sharp knife, dipped in warm water and dried before each cut, slice the slab into squares. Serve at room temperature. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
This recipe is a variation of one published on the Tutti Dolci website. Vera Dawson, Ph.D., is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco). She’s lived in the Rockies since 1991 and has been developing and adjusting recipes so that they work at our altitude ever since. Contact her at email@example.com.