Vail baking: A crunch for kids and adults alike
Vail, CO Colorado
Cornflake crunch bars are popular among people of all ages
By Vera Dawson
VAIL, Colorado –I hate to be ignored. And I was, repeatedly, when I admonished the adults eating these Cornflake Crunch Bars with, “They’re for the kids!”
You see, I made these cookies as a treat for the children in the group, thinking their rich, chocolaty, sweetness would appeal to a younger palate. I was right; the kids loved them. They didn’t get to eat many, however, because they proved to be just as popular with the grown-ups, who not only consumed more than their share but asked for the recipe.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. In spite of their lack of sophistication, they are tasty! Peanuts, chocolate, and an unidentifiable crunchiness (provided covertly by the cornflakes) are held together by a sweet, thick, and slightly sticky syrup. Someone described them as reminiscent of a Baby Ruth candy bar. The comparison is a good one; there are lots of similarities in taste and texture.
They’re proof that complex preparation isn’t key to a dessert’s success. These bars are simple to prepare, requiring no oven time and only a few minutes on top of the stove. The lunch-box set can easily make them with only a bit of adult supervision.
Freshness is critical to the success of these bars. Make sure the cornflakes are the first ones out of a newly-opened box. Same with the peanuts … only use ones from a brand-new container.
The bars store for several days, if covered airtight and refrigerated. Though I haven’t tried it, they should also keep well in the freezer for a month or so.
Make in an 8X8 inch metal baking pan
2 1/2 generous cups of very fresh cornflakes
1/3 generous cup of roasted peanuts, salted or unsalted
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of white corn syrup
1/2 cup of creamy, smooth peanut butter (don’t use natural peanut butter)
1/4 cup of dark brown sugar
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
Line the metal baking pan with Reynold’s Release no-stick foil or regular aluminum foil, letting the ends hang several inches over the pan on opposing sides to use as handles when removing the bars. If using regular foil, grease or butter it well. Place the cornflakes, peanuts and chocolate chips in the prepared pan and gently mix them (I use my hands for this).
In a medium saucepan, combine the corn syrup, peanut butter, dark brown and granulated sugars. Heat on the stove at medium-low, stirring constantly until the ingredients are completely blended, smooth, very warm, and pourable; don’t let the mixture boil. Drizzle it over the cornflakes, peanuts, and chocolate chips. Use a rubber spatula or your hands (wet them first and take care, it’ll be hot) to coat all the dry ingredients with the liquid ones and combine them thoroughly. Most of the chocolate chips will melt and the batter will be thick and sticky. Gently press the batter into the pan, getting it into the corners and leveling it.
Cool the mixture to room temperature, and then place the pan in the refrigerator to set up. When set, use the foil handles to lift the uncut bars from the pan and slice them into squares or rectangles with a thin, sharp, knife. Store the bars, covered, in the refrigerator until serving time. Return leftovers to the refrigerator where they’ll remain good for four to five days. If they become quite cold and hard, let them sit at room temperature until they soften a bit before serving.
Vera Dawson, a Chef Instructor in the Culinary Institute of the Colorado Mountain College, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.