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Vail baking: Chocolate raspberry squares are easy, irresistible

Vera Dawson
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –Who in Colorado’s Vail Valley can resist the taste of dark chocolate and tangy raspberries cradled between oatmeal-brown sugar crusts? Tender, chewy, with a lovely play between whole-grain textures and rich flavors, almost everyone says “yes” to these chocolate raspberry squares.

They’re as versatile as they are satisfying – serve them on their own, accompanying tea or coffee, or, even, as a dessert. Their looks and delicacy give them elegance, yet they’re sturdy enough to travel in a backpack or lunchbox.

You’ll like them even more if your schedule is tight, for the squares don’t require a lot of hands-on time to make. The list of ingredients almost jumps together. In fact, if you use a food processor, they take more time in the oven than they do in preparation.

The bars are at their best at room temperature. Store them for up to four days in the refrigerator and then bring them to room temperature before serving. Though I haven’t tried it, they should freeze well if wrapped air-tight.

Bake in a 9X9 inch baking pan

Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups of rolled oats (not instant)

1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

Generous 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder (more than a half teaspoon; less that three-quarters teaspoon)

Pinch of salt

1 cup of unsalted butter (two sticks), cold if using a food processor; room temperature if making by hand

Filling

1 cup of raspberry preserves/jam

1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup of chopped almonds

Topping

3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon of mild vegetable oil

Line the baking pan with Reynold’s non-stick aluminum foil or regular aluminum foil, extending it several inches beyond the pan on two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the baked squares from the container. If using regular foil, grease it lightly. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position.

Make the crust: Put the oats, flour, brown and granulated sugars, baking powder and pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend completely. Cut the cold butter into about 32 pieces, add it to the bowl of the processor and pulse until the mixture is moistened and forms course crumbs. (You can also do this by hand, mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl and combining them with the butter using a pastry blender, two forks, or your fingers.)

Remove a generous cup of this mixture and set it aside to use as part of the topping. Lightly press the rest of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake it until it is set but not starting to color (about 12 minutes). Remove the pan to a rack to cool slightly. If the sides of the crust have risen higher than the middle, gently push them down so that the crust is level.

Add the filling: Stir the cup of raspberry preserves/jam until it is smooth, spread it evenly over the warm crust, and then sprinkle the chocolate chips over it. In a bowl, combine the reserved cup of crust mixture with the chopped almonds and sprinkle the combination over the chocolate chips, patting it into the filling very slightly. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the top is golden brown (about 30-35 minutes). Remove the pan to cool completely on a rack.

Add the topping: Melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water or in a microwave. To microwave, place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl and microwave for about two minutes at a low temperature (I use #4 in a series from #1-#10). Stir the chocolate at this point. If there are still large lumps, return it to the microwave oven for 15 seconds at a time, until almost all the chocolate is melted. Remove it, stir until completely smooth, and stir in the vegetable oil. (Chocolate burns easily, so keeping the temperature low, removing it from the heat before it’s fully melted, and stirring it smooth help to prevent its ruin.)

Drizzle the mixture decoratively over the uncut bars. Cool until the chocolate drizzle is set (place the pan in the refrigerator to speed this up). Using the foil handles, remove from the pan and cut into squares with a thin sharp knife.

This is a variation of a cookie from “The 250 Best Brownies, Bars and Squares.”

Vera Dawson 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 veradawson1@gmail.com.


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