Holy cookies, Batman. I’ve been out of commission after (another) ankle surgery for the past two weeks, and I was so happy to be back on my feet this week. I was able to bake ahead for the last couple of Baked Sundays Mornings recipes, so that I didn’t have to miss any blog posts, but I didn’t have a chance to get to these cookies, and it was looking a bit uncertain a week ago. However, post-crutches recovery has gone extremely well, and I was happily able to make these Candy Bar Cookies at the last minute. And let me tell just how happy I was– not being able to bake for a couple of weeks, I was fiending for some good, freshly-baked pastries, and these were an amazing and decadent reward for my patience! I’ve never heard of, let alone made, a “candy bar cookie”, but when I first saw the photo of this recipe in the Chocolate chapter of Baked Elements, it immediately piqued my interest. These cookies are constructed from the inside to the exterior as follows: ½ Mounds fun-size candy bar, cookie dough “wrapper”, poured/dipped chocolate shell. You can decorate the tops with anything you want, such as sprinkles, nonpareils, sanding sugar, chopped nuts, etc. In essence, I think of this as a meta candy bar– a candy bar that is so aware of itself as being a candy bar, that it warrants a cookie layer, followed by another candy coating.
Now, let’s first talk about candy bars. (Call me Captain Obvious, go ahead.) The recipe offers a few different ideas for the candy centers– this is a very customizable recipe. They recommend fun-size Mounds, Bounty, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Rolo, and 3 Muskateers, though you could certainly try anything with a sturdy filling. I elected to go with just Mounds, as I’ve been craving coconut for a while. Come to think of it, this may be the first time I’ve ever actually eaten Mounds candy– I grew up with the woefully misguided notion that I didn’t like coconut, and because I haven’t eaten too many candy bars in general since my adult coconut epiphany, I’d never had the pleasure of a Mounds bar. Fortunately, that glaring candy omission has now been rectified! (Oh, and if you’re wondering what the difference is between Mounds and Almond Joy, as I was: Mounds consists of a coconut center covered in dark chocolate, whereas Almond Joy contains an almond on top of the coconut filling, and the whole thing is enrobed in milk chocolate.)
Although I loved the cookies, the recipe proportions seemed off, so I’ll need to make some adjustments next time. I should have had about 40 cookies, but I only had enough dough for 24, so there was a lot of mashed up Mounds candy left over. I would increase the dough quantity by 50%. Also, there wasn’t nearly enough of either chocolate for the exterior coatings, even for my smaller batch. I would probably use at least double the amount, depending on whether you want to single-dip or double-dip your cookies.
Making the cookie dough is the first step to candy bar bliss. I couldn’t believe how easy it was– I kept looking at the recipe thinking that I must have missed a step or ingredient. You whisk the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt) in a bowl, then cream 1 ¾ sticks of butter in a stand mixer, add an egg yolk, and add the flour mixture. It will look like a crumbly, light cocoa-colored dough. Wrap it up into a disc and refrigerate until chilled.
Working in a very warm kitchen, I prepared the mini Mounds bars while the dough chilled, rather than after rolling out the dough, to avoid it getting too soft. I cut the mini Mounds bars in half and rolled each piece into a ball. (Mounds candy works really well for this because the coconut filling is malleable.) The dough was not the easiest to work with; I may have let it chill too long, as it was really hard to roll out– very crumbly. When it warmed up, it was extremely sticky. We are instructed to roll out the dough and cut out 2¼-inch circles, then place a piece of the candy on each one and wrap the dough around the filling. This basically entailed smushing the dough circle roughly around the candy and rolling the whole thing into a smooth ball– it was not graceful. (I’m not sure that there’s really a point in rolling out the dough. I may try using a cookie scoop and shaping it in my hands next time.)
I placed my cookie sheets in the fridge to re-chill the dough for several minutes before baking for 14 minutes. You do not want these to be dark, just a touch of color at most. I was disappointed to see that they baked up as dull, lumpy mounds– without their forthcoming chocolate coating, they are not something visually appealing at all, but fortunately this won’t last.
Although the recipe doesn’t say anything about it, I was going to temper the chocolate coating for a shiny, crisp shell on my cookies. I’ve tried this once, and it was a chocolate bloom-filled mess, but I’ve been meaning to give it another shot, as it’s a great pastry skill to master. As with lots of elements of baking, chocolate is all about chemistry. The temperature and organization of the crystals in the chocolate will determine whether it dries with a lustrous finish, or whether it will develop a dull finish and whitish streaks or blotches, called chocolate bloom. This simply means that the cocoa butter crystals have separated. Though it’s perfectly fine to eat, it doesn’t look very pretty. Sadly, the quantity of chocolate in this recipe was too small to register on my awesome chocolate thermometer spatula (which I was looking forward to playing with) and my regular candy thermometer was not cooperating, so I had to quickly ditch the idea and hope that the finished candy coating wouldn’t get streaky.
I used both white and dark chocolate, beginning with white. A couple of things about white chocolate:
1) It is delicate and needs to be heated very carefully over low heat to avoid scorching. I can’t tell you how many batches of white chocolate I’ve ruined in my life before learning that it must be handled more gently than dark chocolate.
2) I have recently discovered that the percentage of cocoa butter in white chocolate makes a huge difference in its melting properties. I usually use Guittard 31% “Crème Français” couverture wafers as my go-to, affordable white chocolate for most baking. However, when I melt it, I get a thick goo that scorches very easily and doesn’t pour well– I couldn’t understand how people were able to get white chocolate to melt so thinly! Then I discovered Valrhona’s “Ivoire” white chocolate fèves, which contain 35% cocoa butter– it melts so beautifully into smooth, pourable ribbons! However, at about $17 per pound, it’s not something I can use all the time. Fortunately, I recently discovered that Guittard makes a white chocolate with a higher cacao percentage, the 35% “Soie Blanche” (French for ‘white silk’), and it melts just like the Valrhona!
This is the white chocolate that I used here. For the dark stuff, I used my usual Guittard 61% “Lever du Soleil”— nice chocolate depth without the bitterness of darker varieties. As with any recipe starring chocolate, no matter what percentage you use, it’s best to choose a high-quality brand. The quality of your chocolate will determine how delicious your finished product will be. Most commercial candy bars are dipped in chocolate that is full of chemicals and preservatives (with very little real cacao), so I was really looking forward to these “natural” candy bars… except for you know, the candy bar in the middle. 😉 (I would use TCHO or Valrhona once I get this chocolate coating technique down.)
Rather than dipping the individual cookies, I set them all on a wire rack over parchment and poured the melted chocolate over them. For toppings, you can pretty much use whatever you want. (I was tempted to garnish some of the cookies with chopped malt ball candy to be extra sassy, but I wasn’t sure how that would go with coconut.) I used Halloween-colored nonpareils, metallic purple nonpareils, brightly colored quins, and feuilletine (roughly pronounced ‘fuh-ye-TEEN’, derived from the French words for ‘leaves’). These are small, caramelized flakes mostly used in professional pastry to impart a delicate crunchy texture as a topping or mixed into chocolate ganache. I learned about them from Christina Tosi in the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook, and again in pastry classes at the San Francisco Cooking School. I would liken these flakes to paper-thin shavings of waffle cone– in other words, wicked YUM.
I then put the cookie sheet in the fridge to firm up the chocolate. While the cookies weren’t particularly shiny, the chocolate was nicely hardened like a candy shell. Although they didn’t look it before the chocolate layer was applied, the finished cookies are pretty and can be dressed up to be fairly elegant. I was hoping they’d be a little rounder, but still a big difference from before. The cold of the fridge will stave off chocolate bloom (at least temporarily), but one of the drawbacks of not tempering is that the chocolate will melt pretty much on contact.
So, um… THESE COOKIES RULE. They have a wonderful complexity of texture and flavor that exceeded all my expectations. First, you bite through the crisp chocolate, then the soft, buttery cookie layer, then the chewy, coconut-y filling– there is so much going on in there! To be completely honest, these cookies made my eyes roll into the back of my head, as only the best treats do– that’s how fabulous they are. The double-dipped ones were the best, but there I go, stating the obvious again…
Even though the dough wasn’t my favorite to work with, it’s not an overly complicated recipe, and I will most certainly make these spectacular gems again. They would be just perfect for Halloween treats, especially if you can’t decide between making candy or cookies– you get the best of both worlds! Really, these are customizable for any season/holiday, darkness of chocolate, and many kinds of candy filling, so I think anyone can make these work for their taste preferences. Find the recipe for Candy Bar Cookies at Baked Sunday Mornings, and see how my baking homies liked these as well. We are about to embark on a load of chocolate and pumpkin recipes through the end of October, so check back for some awesome Fall baking! 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2014.