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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Heavy Metal Cookies

So easy a grad student could do it:

Today, is my big brother's birthday. I made him these cookies. The only catch: he is up to his eyebrows in, of all things, research in Indiana. Don't get me started on his research - I'll get all the genomes confused and you'll think he's just some slug trying to out-wit the educational system instead of the amazing mad scientist he really is. We have always been different that way: I bake cookies, and he invents rail guns and carbon diffusers and stuff. Of course, we both appreciate our respective talents. I like getting to brag about him, and he likes to eat cookies. It's a win-win.

But, today is his big day! Yesterday, I told him that I wanted to make a celebratory post in honor of his Birthday. After all, he's the only real (PhD) student in the family at the moment. He deserves a post at the very least. A hot shower, a good meal and a time card that ends at 5 o'clock would be great too, but I can only work so many miracles at a time. When I asked him what he wanted his recipe to be, his reply was simple: a heavy metal cookie. A heavy metal cookie? In essence, he wanted something intensely chocolate with metal sprinkles. Something so easy a grad student could do it. (If they had the time.) I liked the idea, so I started rummaging through the infinite archives of my favorite blogs, websites and memories to find the perfect recipe. It wasn't long before I stumbled on a recipe I have been telling myself NOT to make for months: Hello Dolly Bars. But, this time there was no denying it. They were perfect. But how to make them "heavy metal" instead of "Hello Dolly"... It was a tough order to fill, but with so many variations already on the market who is to say mine is any less innovative?

There was some bad news. The grocer down the street has had silver [metallic] pearl sprinkles for years - maybe even the same 3 bottles for years. I always talked myself out of buying them. But last night, I could feel them waiting for me. Keening for me. Begging to be baked at 350 degrees and sinking into bubbling chocolate. Well, maybe not that part... After work I went down the street to get missing items: chocolate covered espresso beans, chocolate graham crackers and those silver sprinkles. When I got there I was distressed to find out they didn't have chocolate grahams. It was a little disappointing, but I was still too excited to haul out those sprinkles I didn't care. I scoured the isle for five minutes. Not a pearl in sight, just some insipid, overly priced, red and blue sanding sugar. I was all but crushed. Of course, I could have driven down to the big chain grocery to look for more sprinkles, but I'm no grad student. I get to bed by 10pm. Plus, I knew that with my sour luck they wouldn't have them. For the first time in history, a purple unicorn would have stampeded the store, and consumed all the silver sprinkles. Trust me, weirder things have happened.

The good news is that even though my brother will be in the lab, glued to his computer, and in a student lab talking about pipettes and centrifuges until about ten o'clock today, these will bars freeze splendidly; which, means the next time he's home we can carve some out and enjoy them together. Just like his birthday happened all over again. Rock on, big brother.

Notes: What is metal to me? Something loud, that keeps me up at night. What is metal to a die-hard fan - the kind that wears his Iron Maiden t-shirt to lab discussion groups? The answer: sweet, sweet heaven. I think this variation on the classic "Hello Dolly" bar is the perfect blend of loud, aggressive insomnia (dark chocolate + espresso beans), and sweet satisfaction (coconut + buttery graham cracker). The bars are incredibly dense and sticky; which, is why they are the perfect celebratory treat. And how about that black and white color scheme? KISS anyone?

Espresso beans are pretty difficult to cut, once the cookies are in bar form. I found this out later. You can either place them in a way that you can cut clean slices between the beans OR whiz them in the food processor to break them up a little before dusting the cookies with them. Lightly greasing the sides of the pan may seem redundant, but it ensures perfect bars every time. Did I mention this recipe only calls for 3 utensils: pan, measuring cup, fork. What else could you ask for?

Heavy Metal Cookies
Inspired by / adapted from SmittenKitchen's "Hello Dolly Bars"

8 chocolate graham crackers
1 stick butter

1 cup coconut, shredded
1 cup dark/milk chocolate chips or chunks (or both)
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chocolate covered espresso beans
1/2 cup salted pecans or hazelnuts (optional)

1 small can sweetened condensed milk
silver "metallic" sprinkles

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Very lightly grease your 8x8", including the sides. Place the pan in the oven with the stick of butter, diced.
2. While the butter is melting, placed the graham crackers in a large zip lock bag, wrapped in a towel. Use a rolling pin, or a can, to crush the crackers.
3. When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the oven. Add the graham cracker crumbs and, using a fork, mix to combine in the pan. Then, press firmly with the back of the fork to create a crust.
4. Layer the coconut, chocolate, white chocolate and nuts (if using them) over the graham cracker. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cookies. Then, add the chocolate covered espresso beans.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cookies are bubbly and look melted enough to be combined. Remove the cookies from the oven, and sprinkle with your precious metallic sprinkles while the cookies are gooey and warm.
6. Cool completely and then cut into small bars. Freeze in an airtight container, if not consumed immediately.

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