I’m baking my guts out lately. Hurricane Sandy blasted in, and blasted open my oven doors—first for my own comfort, then to distribute in Staten Island, then for the bake sale, then for Thanksgiving, then for another bake sale just yesterday, and now for today’s Bloggers Without Borders Cookie Swap, raising money for WhyHunger. (It’s gotten so overwhelming, I wrote about how I’m handling the temptation for my Weight Watchers blog.)
I’d planned on Couch Potato Cookies doing double-duty—some for the bake sale, some for the swap—but last night my humble dozen seemed too meager for today’s event. But the word “exhausted” barely begins to describe how I’m feeling lately, plus I was completely out of butter. That doesn’t mean I ain’t gonna bake, though, so I consulted my pantry and my recipe for Emergency Peanut Butter Cookies. I’d created a variation using honey-roasted peanuts for the cookbook, so I already knew it was a friendly little formula. And there, in the comments, was a bit of genius: Jane said she often bakes the recipe in bar form. BOOM.
Harry loves cashews. I stick em in his lunchbox a few times a week, since I know it’ll get some healthy fat and protein into his skinny little bod. And at some point, I hoped that might extend into accepting a cashew-butter sandwich for the actual lunch. Silly Mommy. Just because he likes a food in one form, I should never expect his palate to branch out from there. Which is a long way of saying that I had an unloved jar of cashew butter in the fridge. And brown sugar. And white chocolate chips. And regular chocolate chips…
Five minutes to measure, stir, and press into the baking dish. Fifteen minutes in the oven. Done. You’ve got a twenty-minute treat that tastes like it took at least, I dunno, half an hour. Kidding. Seriously, preheating the oven takes longer than any other part of this recipe.
They’re chewy, with a hint of toffee from the dark brown sugar. The white chocolate, which I don’t normally care for, pairs really nicely with the naturally-creamy cashews. A sprinkling of Maldon salt on top (which is totally optional) gives a burst of crunchy contrast. These pups are swap-worthy, for sure.
And while I didn’t plan it that way, the bars are gluten-free, too.
Oh, one more thing: After I posted a quick picture on Facebook, a reader asked if she could use other butters to make them safe for folks with nut allergies. The answer: ABSOLUTELY. Use sunbutter or any similar substitute, and either replace the almond extract with vanilla or leave it out completely. And if you don’t have fancy salt, skip that too. Consider this your I-want-to-bake-but-I-don’t-want-to-think-much recipe.
Flourless Double Chocolate Cashew Bars
Makes 16 squares (or 9 bars)
1 cup cashew butter
1 cup brown sugar (I used dark, but light is fine too)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon almond extract, optional
2 tablespoons white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips
Maldon sea salt, for sprinkling, optional
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the nut butter, brown sugar, baking soda, extract, and egg—I find it easiest to start with a whisk, then switch to a sturdy spatula. Stir in the chips.
- Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle the top with sea salt. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until top feels dry and puffy, and edges are golden brown.
- Cool completely before cutting. I found it easiest to refrigerate, then cut.
MAKE BABY FOOD: Eh, not so much. These are all for you.