Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Crumble bars and learning to like phyllo dough...

You know by now that Tuesdays are the day we reserve to bake treats so Jeff can bring in to share (he would say force...) with his coworkers for the weekly Wednesday Treat Day. Today's baking produced these wicked Chocolate Drizzled Cherry Bars.

With just a few simple ingredients, these bars couldn't be easier to make, but taste like they took all day to create. Whole wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, rolled oats and quite a few tablespoons of softened butter are combined to create a mixture that forms the crisp base and is also used to form a crumble on top.

Between the two is a rosie red-colored layer of cherry filling that has been invigorated with almond extract - this adds just a different twist and will have people asking what makes these so good! Now, the buttery bars are delicious as is... but they scream for something else - what else could possibly make them better? When I think of cherries, I can't help but think of chocolate - a final drizzle of melted bittersweet chocolate over the top adds a special touch to transcend these bars over the edge. I was very pleased to see they also cut into exceptionally clean triangles!

I've never been real comfortable working with phyllo dough - it really is not that big of deal, but stresses me out for some reason! So when we made tonight's dinner of a Spanakopita Strudel, I didn't feel as comfortable as I normally do in the kitchen. When you are working with the paper-thin phyllo dough, make sure that it has a chance to thaw overnight in the refrigerator (at least 12 hours). If you try to thaw it at room temperature, it may get gummy and you would end up wasting pieces. You also don't want to open the package or remove it from the refrigerator until you have all ingredients prepared and ready to assemble. The filling for this strudel begins by softening thin sliced leeks, chopped onions and garlic. A dash of fresh grated nutmeg is mixed in, followed by chopped spinach. Once cooked, a splash of lemon juice is added to brighten the flavors and then this mixture is left to cool.

As you wait, a couple eggs, crumbled feta and Romano cheese are mixed together - when cooled down, the spinach is then added in. Now that the filling is prepared, the phyllo sheets are stacked together, filled and rolled up into a log instead of making triangles or formed into in a pie shape. Right before baking, you need to cut slashes on the top of the logs - this lets them expand without exploding and making cutting after they are baked much easier. We loved how crisp the phyllo gets while staying somewhat bland - this way the flavors from the salty feta and spinach filling can play the star role while being supported by the flaky crust. Jeff commented that this would be a fantastic appetizer and said he can't wait to toast up some leftovers for lunch tomorrow.


  1. The cherry bars look amazing!! I agree that the bittersweet chocolate and almond extract would take these over the edge and can't wait to try them for myself. Great Post!

  2. Chocolate Drizzled Cherry Bars=Perfect for Valentine's Day!

    Did you find the phyllo dough to dry out as you worked with it?

  3. Thanks for the recipe of the cherry bars. I hope they enjoy today. (Now I hit refresh...)

  4. wish i had some bars right now-what could be substituted for the cherry pie filling??

  5. Mmm..that strudel looks great - I love spanakopita.

    I used to stress over phyllo too. It's time-consuming for one thing, but I used to worry about all the tears too (as in holes, not tears of frustration - ha!).

    Once I realized that with several layers to hold everything in, the tears weren't really a huge deal - I was able to handle the dough without trying to be perfect with it and I was less stressed.

  6. Patricia - Thank you!

    Emilie - As long as you keep the extra pieces covered with plastic wrap and a moist towel it does not dry out at all.

    Helene - I heard they went quickly!

    Elle - I'm not sure what else I would use... I'll let back to you if I think of anything!

    Alysha - So true - I think if it knows you're afraid it will not behave like you want it to!