Chocolate flows in deep dark, sweet waves, a river to ignite my mind and alert my senses.
Isn't it funny how there are days when you surf the net to check out your blogger friends' offerings and you click on links upon links and finally end up on a page you that makes you pause and think, hmm...I'd really like to be a part of that? For a number of uber-surfers, that's a frequent occurrence but not so for me. Maybe I don't click on that many links, I tend to always gravitate and return to sites that drew me to them in the first place, either for their prose or their photos but most of all, for their owner's personality and friendship. On this one particular day, I stumbled upon the "We Should Cocoa" event hosted by the lovely Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and Chele of Chocolate Teapot. It's a monthly cooking event involving that most scared of ingredient, chocolate, and one other compulsory ingredient chosen by the hosts, and guess what? Here I am, contributing a chocolicious recipe to the said event.
This month's extra ingredient is marzipan. I was rubbing my hands in sinisterful glee because I happen to love marzipan! I had never made it myself, of course, nor ever baked with it. But I recall its dense, rich, creamy taste inside Christmas stollens I had eaten in Germany, and in tiny fruit forms (made completely out of marzipan) whenever I've travelled to Thailand. That's really about it, my marzipan experience is sadly very limited.
So why the glee? It's my chance to try and make my very own marzipan(!) and pair it with an original recipe out of my chocolate-drenched mind. After a bit of research, I found out that marzipan was such a breeze to make. I made just a small block for starters and when it didn't crack after overnight chilling and rolling out....I was more than thrilled! (I'm so easy to please, can you tell?)
Top: Dried apricots and apricot paste
Bottom L: My homemade marzipan R: Mocha brownie on almond crust
For several years now, I've had this rather sinful recipe for chocolate brownie that's laced with strong coffee. It's soft and oh-so-squealy-gooey inside but crisp on top... as I said, it's a brownie headed for Hell. I wanted to wrap that brownie in my homemade marzipan and fashion it into bars but after a bit of thought, that just seemed too dense overall. My pantry held some beautifully soft, dried apricots so after blitzing them in the food processor with some honey, milk and more marzipan, I got this lovely apricot paste. Spread that on top of the brownie, cover it with a sheet of marzipan and we have the rather mouthful Apricot-Mocha Brownie Marzipan Bar. Oh yes, I also baked the brownies on top of an almond crust to give the sweet a bit of crunch and make it look, you know, a bit more bar-like. You can never have too much almonds anyway, can you?
Bottom: Faux coffee beans made out of marzipan and rolled in cocoa powder
For decoration, I rolled some marzipan into coffee-bean shapes, dusted them in cocoa powder and placed one on top of each marzipan bar.
Let me tell you, there are recipes I like and there are recipes I really like. This is one of them. Every layer turned out perfectly and the flavors (refreshing apricots on top of gooey chocolate and underneath marzipan) melded really well together. That's not normal, especially when it's the first time I make something. So you see, if I had never landed on the 'We Should Cocoa' page, I never would have come up with this bliss!
Apricot-Mocha Brownie Marzipan Bars
1st/bottom layer: Almond crust
100g all-purpose flour
60g ground almonds
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 8x8-inch deep baking tin with parchment paper, or use a loose-bottomed tin for easy release of cake.
2. Rub butter into flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add almonds and sugar and rub further with your fingertips until well incorporated and forms a loose dough. You can also place the ingredients in a food processor in the above order to expedite the process.
3. Tip the mixture into the baking pan and press down with your fingers to flatten it. This is the almond crust. Bake for 10 minutes and set aside.
2nd layer: Gooey Chocolate Brownie
150g chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
50g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the instant coffee powder until dissolved. Leave to cool.
2. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and creamy. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture. Add the flour and fold gently to incorporate. Stir in the vanilla extract.
3. Pour mixture over the top of the semi-baked almond crust and bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes. Leave to cool completely. Preferably, leave the cooled cake in the refrigerator overnight.
3rd layer: Apricot and Honey Filling
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons marzipan (see recipe below)
1. In a food processor, blitz the apricots with the honey, milk and marzipan until you get a homogeneous creamy yellow mixture.
2. Spread the apricot mixture on top of the cooled brownie, flattening with the back of a spoon to create an even layer.
3. Top with a thin sheet of rolled out marzipan. Press down gently until the marzipan sticks to the apricot layer.
4th layer (top): Marzipan
250 grams of peeled almonds
1 cup icing/confectioners sugar
1 small egg white
1. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until you obtain a very fine almond flour.
2. Add the sugar a quarter cup at a time and pulse until very well combined.
3. Finally add the egg white and pulse until the mixture starts to resemble marzipan. Pinch a bit of the dough and press in between your fingers, it should feel soft and pliable.
4. Roll the dough in a plastic film and refrigerate it for at least one hour. After that take it out and place on a clean surface dusted lightly with confectioners sugar. Roll out the dough and fold it two or three times. Flatten it again and return it to refrigerator. The dough is ready to be used when it is no longer sticky. (I left mine overnight)
5. Roll the marzipan flat in between two sheets of plastic film to about ½ cm thick. Cut into an approximate 8x8 inch square and carefully transfer this layer on top of the apricot layer. Press down gently until the marzipan sticks to the apricot layer.
6. Using a sharp knife, cut the marzipan bar into little squares about 2x2 inches each. Wipe the knife every time you cut so the layers of the bar will not run into each other. Serve immediately or store bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.