Tag Archives: almond joy

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsI don’t want to write about baking today—I want to write about how much I love the Olympics. I’ve watched the coverage every night and had it on in the background while I’ve baked during the day. This isn’t a recent habit—I grew up in a family that gathered to watch the games (summer or winter) every night they were on, and I even once had a wall of my teenage bedroom dedicated to the decorated short track speedskater Apolo Ohno.

Yeah…when it comes to the Olympics, I’m a real big nerd. I’m also a baseball nerd and an Oscars nerd, so…well, maybe I just watch too much TV. That’s probably it.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAnyway, this isn’t an Olympics blog. It’s a baking blog. So, let’s talk about baked goods, specifically Almond Joy Shortbread Bars.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIf you’re going to try to improve on the practically perfect combination of chocolate, almonds, and sweet coconut filling, layering it all onto a buttery chocolate shortbread crust is a pretty good way to start.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAll the layers in these bars make them look like they take hours to prepare, but in reality, they take about 90 minutes from start to finish and are nearly no-bake. That easy chocolate shortbread crust is the only layer that has to spend time in the oven.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIt’s topped with a thick layer of coconut filling and dotted with whole roasted almonds…Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread Bars

…and a layer of milk chocolate. You can use dark chocolate if you like, but apparently Almond Joys are made with milk chocolate. I’ve been wrong for two years. Oh well.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread BarsBut back to the bars. Slice ‘em up and admire your handiwork. #thoselayerstho

The flavor is everything you love about sweet, chewy, crunchy Almond Joys, but better because they’re homemade. Oh, and because they have a crispy layer of chocolate shortbread offsetting all their sweetness. After sinking your teeth into one of these, you’ll never be able to go back to the mass-produced candy bar.

Y’all, these are seriously good. I know I say that about everything on this blog, but I really mean it today. These are a gold medal recipe for sure.Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars
makes one 9-inch square pan, about 16 bars

Chocolate Shortbread Crust:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

Coconut Filling:
1/2 cup whole raw almonds
5 fluid ounces (10 tablespoons) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Chocolate Topping:
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil and grease well with butter. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, light brown sugar, and salt. Use your fingertips to rub butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 14-15 minutes, until no longer wet-looking. Let shortbread crust cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Make the filling. Place almonds on a dry baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in coconut. Mixture will be very thick. Drop filling in spoonfuls over the cooled crust and spread across the entire surface. Arrange almonds in lines (or as desired) over the top of the coconut and press down to adhere. Freeze full pan for 15 minutes.

Make the chocolate topping. Combine chopped milk chocolate and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, just until melted. Drop chocolate over filling one spoonful at a time. Use a small offset icing knife (or a silicone spatula) to carefully spread it over a section of the filling. Continue dropping and spreading chocolate until it’s all used and the almonds are covered. Freeze until chocolate has hardened, about 15 minutes.

Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Carefully peel foil down the sides. Use a lightly-greased sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Lift bars from foil with a thin spatula. Serve.

Bars may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. Layer them with wax paper if they are to be stacked.

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Granola

Almond Joy GranolaWell, I said I was going to do savory recipes for the rest of January, but I just can’t help myself.

After weeks of eating pastry for breakfast (kolaches, y’all), I practically leapt at getting back to my usual yogurt and granola last week. It might sound a tad boring, but I adore granola. Well, I adore homemade granola. The prepared stuff tends to be overly sweet and full of ingredients I can’t pronounce and, with little exception, all tastes the same to me. Homemade granola though? It’s just sweet enough, I know exactly what’s in it, and I can make any flavor I want: see exhibits A, B, and C.

Almond Joy GranolaReturning home from three weeks away, I didn’t have any idea what kind of mix-ins I’d find in my cabinets. The holiday season was a blur for this baker–I went through so many chocolate chips and pecans and pounds of sugar that I honestly wasn’t sure what I had left. When I went into my kitchen to investigate, I found a 1/2 jar of almond butter leftover from a cookie order, 1/4 of a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus dark chocolate bar, about 10 half-bags of nuts, and 24 ounces (!) of unsweetened coconut. Seeing all those ingredients piled on the counter, I knew exactly what kind of granola I’d be having: Almond Joy, y’all!

Almond Joy GranolaAlmond Joy GranolaWhile it’s certainly not like eating a candy bar for breakfast, this Almond Joy Granola is decadent and delicious–there’s chocolate in there after all. It’s full of toasted almond flavor, scented with coconut, and littered with chunks of dark chocolate. Stirred into some plain yogurt or milk, it’s a delightful way to start the day. And did I mention that it’s good for you? While granola is generally pretty calorie dense, it packs a nutritional punch. The protein and good fats in the oats, almonds, and almond butter, the all-around goodness of coconut oil, and the antioxidants in dark chocolate are an excellent combination. Well, I may be exaggerating about the chocolate, but who cares–I just gave you an excuse to eat chocolate for breakfast.Almond Joy Granola

Almond Joy Granola
makes about 2 quarts

1/4 cup creamy almond butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
1 cup roughly-chopped raw almonds
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together almond butter, maple syrup, olive oil, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold the oats, coconut, and chopped almonds into the mixture.

Spread mixture in an even layer on the prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring every fifteen minutes. Cool granola in the pan on a rack. Scatter chopped chocolate over the cooled granola and stir together with a spatula.

Transfer granola to an airtight container. It will keep well at room temperature for up to three weeks.

Almond Joy Cookies {Grain-Free}

 Do you ever get sudden cravings for treats from your childhood? Once or twice a year, I’ll get a craving for Fruit Roll-Ups or Gushers or Dunkaroos (may they rest in peace) that I just can’t shake. I spend days agonizing over these junk foods I haven’t had since my mom was packing my school lunches, and then once I finally give in and eat a fruit snack or a tiny tub of frosting, it’s never as good as I want it to be. And the worst part is that I’ve wasted perfectly good calories on processed food, when they could have gone to something waaaaay better, like Cocoa Brownies or Dark Chocolate Pecan Butter.

Last week, I got a craving for Almond Joys seemingly out of nowhere. I spent far too many waking hours thinking about little pillows of coconut topped with whole almonds, all covered in dark chocolate. Never mind that I hadn’t had one since my grandmother passed in 2001. On Thursday, I walked into the deli on our block prepared to give in and buy what was sure to be a disappointing candy bar. The Almond Joy of my daydreams was sure to be full of sticky, mealy coconut, slightly-soft almonds, and cheap chocolate in reality. Just as I was preparing to fork over four quarters and what’s left of my dignity, I saw a jar of almond butter behind the counter. And because I have a perpetual case of baker’s brain, my mind immediately went into overdrive. I thought about the classic three-ingredient peanut butter cookie recipe, but made with almond butter. Dotted with coconut and covered in chocolate, they’d be like a grown-up Almond Joy in cookie form. And high in protein and grain-free, so I would feel less guilty about eating three in a row. I got to work, and let me tell you, these cookies are way better than any store-bought candy bar could ever hope to be. 

Almond Joy Cookies bear a lot of similarities to the Easy Nutella Cookies I posted earlier this month. They are both made primarily of nut butter, eggs, and sugar, and are totally grain-free (and therefore gluten-free). This recipe is super simple, but does require some precision in the mixing. As in every cookie recipe, each ingredient has a job. When the recipe has no grains, like this one, those ingredients have to be backed by some serious technique, or the results will send you running for that disappointing candy bar! Here are a few tips to make these cookies as awesome as possible.

Beat the bejeezus out of the egg. I mean, get your electric mixer out, crank it to high, and beat the egg for at least two minutes. The egg will serve to give our cookies structure. If the egg is simply scrambled, we’ll have flat cookies. So beat the egg until it is really, really, REALLY frothy and much lighter in color. This way, our cookies will be nice and puffy. Also, make sure your egg is room temperature, so it takes in air easily.

Use brown sugar, but not too much. Sugar may come in a dry bag, but it’s actually a liquid ingredient. It’s mixed into dough as crystals, but it starts melting on contact with fat and eggs, and fully caramelizes in the oven (which is why most cookies are golden brown). If there is too much sugar in a recipe, the cookies will spread like crazy because of the molten excess liquid. This recipe only calls for 2/3 cup light brown sugar, so our cookies will only spread a little. Don’t worry, they’ll still be sweet! Also, brown sugar keeps things extra moist thanks to the molasses. This will make our final results nice and chewy 😊 

Don’t use almond butter that separates. There are a million brands of almond butter on the shelves these days. You may have noticed that some of them have a layer of separated oil on top. Do not use any of those in these cookies, unless you are ready for a mess! I recommend creamy-style (like Trader Joe’s) or no-stir almond butter (like MaraNathra). Still give whatever you use a good stir, just to distribute all the fat evenly. The almond butter is the other half of the structural dream team. Along with the beaten egg, the almond butter will serve to keep these cookies from becoming flat, oily puddles of sadness. It also provides the flavor base, along with a touch of almond extract, some vanilla, and coconut. Your dough may still feel a little oily while you are rolling it. Don’t worry–just let the excess oil drain off a bit. Your finished cookies will not be greasy.

Baking powder is non-negotiable! Some of the three-ingredient peanut butter cookies out there don’t call for leavening. Peanut butter is pretty thick though, so they still get big and puffy. Almond butter, on the other hand, is thin, so we need a bit of baking powder to keep these cookies rising up instead of spreading out!

Whew!  

   
 
Once all your cookies are baked, melt some chocolate chips and coconut oil, and drizzle it over the cookies with a squeeze bottle or a fork. I like to drizzle twice because, hello, chocolate! I made these in two different sizes for no other reason than I felt like it 😊 I have included instructions for smaller cookies in the notes below. Now, go forth and resist the candy bar! Instead, make cookies that will live up to your childhood memories! 
 Almond Joy Cookies {Grain-Free}
makes 21 medium cookies*

1 large egg, room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup creamy-style almond butter, measured in a dry measuring cup*
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350F. Lay a cooling rack over a sheet of wax paper. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. Set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, use and electric mixer to beat the egg until very frothy and lighter in color, about two minutes. Add the light brown sugar, vanilla, and almond extracts, and beat for one minute. Add the almond butter, salt, and and baking powder, and mix until completely combined. Fold in coconut.

Scoop dough by the tablespoon* and roll into balls. The dough may feel oily. Set dough balls at least 1.5 inches apart on prepared pans. Bake for 9-10 minutes, until the cookies have puffed up a bit and no longer look shiny. If the cookies are too domed, tap the tops with the back of a spoon. Let cool on the pans for five minutes before removing to the prepared rack.

While cookies are cooling, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil together in a double-boiler or the microwave. Use a small squeeze bottle or a fork to drizzle cooled cookies with chocolate. Chocolate will set after several hours at room temperature, or within thirty minutes in the refrigerator.

Cookies keep covered at room temperature for up to a week.

Notes:

1. Alternatively, this recipe makes about five dozen very small cookies.
2. I used MaraNathra No-Stir Almond Butter. Do not use almond butter that separates.
3. If making very small cookies, scoop dough by the teaspoon. Bake for 7-8 minutes.