A tad dramatic? Peppercorns in dessert that is. Believe it or not, it actually works. And pink peppercorns especially. Their soft strawberry flavour and mild heat are like tiny flavour bombs, carefully mined throughout a tender shortbread field. And although these seemingly safe seasonings are typical for savoury dishes, they also fit more than comfortably into this hand-held dessert.
And since this home-made chocolate bar recipe is an homage to Halloween, it should not only be fun to eat, but make as well. So please take this time to play around and experiment with any finishing salts or peppercorns you might have.
White – An almost musky flavour with muted heat
Pink – Warm fruity notes, flowery aroma and soft heat
Green – Zesty with a lingering heat
Szechuan – Warm, citrus tones and a pop of heat
Black – Strong, spicy flavour with a sharp, pungent heat
Dark And Stormy Bites
Makes: 16 medium or, 8 large bars
Make Ahead: Assembled bars keep for 5 days
Pink Peppercorn Shortbread
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes
Make Ahead: Can be made up to 2 days before assembly
- 1 cup softened butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp crushed pink peppercorns
- 2 1/2 cups ap flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350 F
- In stand mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy
- Add vanilla and pink peppercorns and mix until incorporated
- To separate bowl, add flour and salt and mix until combined.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir flour mixture into creamed butter mixture until just combined (should be crumbly).
- Empty dough from bowl onto clean countertop, and use hands to press and work dough together until “it clumps”
- Press dough into 9′” x 13″ parchment lined baking dish
- Use bottom of measuring cup to flatten dough
- Bake for 35 minutes until golden.
- Let shortbread cool in baking dish for 10 minutes before removing and allowing to cool completely on rack
- Cut browned edges off before cutting into 8 or 16 bars.
- Store at room temp in air tight containers.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Make Ahead: Can be made up to 2 days ahead of assembly
If you want the glory, but don’t have the go to make the caramel from scratch, simply melt soft, store-bought caramels to get the same effect.
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tsp liquid honey
- 1/4 cup cold, cubed butter
- 5 tbsp cream
- To high rimmed, medium-sized sauce pan add sugar, water and honey (do not stir)*
- Let bubble over medium-high heat until deep amber colour
- Remove from heat, and whisk in butter.
- Once butter is incorporated, whisk in cream
- Pour into heat proof bowl and set aside somewhere safe and allow to cool to room temperature
Coping With Caramel:
Although full of undeniable potential, the actual making of caramel can be parallel to the parenting of a self defining teenager. The more you prod it, the more aggravated it gets. So while your caramel is bubbling away and blossoming, look on, but resist the urge to stir the pot. And whatever you do, never turn your back. This caramel still needs a parent no matter how innocent it looks. The second you hand over the keys to an immature, lightly coloured concoction is the second it crashes and burns. So stick it out for the few good minutes it needs to become a beautiful amber while keeping a safe distance and a watchful eye.
*High Rimmed Pot:
The cold butter and cream will not be easily welcomed by hot-headed caramel. This sweet, but scorching syrup will bubble in protest when met with the sharp temperature contrast of cool dairy. A high rimmed pot means no dangerously hot spill overs. Also – adding the butter and cream separately ensures that the caramel won’t become overwhelmed and will eventually welcome both.
- approximately 1 cup toasted pecans
- 16 oz melted, semi sweet chocolate, slightly warm, but not hot**
Think of warm melted chocolate like hot lava: it’s sure to carry away anything in its path. So for our pecans to stay in place, the chocolate should be only slightly warm; just enough so it’s easy to spoon.
- Enough for sprinkling
- Place shortbread bars on wire rack, over a sheet pan, or something to catch the chocolate drips.
- Spread each with a tablespoon of room temperature caramel.
- Top with pecans and press softly to adhere.
- Spoon over melted chocolate.
- Allow to rest for one hour before sprinkling with flaked salt.
- Allow chocolate bars to set up overnight (at least 8 hours).