Friday, January 31, 2020


No-bake bars, especially ones that can be stashed away into the freezer and enjoyed with a cup of coffee, will always be one of my favourite things to make. Ever since I was a child, desserts like this one were irreplaceable at birthdays and other celebrations. Lovely orange layers paired with a rich chocolate cream, they practically melt on every bite.
Vanilla biscuit crumbs mixed with warm cinnamon and a sprinkle of fragrant orange zest, embellished with more orange flavour from Cointreau, then adorned with rich, glossy chocolate custard. Layer upon layer of goodness, balanced perfectly between sweet and tangy. Chill the bars well, lightly dust them with unsweetened cocoa powder, and serve with strong coffee.

For the vanilla orange layers
400 grams fine vanilla biscuit crumbs
100 grams icing sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon orange zest
125 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
100 ml fresh orange juice
20 ml Cointreau
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the chocolate filling
250 ml whole milk
40 grams cornflour
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
100 grams icing sugar, sifted
50 grams dark chocolate (60% cocoa solids)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
75 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
50 grams finely chopped walnuts, optional
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting

To make the base layers, start by tipping the biscuit crumbs into a large bowl. Sift the icing sugar over them, add in the orange zest and cinnamon, and whisk everything well, so it distributes evenly. Add in the soft butter, and beat with an electric mixer on high until it becomes crumbly. Add in the orange juice, Cointreau, and the vanilla, and knead by hand until it resembles a very soft dough. It will be slightly sticky, but it will be able to be rolled out. Divide it into four parts by weight, and roll each part out to a 20x20 square. Cover them with cling film so they do not dry out, and place them in the refrigerator for at least an hour, so they firm up enough to be handled.
To make the chocolate layer, pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sift in the cornflour and the icing sugar, and blend well. Place the saucepan over medium high heat, and slowly bring it to a boil. Once it starts boiling, whisk vigorously so it does not burn, and cook for about two minutes, until it thickens up to a consistency of a custard. Remove from the heat, add in the chocolate and the butter, and whisk until incorporated. Cover the top with cling film and let it cool down to room temperature before assembling the bars.
If you notice that the base layers are still soft even after chilling, place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes, to firm up. Once the filling has cooled down to room temperature, whisk it well once again, to make it smooth, and add in the walnut pieces, if you are using them. To assemble, place a small sheet of baking parchment on the platter, place one of the chilled orange layers, and close a square cake form around it. Spread one third of the chocolate filling evenly, then top with another orange layer.
Repeat the layers until all of the filling is used, and top with one remaining orange layer. Place the whole platter in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, preferably longer. Just before serving, place the platter for about 15 minutes in the freezer, to facilitate the slicing and arranging of the bars. Using a thin knife, separate the cake form from the dessert, and cut the block into 24 pieces, using a thin knife. Dust with unsweetened cocoa powder if desired, and serve. Yields 24 servings.