Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bars of Another Kind

Alright, if you don't know about "Kind Bars" then you really do need to crawl out from under the rock that you call a dwelling and pick some up. They are hands down one of the best tasting and least processed bars on the market. The down side is that they are a bit on the spendy side. Over at the Alligator Pie test kitchen we have been plotting and scheming (think Gilligan's Island chemistry set) to try and emulate the Kind Bars with our own twist so we can snack on them all day long (cue maniacal laugh).
The process that we devised is frighteningly simple but does include the slightly more tedious chore of heating syrup to an exact temperature over low heat. The "meat" of the bars, if you will, is completely up to you and dependent on what you like to see in a tasty bar or what you have on hand if you really don't want to go to the store again. We made two variations, the first being whole almonds, coconut ribbons and sesame seeds. The second bar was made with cashews, dates, currants and pumpkin seeds. The coconut can be toasted in a dry frying pan or in the oven @ 325*F. stirred often until ribbons are uniformly light gold. The nuts should be toasted in advance as well and given a very random coarse chop to help the bars lay flat when assembled. The syrup portion is a combination of honey and corn syrup and is heated very slowly until the syrup reaches 260* on a candy thermometer. Be warned that due to the high amount of honey in this recipe, a higher temperature will result in a frothing and dangerous boil over. You've been warned. Never leave this heating syrup unattended. Candy thermometers can be attained at any kitchen or even grocery store for a couple bux. Once the syrup has achieved it's "hard ball" stage of 260* it should be removed from the heat and allowed to cool slightly before adding a bit of vanilla. Using a stiff rubber spatula you can now incorporate the syrup into filling and work to combine. The syrup will want to set up so you need to move rather quickly. Have an appropriate size pan lined with parchment and sprayed with a bit of vegetable spray to help the release. Transfer the mix to the pans and press firmly with an oiled jar or your knuckles if it's not too hot to burn you. I found that I could wet my hands a bit with water to keep the mix from sticking to me and really jam it into the corners. The mix will set up in an hour or two and can be inverted onto a cutting board and sliced into bars. We keep ours in a parchment lined, sealed container in the fridge so they are extra chewy. We also made them a bit thicker than the actual Kind Bars for a little extra sustenance but you can make them thin as well like the real thing.
On a side note, I didn't include an actual quantities recipe for these bars since I am still planning on making them better. I am a huge fan of the honey flavor but Erin finds it a bit too sweet. Also, the dates and currants in the one bar will ramp up the sweet factor a little more. Personally, I could eat these all day long but my dental bills may tell me otherwise. My next bars will be made with a brown rice syrup and different fillings until we reach the nirvana of snack bars. Give 'em a try.