Thursday, December 20, 2007

Coffee Bucks Cranberry Bliss Clone

Face it, you can't get away from them. The love of my life, comedian Lewis Black does a bit about being stuck in Houston, standing on the street between two "Coffee Bucks" on opposite corners of each other. ARRGH! They are everywhere, and if you try to run and hide, they will be there waiting for you. "Coffee Bucks" is the stage name for the coffee house on "Scrubs" where everybody goes to get a java fix. And I really don't want to upset them so the name is changed, but you get the idea, verdad?

A few years ago I tried their Cranberry Bliss bar, and based on the in-store advertising, I was expecting a taste similar to a less-fruity fruitcake flavor. Boy, was I wrong. Yikes! It was dense, waaay too sweet, and the spices were off. I was on the verge of a sugar buzz and had to wash it down with a Venti. Hmm? Maybe that was their ploy, make me gag on this yucky sweet stuff so I'd buy a bigger coffee. I give up, it worked. But this little "limited time only" confection deserved a better fate. The concept was good, it just needed to be tweaked and toned down a bit.

Monica and I both worked on our own formulas. There were a few Cranberry Bliss clones out in the blog-o-spheres, but none had the taste and texture I was trying to achieve. I wanted something more tender and less chewy, so I used a combination of baking soda AND baking powder. I also wanted to try almond flavor instead of vanilla, to work with the tartness of the cranberries. Next time I may use rum or brandy and see what happens, but that is for another day. Then the spices were adjusted, decreasing the cloves and nutmeg, and adding cinnamon. Most important, I cut waaay back on the sugar, the amount of white chocolate chips and left off the thick coating of icing altogether. Instead these little clone bars get a light dusting of confectioner's sugar or icing sugar, making them just sweet enough without putting anybody into a coma. Here is my 2007 Edition of the Cranberry Bliss Clone---enjoy!

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla OR rum OR brandy
---OR 1 teaspoon vanilla AND 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup unbleached AP flour or King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats, not quick cooking or instant
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup white chocolate chips, plus more if desired
Confectioner's sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, spices, vanilla, salt, baking powder, baking soda. Add flour and mix just till smooth. Mix in cranberries, nuts and chocolate by hand, gently scraping the bottom of the bowl. Spread into prepared pan, and even out the top. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until it pulls away from the side of the pan and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioner's sugar and if you must insist on making them sweeter, go ahead and melt 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips and drizzle over the top. But let me warn you, it's sweet enough already.
Makes 16-24 bars depending on how you cut them up.

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