Coffee Crunch Bars

I first made Coffee Crunch Bars back in 2009 when my sister was visiting from out of town. We had both dog-eared this recipe from Molly Wizenberg in our issues of Bon Appetit and decided we had to give them a try. We loved the coffee and chocolate combo and the irresistible almond crunch. They were delicious and we found ourselves sneaking back over and over for another bite. As much as we enjoyed them freshly made, they tasted even better over the next couple of days.

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A few months later, I decided to make them again but had lost the copy I tore out of my magazine. I went online to find the recipe and couldn’t believe all the negative reviews it had! People had declared it the worst recipe they every made! How could the deliciously crunchy bars my sister and I found completely addictive be so hated??? How could we have enjoyed a recipe that reviewers were describing as burned, inedible, and a complete waste of ingredients? Was this really the same recipe we enjoyed so much? Maybe I shouldn’t make them again. What if they weren’t as good as I remembered? Even worse, what if they turned out as awful as everyone said! But I went ahead made them anyway and they were just as good as I remembered.

It turns out that Bon Appetit had changed the recipe rather than running it as Molly had written it (or how her grandmother had written it years ago). They slightly altered the ingredients and suggested a much longer cook time of 50 minutes. The original recipe suggests baking for only 25 minutes. I hadn’t really thought about it until reading the reviews, but due to my obsessive personality, I checked the bars several times as they baked, and far sooner than the recommended 50 minutes. I think the aroma of the espresso powder in the bars made them smell like they were burning, even though they weren’t, so I kept checking just to make sure. Mine only baked around 20-25 minutes. They looked done to me at this point and I assumed my oven just ran hot. The recipe also suggested making a 12”x12” square out of the dough on a sheet pan. I had put mine in a 9”x13” pan because it was easier than trying to form a square out of the crumbly dough, so they may have also been just a bit thicker than the recipe as printed. My slight changes made all the difference in us loving vs. hating these bars.

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Molly eventually shared the original recipe and that’s the one I use with just a few minor adjustments, The bars come together quickly and couldn’t be easier to make. The short list of ingredients are items I usually keep stocked in my pantry. They don’t contain eggs so they are definitely on the crunchier side, but they are called Coffee Crunch Bars after all! If you want them to be a bit softer, try adding an egg. If you want them to be crunchier, use the instructions to make them on a sheet pan. Sometimes directions are just a guideline and don’t need to be followed exactly as written. I’m glad I didn’t follow directions all those years ago or I may have missed out on a deliciously addictive treat. I hope you give these Coffee Crunch Bars a try. You just might enjoy them too!

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Coffee Crunch Bars

Adapted from Molly Wizenberg

Servings: 24 bars

*NOTE: Bars will keep for at least 5 days at room temperature in an airtight container. The flavor gets better over time. If you want thicker bars, use a 8"x8" or 9"x9" pan and adjust bake time accordingly.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsp instant espresso
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9"x13" pan with parchment to create a sling.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the almond extract and espresso powder and beat for another minute.

Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the flour in three additions until just combined. Then stir in the almonds and chocolate chips. The dough will be thick and slightly crumbly.

Turn the dough out into the parchment lined 9"x13" pan. Using your hands, press the dough into an even layer.Bake for 25 minutes. The edges should be golden brown and the top should just look set.

Remove from oven cool in the pan for 1 minute. While still hot, use the sling to remove from the pan and cut into 24 bars. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Bars will crisp up as they cool.