Saturday, 5 November 2011

Date and Apple Squares with Chocolate Crumble Topping

When Chele, at Chocolate Teapot, announced that apples were to be the added ingredient for this month's We Should Cocoa challenge, I can't say I was surprised that this fruit has cropped up at last, although I did think that Choclette would be the host to suggest it, as she has quite a few recipes on her blog using the apple and chocolate combination.

However, it's not a combination that has ever appealled to me, which is strange, as I do think that chocolate goes very well with so many other fruits. Judging by the number of recipes I could find in my recipe books and on websites with recipes from professional food writers/cooks, it's not a combination that many other people find appealing either!  My books yielded two recipes - both for pies with chocolate pastry - and the internet sites I looked at weren't much better. But I rarely shirk from the We Should Cocoa Challenge and I've never actually cooked anything combining apples and chocolate, so I shouldn't let my prejudices stand in the way of possibly startling revelations!

What to cook was a problem; having made the decision to take part in the challenge I then realised that I wanted to cook something where the apple was going to be noticeable, not fading into the background, masked by chocolate and other flavours. I thought this would give the combination a proper test! I also needed to cook something that would be eaten, as I can't afford to cook just for the sake of cooking - it has to fit in with the likes and dislikes of the people who would be eating it.

Cookies were out, as I couldn't see how to get much apple in without making them too wet and I didn't want to make a cake, as in my experience, apple tends to melt into the texture of a cake and I thought it would be overwhelmed by any chocolate in the recipe. Cheesecake crossed my mind, but I didn't really want a dessert, as they usually have to be eaten quickly and so are too calorific and indulgent. Once I started thinking about apple as a separate layer it didn't take long to remember traybakes and slices, but it still took a lot of research to find something which I was confident would take the addition of chocolate in some form. Eventually I decided to adapt a date slice recipe to use apples in the filling and chocolate in the top layer of dough. I chickened out of using apples on their own, as I thought they might be too moist, so I kept some dates in the mixture which I hoped would absorb the apple juices. Thus Date and Apple Squares with Chocolate Crumble Topping was born!

It was then that I found that I didn't have a date slice recipe! I was amazed, especially as I was sure I remembered at least one in some of my old books. Of all the recipes I found online, I decided that this recipe from Joy of Baking looked most like what I wanted to achieve, with the added benefit of a properly tested recipe too.

I followed the basic dough recipe exactly, but  I added 75g of very finely chopped 85% chocolate to the 1/3 of the dough which was put aside for the topping. I intended to grate the chocolate but had to chop it in a mini-food processor in the end, as grating was going to take far too long.

For the filling, I used 200g of chopped dates, 120ml apple juice, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and two apples, each weighing about 200g, peeled and cored and cut into 1cm cubes. One apple was a Bramley which would cook down to a purée, and the other was an eating apple which I hoped would stay in cubes. These ingredients were cooked together until the juice was absorbed and the dates softened.

I then continued with the recipe - pressing the plain dough into the base of a 9 x 9" tin, spreading over the filling and then crumbling over the chocolate topping - before baking at 180C for 40 minutes.

After chilling and cutting I could see that part of my plan had worked - there were still visible cubes of apple within the filling. The filling was quite moist, but the base was nicely crisped and solid, so I hope that the squares don't become soggy during storage, as it will take at least three days to eat them all. The apples were still evident as a separate flavour when tasted too, but although we all liked the squares I'm not convinced that adding the chocolate was any improvement. I think using the original plain dough, with it's slight cinnamon flavour, in both layers would have been just as good.

So although  I'm pleased I tried the apple-chocolate combination, I'm yet to be convinced that they are better together than apart. It will be really interesting to see what other entrants to the challenge come up with! 



11 comments:

Kate@whatkatebaked said...

I too have had my 'thinking cap' on ever since the challenge was announced- a really interesting combination to come with a recipe for! These do sound very good though- and I'm sure they'd be perfect for curling up with a cuppa and a good book with...

Brownieville Girl said...

Really interesting post - I'm also finding it difficult to decide which way to go with this challenge.

Your bake does look delicious.

Foodycat said...

They look very good - but for me the chocolate is a flavour too far!

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

they do look so amazing!... I too have been having difficulty thinking of what to cook, there's so much out there to chose from... I want to try something i've never made before, so I need to keep in searching!

C said...

They look lovely. I'm surprised the flavour of the dates doesn't dominate more though - I always find date quite a strong flavour.

I too am thinking hard about how to do this challenge and be able to taste both apple and chocolate!

Suelle said...

C - the dates less than 1/3 of the filling by weight. You could taste them, but they didn't overwhelm the apple flavour. I was so focussed on mentioning that I could taste the apples properly that I forgot to mention the dates!

MissCakeBaker said...

They do look really nice. I'm not 100% sure either about choc and apple. I've made some cookies today for this challenge.

Choclette said...

Oh Suelle, you are brilliant, I love the way you are so honest. To be fair, the thought of apples had crossed my mind for October, but it didn't seem nearly as exciting as chilli and I'd also already cooked loads with apples. It's true it's not out there with the best, but I still quite like the combination. It worked especially well in crumble and very surprisingly all my friends keep asking for more of the apple and choc chop rock cakes.

Phil in the Kitchen said...

They sound and look really good to me but I have to admit that the combination of apple and chocolate doesn't always work for me.

Chele said...

If it makes anyone feel better, I too have had to think long and hard about what to make using this combo. Sorry ;0(
That said, this slice looks positively wonderful. Love the colour contrast of the base and the topping.

celia said...

Suelle, they look amazing, and would make a very impressive morning tea treat. Agree with you though that I'm not convinced about the apple and chocolate combination either...