Almond Roca Bars

Almond Roca Bars
Sometimes you just need a simple, certain dessert that isn't going to take you all day to complete.  Here is a recipe I grew up with that fits the bill: Almond Roca Bars - a buttery layer of cookie topped with chocolate and almonds.  We always had these bars at Christmastime, but since they are so simple to make, we had them at other times during the year as well.  I had nearly forgotten about these until my sister posted a picture of them on Facebook as a kick-off to her own Christmas baking (thanks Pam!).  My mouth started watering looking at the picture, but I had a long list of other things to make, and so let the thought of these bars drift to the back of my mind for a while.

Almond Roca Bars
Then a few days ago, I needed a quick sweet for the dessert table at our New Year's Eve celebration.  I wanted a no-hassle crowd-pleaser, and so decided to make these bars.  I've changed the original recipe a bit to make a slightly healthier version by using Indian sugar to replace white sugar, and using dark chocolate and whole wheat flour instead of milk chocolate and all-purpose flour.  On a whim, I toasted the almonds instead of leaving them raw, and I've gotta say that the whole thing couldn't have made me happier.  The only thing I can add after the above swaps, is that one thing you definitely should NOT change is the butter.  If you are at all tempted to use margarine, don't.  With few ingredients, the quality of each one counts, and the flavor of the butter is essential to the success of these cookies (not mention all the crap in margarine, anyway…)

Thankfully, the guests didn't consume them all: there are just a few of these bars left in our freezer for pulling out on days when we need a sweet treat.

If you are looking for a fast and delicious cookie that everyone will love, your search is over.  Enjoy!

Almond Roca Bars
Almond Roca Bars

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup coconut sugar or Indian sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
150 g dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C. Lightly butter a 9"x13” cookie sheet.

Spread the sliced almonds onto a baking tray and place in the oven.  Bake for 3-5 minutes or until the almonds are a light golden brown.  Check after 3 minutes to make sure they don’t burn.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla, salt and egg yolk and mix to combine.  Beat in the flour until the mixture forms a smooth mass.

Spread the cookie mixture evenly into the pan, pushing it up against the edges, and smooth the top.  Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove the pan from the oven.

Sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the top of the hot cookie.  Allow it to melt for a few minutes. Using the back of a spatula, spread the chocolate evenly over the top of the entire cookie layer. Sprinkle the toasted almonds evenly over the surface of the chocolate.  Allow the bars to cool completely so that the chocolate is firm.  Using a sharp knife, cut into bars and serve.

Makes approximately 42 cookies (I cut them into 7 rows x 6 rows)

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