Chocolate crunch bars (no bake)

This is another recipe I kind of fell in love with when I first saw it.  Checking into one of my favorite websites, the kitchn, I saw a post about chocolate hazelnut crunch bars...
Base layer of thin, crispy crepes encased in chocolate and hazelnut spread, topped with ganache
What caught my attention was the use of feuilletine - those crispy, paper-thin, caramelized shards of pastry flakes that are used in many of my most favorite restaurant desserts.  As much as I love pure chocolate, I'm a huge fan of texture and love it when I discover some contrast in my dessert, like a layer of nutty crispiness embedded into a chocolate torte.
The milk chocolate coated "crispy crepes" I used as a substitute for feuilletine
The emphasis here is definitely on the crunch but it is a delicate crunch, a toothsome crispiness that is very pleasant underneath a contrasting, creamy layer of soft ganache on top. 
When I made almond and hazelnut dacquoise, I mentioned a favorite dessert of mine at a nearby restaurant.  It's essentially a small, round chocolate torte - the bottom layer is a "praline croustillant", a combination of smooth chocolate-hazelnut that has a wonderful crispy element to it.  On top of that is a layer of chocolate mousse, and the whole thing is covered in a thin coating of chocolate ganache.  It's all wonderful but the crispy bottom layer is my favorite and what makes it so memorable.  These chocolate bars - far simpler - come really close to that dessert.  The crispiness at the bottom totally makes it!  And the good news is they are easy to make; you don't even have to turn on the oven. 
I had intended to buy pailleté feuilletine online because I didn't particularly want to make them.  But not only do they cost about $12 a pop, I'd have to invest another $10 for shipping, not something I wanted to do for a first-time recipe.  It was time to get a little creative! 

So I used "crispy crepes" - super thin, crispy, wafer cookies coated in milk chocolate.  It is essentially feuilletine coated with milk chocolate.  I crushed them up and it worked beautifully here, with just a minor tweak to the recipe.  I'm proud to say I saved a solid $18 by doing that!
Technically, these are chocolate-hazelnut crunch bars.  A combination of semisweet chocolate and Nutella are stirred together before adding the crispy wafers for the bottom layer.  But in tasting the finished bars, I think the hazelnut flavor is minimal after being mixed with the dark chocolate.  For a deeper hazelnut flavor, I think hazelnut praline paste would be a good choice.

I do love these bars with even more texture, by adding some actual hazelnuts and cocoa nibs on top.  Okay, I may have copied the round design from a tart I had from Bouchon Bakery...I'm rather adept at imitation.
I'm usually pretty good about tasting my baked goods and enjoying them in careful moderation (sharing is key) but I could barely stop myself from eating these once I start. They're addicting and the texture really makes you want more.
And isn't it amazing how we can change something from simple to dressed-up just by how we slice it.  You can go with elongated bars or squares, which make it easy to pick up and gobble up.  Or, to fancy them up a bit, I used a round pastry cutter to make something like a dessert torte or a mini crustless tart.  I think these are also wonderful sliced into 1-inch squares and presented as homemade chocolate petite fours.  Anyway you slice it (literally!), they are very delicious bites!

Let's start with the star of this show: the feuilletine.  You can order it online here but it is pretty pricey, especially after accounting for the shipping charges.  If you are up for a project, Brave Tart has a recipe for making your own. 

As you know, I found and used some crepe wafers for the job (the exact ones pictured below).  I vaguely remembered seeing and eating this type of super crisp wafers and found these at my local Whole Foods.  They don't come plain but enrobed with milk chocolate in this case.
I divided the original recipe in half and made mine in an 8-inch square baking pan instead of a 9x13 inch one.  To account for the milk chocolate in the crispy crepes I used, I used a little more of the crepes and lowered the amount of Nutella to offset the difference.

Could you use rice cereal...or even crushed cornflakes?  Sure, but the crunch will be far more pronounced and not this kind of delicate crispness throughout you get with the thin wafers. 

First layer:

There are two layers to these chocolate bars.  The bottom is the one featuring the feuilletine (or crushed crispy crepes, in my case), which is combined with a combination of melted semisweet chocolate and hazelnut spread (i.e., Nutella).  As I mentioned earlier, I think substituting the Nutella with hazelnut praline paste would give it more pronounced hazelnut flavor.
Simply stir this mixture together and spread it out onto a parchment lined baking pan.  Set it in the refrigerator to set before adding the second layer.  I left mine in the fridge for about 45 minutes.

The second layer:
The top layer is simply a smooth, dark chocolate ganache.  I took 4 ounces of dark chocolate, a bit of instant espresso powder, and melted it in the standard way with an equal amount of heavy cream.  I omitted the tablespoon of butter in the recipe because I'd rather cut out extra fat when I can if it won't have a significant impact on the result.  I think butter (and corn syrup) usually serves to give ganache a bit more shine (and maybe softness) but I was glad I skipped it because the ganache was smooth, glossy, and soft enough without it.
I just love working with ganache - smelling the chocolate, and stirring up that creamy mixture.  I tell my husband I should've been a chocolatier, or at least work in a chocolate shop!

I smooth the layer of ganache over the set base.  Then place the pan back in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to let the ganache set up before slicing.  That's all there is to it!
I'm so ready to sink my teeth into one of these but by the time you see this, they will have been long gone...
And just for kicks, I made one of these in the round.  To cut it this way, I used a 2-inch pastry cutter that I warmed first under hot tap water and dried.  Press firmly down and to remove, push the round up and out instead of pushing down on the ganache layer.  The bottom layer is much firmer and you won't leave any marks on it.  Truthfully though, these are better as bars or squares, just picked up with your fingers and eaten right out of the fridge. 

I was concerned about the feuilletine softening and not staying crispy.  I've read that they turn soggy when mixed with liquid and will turn mushy if you try to stir it into mousse.  Maybe I used that as an excuse to eat as many of these as I wanted on the first day...but in any case, I'm very happy to report that they stayed crisp, as we feasted on them over 3 days. 

You must store the bars in the refrigerator and the key is to eat them straight from the fridge, cold.  The ganache is chilled but soft and the bottom layer seems extra crispy that way! 
They are mighty tasty!

* Update: Since this post, I've discovered Gavottes' crepe dentelle, which I love to snack on and have used here.  If you can get your hands on it (available at specialty stores like World Market), I highly recommend it as a substitute for the feuilletine.  


Recipe:

Chocolate-Hazelnut Crunch Bars
Adapted from the kitchn*

* This recipe is half the original.  I've adapted the recipe slightly, adding a little salt and instant espresso powder, and eliminating the butter in the ganache.  I've also adapted the recipe to use crushed chocolate-coated crispy crepes (wafer cookies) instead of feuilletine.  Please see original recipe if you use feuilletine flakes.  As I mentioned in my notes, I think the hazelnut flavor is minimal in the final tasting.  Try using praline paste if you want a more decidedly hazelnut flavor.

- Makes one 8-inch square pan; slice into bars, squares or however you like it -  

For the bottom (crunchy) layer:
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 ounces Nutella, or other chocolate-hazelnut spread*

Pinch of salt
3.5 ounces (1 box) milk chocolate coated crispy crepes (I bought it at Whole Foods), roughly crushed*


For the top (ganache) layer:
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ounces bittersweet (I used 60-62% cacao) chocolate, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
4 ounces (1/2 cup) heavy cream


Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line it with a piece of parchment paper, allowing for about 2-inches of overhang on two sides (for easy removal later).


For the bottom layer: Place semisweet chocolate into a heatproof bowl set over a pot of just simmering water.  Stir until just melted and remove from the heat.  Add Nutella and a pinch of salt, stirring together until smooth.  Add crushed crispy crepes and stir to combine.  Spread the mixture out onto the lined baking pan.  Take your time to compact and spread the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the pan using a rubber spatula.  Place pan in the refrigerator to chill until set, about 45 minutes.

For the top layer:  Place chocolate into a heatproof bowl, along with the instant espresso powder, if using.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Pour cream over the chocolate and let the mixture sit for 1-2 minutes without disturbing it.  Whisk the ganache together, starting in the center and gently working outward, until smooth and evenly incorporated.  Spread the ganache evenly over the now set bottom layer.  Return the pan to the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, or until the ganache has set.  Slice into bars or squares of whatever size you prefer before serving.

Store bars in a covered container in the refrigerator and serve chilled (the top layer will be chilled but soft and the bottom layer tastes extra crispy that way). 
Optional topping: You could press whole or crushed hazelnuts over the top to accentuate the hazelnut flavor.  If you have it, I also really like a little sprinkle of cocoa nibs.





24 comments:

  1. What a great recipe! Looks so decadent and delicious!!

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    1. So easy to make and really tasty! It's crunchy, creamy and chocolaty all in one, which I love.

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  2. These look and sound so delicious, I love that they're no bake too!

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    1. Thanks, Rosie! They are really easy to make and taste so good. : )

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  3. These do look so very good. I love the interesting texture! And with summer fast approaching, it is nice to have another no-bake recipe in my culinary drawer. I'm still trying to wake up on Sunday morning, but your blog and this recipe is making me feel more alive :-) Thank you for sharing, my friend!

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    1. Thanks, Monet. The texture of these bars really makes them so addicting. I'd love to keep some in my fridge all the time...but, there's so much food, so little space...

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  4. Gorgeous bars! I am also a big fan of croustillant and have been meaning to try a recipe. I love your substitution with using the "crispy crepes." Will have to look for that at my next trip to Whole Foods.

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    1. Thank you, Eva! I'm pretty jazzed that I saved some money and used the crispy crepes too. : ) I much preferred them in these bars than eaten alone as cookies.

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  5. These bars reminds me of a dessert I get in a deli/pastry store in my area...but just closed down. So sad. I gotta give this a try. Sounds like something I would definitely enjoy. And I buy those crispy crepe cookies all the time (just different brand and packaging).

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    1. I couldn't remember the last crispy crepe cookies I'd bought but I knew I'd had them before. I thought it was Cadbury but these were the only ones I found and luckily, they worked really well. I hope you try it and they come close to the dessert you liked so much.

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  6. I could snack on this, all day long. Which is pretty much dangerous :)

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    1. You are so right. I could've done the same...I just really relished the piece I was enjoying each time. Really good! : )

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  7. I saw this recipe, too, and wanted to make the recipe from Bravetart. Glad to see how it turned out. :) They look super yummy!

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    1. I just didn't feel like making the feuilletine for various reasons. I'm not confident I could get it thin enough and I don't want to make too much or waste batter by just making a small amount (like I'm likely to do). I could totally see you making it from scratch though!

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  8. No bake!!! I cannot excuse saying I'm not a baker! Well, I started to bake more often, so I am sort of baker (beginner baker), but I can try this recipe without stressing myself out. :D Looks so good!!!

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    1. I'm sure you are an excellent baker, as I could tell from those Nutella cookies! These are way easier and faster! : )

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  9. These are insanely gorgeous and they have one of my favorite flavor combos...I mean who doesn't love chocolate and hazelnut together! I definitely agree that the texture is KEY.

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    1. I'm crazy about chocolate and hazelnuts and love those crispy desserts I order at "fancy" restaurants. This satisfies that craving of mine for one of those desserts.

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  10. I just love those desserts where it doesn't require any baking! Especially with this heatwave we're having. Pinning this!

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    1. Thanks, Anne! A heat wave?! Oh boy - thank goodness for refrigerators and air conditioning! These bars/chocolates are so good. I need an excuse to make another batch soon!

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  11. Anything with the words chocolate and no bake - count me in! These look great! Especially with that added crunch... pinning!

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    1. I totally love these. Going to make them again real soon...I nabbed another box of those crepes recently just to make sure I have it when I want it. You know how things are always out of stock when you need it!

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