Chocolate Ganache & Raspberry Curd Shortbread Bars: aka how I got rid of leftover cake ingredients

Do you remember how, way back in May when I made my sister's graduation cake, I told you that I halved the cake recipe but left all of the fillings the same? You know, just in case something disastrous were to occur and I realized I would need extra? Well, thankfully, something disastrous did not occur (at least, not anything that put my cake fillings in harm's way), and I was left with a bowl each of chocolate ganache and raspberry curd.

After such an elaborate baking process the week before, I wanted something simple. I also didn't want to have to go out and buy extra ingredients, because baking for fun can get expensive - no matter how cheap flour and sugar are. Immediately, I thought of one thing: a layered bar. The ganache hardened beautifully, the curd remained creamy, and so not only were the flavors made to be paired together from the previous recipe (the bitterness of the chocolate cuts the sweet tartness of the curd better than you can imagine), but the textures would contrast each other wonderfully. More importantly, nothing would come between my taste buds and the purity of this combination - except, of course, the subtle shortbread vehicle through which I would accomplish this bar.

One problem - I don't have a staple, go-to shortbread recipe. Scratch that - I didn't have one, but after testing out Alice Medrich's Twice Baked Shortbread recipe, called to my attention by Deb over at Smitten Kitchen, I don't know if I will try another version of Shortbread out again. There are five ingredients and it took me less than three minutes to put together (me! the slowest baker on this planet!), and then it goes through a lot of inactive prep time, like letting the dough sit for 2 hours or overnight, and baking it two separate times on relatively low heat. I cannot attest to the necessity of these elements, as I followed the recipe to a T (almost, anyway...) the only time I made it; however, I trust that it does do something magical.

So here it is, my thrown together recipe for using leftover cake fillings! Feel free to swap in just about whatever you have: a lemon curd, a chocolate mousse, maybe even a buttercream frosting to turn it into an iced shortbread.

Chocolate Ganache & Raspberry Curd Shortbread Bars, shortbread recipe courtesy of Deb at Smitten Kitchen.
Yield: 1 8x8" pan's worth of delicious dessert
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and still warm (change: of course, what did I have on hand? Salted - I just omitted the salt later on)
5 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract or the scrapings from half a vanilla bean (I used the extract)
1/4 teaspoon salt or a couple pinches of flaky maldon (omitted)
1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
Turbinado, Demerara or granulated sugar for sprinkling (omitted, but this would be excellent if baking the bars without adding toppings)
Leftover baking ingredients; be creative! (I used the rest of the chocolate ganache and raspberry curd whose recipes can be found here) and some leftover 100% dark chocolate shavings from the Black Forest Cupcakes)

1. If using a pan with a removable bottom, grease the pan; if using the one-piece 8-inch pan, line it with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. If the dough looks a little too runny to be "pressed" into the pan, just hang in there for another 30 seconds. I was hasty with mine and dumped some extra flour in there, which turned out fine as well, only to realize that the dough needed a little patience and time to come together and solidify slightly.

3. Press the dough into the pan or dish of your choice, doing your best to even it out. Let it rest for 2 hours or overnight. The recipe says there was no need to refrigerate, but I did, and just needed to let it warm up for a little bit before baking the next day (re: I pulled it out as the oven was preheating, discovered a very rock-hard dough in the dish, panicked for 10 seconds, and then stuck it in the oven and resigned myself to letting it bake a few minutes extra).

4. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 300 degrees F.

5. Bake the shortbread for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, but leave the oven on - you still have another round of baking to do! Lightly sprinkle the shortbread with sugar, if using, and let it cool for 10 minutes.

6. If just making shortbread, remove the baked dough from the pan or dish, careful not to break it. Use a sharp knife to cut it into traditional wedges, and place those pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet (be sure to space them out a little). If you're making the (insert-your-filling-of-choice) bars as I chose to do, leave them whole in the dish for the second baking. I'm sure this alters the end result to some extent, as all sides of the shortbread isn't exposed to the heat, but I didn't see another option if I wanted to put gooey toppings on it afterwards.

7. Bake for 10 minutes, then let cool completely (for plain shortbread) or, you know, mostly - as long as you can stand it before you just have to get those toppings on it in order to have a taste test. Once relatively cool, spoon the raspberry curd onto the shortbread and even out, and then add the layer of (softened, pourable) chocolate ganache over it.* Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, if desired. Place in the fridge (covered) to chill.

*I layered it the other way around: I was afraid that the ganache wouldn't pour well enough, and I would be left with a hot mess trying to spread it evenly over the already mousse-like curd. However, retrospectively, I think the bar would've held up better if the softer layer were sandwiched between two solid ones, as opposed to letting it hang out on top. Still, regardless of the sequence you use, these are delicious, and each layer is both good on its own yet adds something unique to the recipe as a whole. You get the buttery, crumbly shortbread on top of a tart raspberry curd, covered generously with a decadent, almost-too-bitter-but-really-perfect-against-a-raspberry-backdrop chocolate ganache. I raved about the cake, but I think I enjoyed these little leftover concoctions even more - especially when taking into account how much easier they were to make!

Oh, and the pictures? I left for a vacation about an hour after these finished baking, so I chopped some pieces off to bring with me, and took a haphazard picture that weekend of the two last bars. Needless to say, I will post the picture, but don't judge this book by its cover (or the author's lack of illustrative talent, so to speak).

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