I Need to Sleep on It: The Dream Slice

I knew that I needed to try Rosie Daykin's "Dream Slice" recipe for two reasons: 1) she says that it is "far and away" the bestselling bar at her bakery Butter in Vancouver; and 2) it includes maraschino cherries, which are one of my guilty pleasures.

I had a lot of problems with the seemingly simple shortbread crust. To make the crust, you just mix together flour and sugar, cut in cold butter, and the press the mixture into the bottom of a parchment-lined pan. The first time I made the crust, I made the dough by hand, using a pastry cutter. The raw crust looked fine in the pan, but when I baked it, it had a weird bubbly appearance (maybe there were clumps of butter that just melted) and some parts of the crust were so thin that you could see the bottom of the pan through them.

I tossed the crust in the compost bin and made a second crust in the stand mixer. Again, it looked fine, but when I baked it, I got the same horrible result. At this point, I almost gave up, but I gave it a third try and made another batch of crust dough in the food processor. Finally -- success!

After the crust was parbaked, finishing up the bars was easy. The filling is a mixture of eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt, unsweetened shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, and chopped maraschino cherries. You spread it over the partially baked crust and return the bars to the oven until the filling is set and browned. When I pulled the pan out of the oven, the top of the bars was very dark; it looked exactly like the top of the Paradise Bars from Bread & Cie.
After the bars are completely cool, you spread on a buttercream made from softened butter, powdered sugar, and heavy cream. You chill the bars to firm up the buttercream before slicing.

The bars were quite pretty. I had used a food processor to chop the walnuts and maraschino cherries, so the cherry pieces were quite small. As a result, you couldn't really see the cherries in the filling layer, but they did give the filling a subtle pink tinge of color. I tasted a bar on the day of the baking and my immediate reaction was that the bars were way too sweet. The buttercream layer on top is very, very sweet, and it doesn't even have any vanilla to take the edge off.

I was literally prepared to abandon the bars -- I told my husband Tom to take them to work with him the next morning (this might seem callous, but I love my co-workers so much when I make sub-optimal baked goods, I either put them in the compost bin or foist them on my husband's colleagues instead of taking them to my office). But as it happens, my husband -- who leaves for work before I do -- forgot to take the bars with him the following day.

I looked at the containers in the fridge and thought, what the hell, maybe I should give the bars another chance. So I took another taste and I was happily surprised that the bars tasted a lot better the second day. They were still quite sweet, but it wasn't too much -- I'm not sure if the flavor of the filling had more time to develop overnight to counterbalance the sweetness a bit. The chewy texture of the middle layer and the buttery shortbread crust were both terrific.

I couldn't really taste the maraschino cherries as a distinct component, but that's probably not such a bad thing. These bars not only looked like Paradise Bars, but the taste reminded me of them as well -- except for the addition of the sweet frosting on top. I might cut back on the sugar in the buttercream layer in the future. But in any case, I happily enjoyed these sweet dreams.

Recipe: "The Dream Slice" from Butter Baked Goods by Rosie Daykin.

Previous Post: "Chewy Coconut-Pecan Bliss: Paradise Bars," January 24, 2011.


Louise said…
You left us hanging with who got the baked goods. I have a standby shortbread crust recipe that seems to work perfectly for everything I've tried.
I didn't mean to leave you hanging! :) I took them to my office.

I don't know what happened with the crust. After the first couple of failures, I double checked the ratios of ingredients for this shortbread crust (1.5 cups flour, 1.5 tablespoons sugar, 3/4 cup butter) to the shortbread crust for Alice Medrich's lemon bars, which always come out for me -- and they were pretty similar. I think it was just one of those nights when I had bad baking karma.