These Love Bars are a variation of one of the most unusual, delicious cakes I have found in recent memory. The recipe, with minor changes, comes from "Bourke Street Bakery, All Things Sweet". It's a beautiful book with gorgeous photography and great recipes. I'm not even sure how I found it but I am so happy I did. While they serve this as a cake Down Under, I cut it into bars and if I still had my bakery it would be front and center in the case.
This recipe for Love Bars is one of those easy treasures where you make the base, press it into a pan, add a few more ingredients to the reserved amount, pour it on top, and bake it. It couldn't be easier. The toffee flavored base of the bar is topped with a tender, moist, spicy cake. Don't be put off by the large amount of pepper and spice in the cake. It's amazingly balanced.
I changed the nuts from walnuts to toasted pecans and changed the mixing method slightly but all credit for this treat goes to Paul Allam and David McGuinness, the owners of the Bourke Street Bakery in Australia. Because Americans use volume measurements I made small adjustments to some of the amounts given since the original recipe is written in metrics.
My thanks to them for sharing this treat and I will certainly be looking forward to trying more recipes from this book.
Here is their introduction to the Love Cake or Love Bars: "This cake, inspired by Persian love cake and Armenian nutmeg cake is adored by the women in our lives. They tell us it has nothing to do with being romantic – it is the nutty, slightly burnt caramel flavor and moist consistency combined with a crumbly, biscuit base that makes it all so delicious." I'm not sure where the "slightly burnt" came from because mine was more of a toffee base. But whatever description you give, delicious is the right word.
There is one ingredient that may not be familiar – Golden Syrup. I have fallen in love with this and could easily just eat it by the spoonful. It tastes like caramel and I will use it more in the future. It comes from England and can be found as Lyle's Golden Syrup and Lyle's Golden Dessert Syrup in a squeeze bottle. They are the same thing. If you want to make this and don't have this ingredient, you can substitute half clear corn syrup and half honey or all of one of them.
FYI, I will be posting a wonderful tart from Down Under that uses the Golden Syrup and macadamia nuts. I encourage you to get a bottle of the syrup because this recipe won't taste the same without it.
3 ounces pecans (85 grams or 3 ounces)
2 cups all-purpose flour (280 grams or 10 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened (114 grams, 4 ounces or 1 stick)
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon golden syrup (100 grams or 3 ½ ounces)
1 ⅔ cup brown sugar (320 grams or 11 ¼ ounces)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cloves,
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and toast the pecans for 7 to 9 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely. Chop coarsely.
Turn the oven up to 400°F.
Line the bottom of a 9x9" square baking pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment and sides of the pan with a non-stick release. Set aside.
Put the flour,baking powder, salt, butter, sugar and golden syrup in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle.
Mix to form crumbs.
Press 400 grams or 14 ounces of the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.
To the remaining crumbs in the bowl add the cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and nutmeg. Pour the nuts on top. Mix briefly.
Combine the milk, egg, and baking soda in a small container. With the machine running slowly pour it into the crumb mixture along with as the recipe says, "heaps and heaps of love, even more than usual." Scrape down as necessary.
Pour the batter over the pressed in crust and bake for 5 minutes.
Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for 35 minutes or until dark golden brown and just set. The sides will shrink away slightly.
Cool in the pan. Go around the sides of the pan to release the cake. Turn right side up and cut 6 across and 3 down.
Yield: 18 Love Bars
Storage: 3 to 5 days at room temperature in an airtight tin.