We are always looking for outstanding, make-ahead dishes that can be prepared in advance so that we can put on a special dinner once in awhile. It makes no difference if it is merely two people, although that particular dinner-for-two could turn out to be very important, right? Or it could be two couples on a Date Night at your house, an occasion to wear a little black dress and be completely unruffled while serving your treats.
Everyone appreciates light, tasty dinner and a dessert that is under control--have a piece or two, depending on your diet. There are a lot of folks who are counting calories.
Get your non-dairy cream cheese substitute at Sprouts in Tucson: the Tofutti brand is the best and all their products are excellent. While you are there you can also get some of their bulk chocolate, which I think is the best selection in town.
So after you have served something like a dinner salad or roast chicken, crusty bread and light wine, you can come out with this dessert and serve it with or without guilt, but whatever anybody decides to eat, it's their decision.
COFFEE CREAM BAR COOKIES
1 cup organic chocolate wafer cookies, crushed
2 Tablespoons organic blonde sugar
3 Tablespoons unsalted organic butter
1 teaspoon organic gelatin
2/3 cup strong coffee
8 ounces organic cream cheese or substitute
1/2 cup organic blonde sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
Pinch of salt
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Place the wafer cookies, the sugar and the butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs and there are no large shards of cookies left. Do not run the processor, but be patient and pulse until it is right.
Line an 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing the edges to drape over the edges. This helps you remove the bars after baking. Press the crust mixture into the baking pan evenly. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes.
In a small mixing bowl, place the warm coffee and sprinkle it with the gelatin. Meanwhile, mix the cream cheese, sugar and eggs in another mixing bowl. Add the pinch of salt and mix it in.
After five minutes of softening time, pour the coffee and gelatin mixture into the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly with an electric mixer and pour the filling mixture over the crust.
Bake the bars for 40-45 minutes and check to see if it has solidified. If necessary allow a few minutes more, until it resembles a custard pie. Remove the bars from the oven and allow them to cool.
In a glass bowl, melt the chocolate and butter together until there are no unmelted pieces present. Pour the chocolate over the top of the baked bars and refrigerate for 2 hours, until the chocolate is as solid as it is going to get. Remove from the baking pan to the counter and cut carefully into 9 bars.
I can't help thinking that a rich, creamy after-dinner liqueur like Bailey's Irish Cream or Godiva would be wonderful to go with this (and coffee). And the next time somebody remarks that organic cooking is the red-headed stepchild of cuisine, well, if you like them enough, you might invite them over for dinner.