Perfect pick-me-up: Chocolate mocha squares

These tray-bake oaty biscuits have all the flavours of a morning coffee break

Cooks Academy Ireland Vanessa Greenwood's recipe for chocolate mocha squares .

 

When I am in need of a mid-morning pick-me-up, what I really want is coffee and a chocolate biscuit. It’s at times like this that any nearby packet of shop-bought snacks will be raided.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth

The problem is, they never taste anything like as good as the simplest of home-made treats. They are often made with a list of ingredients as long as your arm and lots of unsustainably grown palm oil. Palm oil masquerades under a huge variety of names including vegetable oil, glyceryl, stearate and sodium laureth sulfate, so it isn’t the easiest thing to spot on labels.

Most packaging doesn’t state whether the palm oil is responsibly produced, so it can be an ethical minefield. One of the easiest ways to avoid the palm-oil problem is to bake at home.

My sister made these biscuits recently. With one bite I was transported back to my teenage years. Since my parents were separated, I adopted many surrogate mums (usually the mothers of my friends). Siobhán was my favourite, with her knitting and a biscuit tin full of holiday treats. She still has the same beautiful smile and she still makes these chocolate mocha biscuits. These squares combine those mid-morning pick-me-up flavours.

The added oats make them really satisfying to eat. The biscuits are baked as one big slab like a tray bake, so they are an absolute doddle to make. The oaty biscuit base doesn’t even need to be cold before the mocha fudge icing is spread on top, so the whole thing can be finished within 20 minutes.

Since these freeze brilliantly, I cut them into tiny squares to have as a sweet bite with a cup of tea when I am sitting down to watch Motherland (my other guilty pleasure). Freezer biscuits are a godsend when you want to keep biscuits out of sight (only you will ever know they are there), but they are there when you need to satisfy those chocolate biscuit cravings. You can store them in an airtight container for three to four days.

CHOCOLATE MOCHA SQUARES

Makes 20 squares
Ingredients
Chocolate oat base:
200g butter
200g caster sugar
60g golden syrup

200g porridge oats
200g self-raising flour
50g unsweetened cocoa powder

Mocha fudge icing:
200g icing sugar, sieved
50g butter, room temperature, cubed
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp coffee essence (or strong espresso coffee)

To decorate:
100g dark chocolate, melted

Method

1 Preheat an oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or equivalent. Line a 28x18cm baking tin with parchment paper.

2 For the chocolate oat base: In a medium saucepan, over a medium heat, melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together until the sugar is fully dissolved.

3 In a mixing bowl combine the oats, flour, and cocoa powder.

4 Pour the melted ingredients into the dry mixture and stir until evenly distributed and the mixture appears moist.

5 Transfer the mixture into the lined baking tray.

6 Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the surface appears slightly dry. Set aside while you make the mocha fudge layer.

7 For the mocha fudge icing: Place the icing sugar, butter, water and coffee essence in a medium size heavy-based saucepan, heat gradually until fully combined, to a smooth consistency.

8 Spread the mocha icing evenly over the pre-baked base, using a spatula to spread it into an even layer, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until the fudge is set.

9 For the chocolate drizzle: Melt the chocolate in a bain marie (a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water). Drizzle the melted chocolate over the surface of the mocha fudge layer. Refrigerate until the chocolate layer hardens.

10 To portion, remove from the fridge, wait 10 minutes and cut as desired into neat bars, squares or triangles with a very sharp knife.

Variation: You can omit the coffee flavour by replacing coffee essence with cocoa powder (or melted chocolate).

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