You know you’ve reached adulthood when you’re the one handing out candy on Halloween. If there’s still a part of you that wants to hunt for sweets with hordes of sugar-amped Disney princesses and Marvel superheroes, you have a more sophisticated option: candy bar classics reimagined by local chefs. These are definitely not carbon copies. “They should be reminiscent of the original,” says Birch & Barley’s pastry chef, Tiffany MacIsaac, who puts a personal twist on a pair of long-loved confections. “But they need to be grown-up takes.” Here are our favorite reinventions that will make you feel like a kid again.
Pastry chef Carolyn Crow is a self-admitted fangirl. Looking to combine her love of geek culture with her passion for pastry, she set out to create a Batman candy bar for her Sweet Treat Sampler ($8). “No matter whether you’re talking about the comics or the movies, Batman is always going to be very dark, rich and insane,” she says. Her homage to the Caped Crusader has a dark chocolate ganache center with a crumbly base of ground-up pecan pralines and crisped rice. This is enrobed in even darker chocolate and topped with a white chocolate Bat-Signal. It’s a dessert worth fighting the Joker for.
Jackie’s Sidebar, 8081 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring; 301-565-9700. (Silver Spring)
The Oval Room
Take a bite out of this upscale eatery’s gussied-up Hazelnut Twix Bar ($10) and, suddenly, crunching into a genuine Twix seems passé. This deconstructed version developed by executive chef Tony Conte and his pastry chef, Cicely Austin, takes the multi-textured bar to new heights. The dessert’s foundation is a cookie bottom, and above it sits a fudge-like bar made with Valrhona caramel chocolate that is dusted with cocoa powder. Caramel-coated hazelnuts dot the plate,alongside a dollop of pot de crème and an ovoid scoop of homemade caramel ice cream. “It’s OK to mess with a favorite,” Conte says, “as long as you have the components of the classic and don’t go too far out-of-bounds.”
The Oval Room, 800 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-463-8700. (Farragut North)
Birch & Barley
“Everything tastes good when you’re a kid just because it’s a sweet,” MacIsaac says. “But as you get older, your palate gets more refined.” To keep her customers’ inner children happy, she reinvented two favorites from her youth for her House-Made Cookies and Confections Platter ($8.50). The Cashew Snickers Bar, above, is a one-bite delight, while the Pecan Joy is a playful take on the coconut-centric Almond Joy. “People get so excited for nostalgic flavors,” says the bonbon-obsessed baker. “I think of it as comfort food done a little more fancy.”
Birch and Barley, 1337 14th St. NW; 202-567-2576. (McPherson Square)
Acclaimed chef Michel Richard says he’s never eaten a Kit Kat, but his signature Chocolate Bar ($9) nonetheless evokes the crunchy favorite. For almost 25 years, it has been one of the chef’s most popular creations. A rich chocolate bar is placed on a foundation of chocolate that is shot through with crepe shards to add what Richard calls “an elegant crunch.” This concoction rests in a pool of hazelnut cream and is accompanied by a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. “It’s a drug,” says Richard. “So you need to keep coming back to get another fix.”
Central, 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-626-0015. (Metro Center)
Take Home Taste
Batman Bonbon (The Dark Bite) from Jackie’s Sidebar pastry chef Carolyn Crow:
15 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (use chocolate with a cocoa mass of 62 to 68 percent; otherwise the ganache won’t emulsify properly)
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup corn syrup
7 tbsp very soft butter
2 1/2 cups pecans, toasted
and finely chopped
Yields about 40 truffles
In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream and corn syrup over medium heat. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl. Let the cream and chocolate sit for 30 seconds to start melting the chocolate.
Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir in small, fast circles just in the center of the mixture until the ganache begins to look creamy and airy. Begin making larger circles until the entire mixture is smooth, glossy and emulsified.
Stir in the butter until fully incorporated. Cover the ganache tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least six hours. Use a melon baller, tablespoon or tiny ice cream scoop to portion the set ganache and roll it between your hands to form truffles.
Place the pecans (fully cooled) on a plate. Drop truffles two or three at a time onto the plate and roll them around until they’re fully coated in nuts.
Store the bonbons in the refrigerator; let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.