During a quick visit to Anthropologie last week I picked up a cookbook dedicated to vanilla recipes. Of the two camps, vanilla and chocolate, I have always been loyal to the latter but lately I’ve found myself craving vanilla flavors. I believe that part of my aversion to vanilla as a child was because I probably never tasted the real thing, as in sweets using real vanilla beans or pure vanilla extract. My mother cooked wonderful meals that I loved then and still love now but she didn’t really bake, so sweet treats were often purchased. Today, vanilla desserts on the menu attract my attention almost as much as chocolate ones.
I baked these bars following the recipe exactly from the cookbook. With 1o ounces of white chocolate compared to two teaspoons combined of vanilla bean paste and vanilla extract, I was tempted to alter their name to be more reflective of the more prominent ingredient. Then it occurred to me to review the ingredient list on my Ghirardelli Classic White chips and was disappointed to discover that instead of cocoa butter, which is required for white chocolate classification, they use palm oil…but the last ingredient listed is vanilla, so the latter prevailed.
The name of these bars hardly matters anyway. Unless you’re like my husband who doesn’t consider white chocolate real chocolate, the two make a nice pair, especially with the lemon curd swirled throughout. All three main components perform a nice balancing act here for a treat that any vanilla, (white) chocolate or lemon lover would enjoy.
Now back to white chocolate issue. Is there a big difference in taste with the premium brands? Having always preferred dark chocolate I’ve never paid much attention to the white variety; I’ve always just used the Ghirardelli and Lindt brands. Are we missing out by not using Callebaut or Valrhona (this is our favorite for dark chocolate)? Now I’m curious to taste the difference.
- 10 ounces white chocolate, chopped (or chips) and divided
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- ½ cup lemon curd (homemade or store-bought)
- Preheat your oven to 350℉. Coat the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper so that you have overhang on two sides, about 8 by 14 inches.
- Melt the butter and 8 ounces of white chocolate in the microwave or using a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Once melted, take the bowl away from the heat (if you used the stovetop method) and stir in the sugar and salt.
- Whisk in the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla extract and paste. Gently fold in the flour and when you have just a little bit left of the flour still unincorporated, add the remaining 2 ounces white chocolate. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan.
- Distribute the lemon curd in about 5 or 6 equal portions with a spoon over the batter and swirl using a fork to partially incorporate into the batter. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the baking pan on a cooling rack and let the cake cool completely then lift the entire block out using the parchment paper and divide into small squares.
- This cake is better the next day. If you have time, refrigerate the cake overnight and serve it at room temperature the next day.