Pass the Courvoisier
There are certain liquors which are evocative because of brand stereotype or personal association rather than their actual taste. For example, as a Canadian, I can’t think of Screech without picturing a Newfie “Kitchen Party”, or how Bushmills and Jamesons will always be reminiscent of local expats with plastic shots glasses on Rabbie Burns night. On the other hand, when I think of Courvoisier, the quintessentially classic cognac, I think of ascots, pipes and snifters…maybe with some foie gras, foxes and horses in close proximity (because that’s what Money Likes).
Oh yes, that and Gangsta Rap.
Or maybe not “Gangsta Rap” (perhaps gangstas don’t appreciate capitals and punctuation as much as I do), but the closest equivalent that white kids in the suburbs could get their Abercrombied little hands on. I can’t supress the depressingly vivid memories of a particularly puerile ex-boyfriend brandishing his Coors Light tall-boy like a talisman as he encouraged us all to “Pass the coo-vwa-zee-YAY, bitches!” (This, of course, was after a frustratingly long and Snoop Dogg driven infatuation with Hennessy, which was finally starting to subside. After all, Hennessy was so 2001). Also, it was not like we actually had any Courvoisier around, at that point. I was drinking peach flavored wine from a box and everyone had pitched in $5 for gas to get to the party, but he was pretty sure that if you could talk gangsta, you would eventually become gangsta.
(He never became gangsta)
Despite that limited -and questionable- exposure, as age and finances permitted, I eventually developed a surprising taste and appreciation for classics like cognac, both as a tipple as well as a flavor boost for food. I am equally likely to sip a snifter in the winter as I am to enjoy adding a splash of cognac to everything from savory chicken liver paté or French onion soup to ruby toned Cherries Jubilee or a luscious apricot jam. For that reason, we were particularly excited when we heard about the Courvoisier Collective: Culinary Masterpieces, an opportunity for Ontario culinary students and amateur chefs to share their gastronomic creativity while cooking with some of their favorite hooch.
Anybody can enter their favorite or most creative dish to the contest as long as it falls into the category of soup, salad, hors d’oeuvres or entrée and does not contain more than 15 ingredients. We will definitely be participating, but couldn’t help ourselves from skirting around the limitations of the contest and starting with something sweet. Hey, at least it got our creative juices flowing and gave us a chance to talk about this challenge before it expired!!
Channeling the spirit of cognac, we wanted to take something classic and refine it, giving it a grown up appeal that brings us from childhood to the adult realm. So for all my gangstas out there, here is a grown up version of the classic Millionaire Bar: a crisp and buttery cookie base coated with cognac scented caramel and slathered with bittersweet chocolate. A touch of fleur de sel walks that glorious salted-caramel line and really brings these home. Unlike some versions, these are less gooey and more refined with thinner layers of the sweet and a little bit more adult appeal.
Courvoisier Millionaire Bars
Makes 24 small bars. Or a single serving for Busta Rhymes.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 6 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp Courvoisier cognac
Courvoisier Caramel Filling:
- 1 can (330 ml) sweetened condensed milk
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 tbsp golden corn syrup
- 3 tbsp Courvoisier cognac
- 12 oz semisweet chocolate
- 1 tbsp golden corn syrup
- 1 tsp unsalted butter
- Fleur de Sel, optional
Preheat your oven to 325ºF with the racks set in the center.
The easiest way to make short work of the crust is in a food processor. Measure in the flour, sugars and salt.
Whiz the flour mixture together until combined. Cube the butter into smaller pieces and add them to the food processor bowl.
Pulse the mixture several times until the butter is mixed in uniformly and the flour looks sandy. Although you don’t want to overprocess the mixture, if you have pieces that are the size of little peas then they are too large. The mixture should clump together when pressed but will feel rather dry and crumbly to the touch.
Thoroughly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan and dust it lightly with flour.
Press the flour mixture into the prepared pan. Firmly tamp it down so that it is packed and as flat or even as you can manage.
Bake the cookie crust for approximately 30 minutes, or until it is just starting to turn golden around the edges and pulls away ever so slightly from the pan.
Set the cooked crust aside to cool after brushing on the 2 tablespoons of Courvoisier.
For the filling, pour the can of sweetened condensed milk into a small pot or saucepan. Be sure to scrape it out fully, because that stuff is liquid gold. Add in the butter, brown sugar and corn syrup and stir everything together.
Let the mixture simmer over low heat for approximately 15 minutes, stirring almost constantly, until it has deepened in color to a rich golden brown. Caramelizing the sugar over direct heat is dicey and if you leave the mixture alone on the stove it will almost immediately bubble over and scorch in spots, yielding dark umber colored speckles throughout the otherwise gloriously golden brown caramel. For the time that it cooks, you need to be at the stove and paying constant attention. Don’t answer the phone, it’s just a telemarketer. The Girl Guides will come back to your door eventually, and the commotion that you think you hear outside isn’t really an exciting neighborhood fight, it’s just someone moving boxes in his garage. It’s not worth it to have burnt caramel.
I can never stay at the stove and pay constant attention. It was my Dad on the phone, the Girl Guides NEVER come to my house with their delicious cookies, and I the clamour outside was just someone’s recycling. My caramel is ugly. It’s just the price I pay.
Measure in the Courvoisier and stir until it is completely incorporated.
Pour the caramel over the cookie base and smooth it out with an offset spatula or wooden spoon so that it is uniform. Set this aside to cool and set.
When the caramel is just slightly tacky to the touch, start the chocolate topping. In a double boiler (I have a double boiler, but prefer to just use a glass bowl set over a small pot with about an inch of simmering water), melt the chocolate slowly and gradually with the butter and corn syrup.
Tempering chocolate can be fussy, so use gentle heat and don’t rush the process. Stir things up every so often until the chocolate is completely melted, smooth and glossy.
Pour the chocolate on top of the caramel layer and use an offset spatula to spread it until it is flat and even.
Let the chocolate start to firm up for just a minute or two (you don’t want it piping hot) before sprinkling on the flaky fleur de sel. I just sprinkle it on evenly according to my personal taste preference, but if I were to estimate, I would say that is, oh, about a teaspoon and a half of the coarse flakes.
Set the bars aside to cool completely before slicing into 24 rectangles using a sharp, thin knife. You may wish to run the knife under hot water periodically to make this task easier. Keep the Millionaire Bars refrigerated until you’re ready to eat them, which will be soon.
With warm, subtle notes of cognac, bitter sweet chocolate and a salty caramel taste, these Millionaire Bars will have you bustin’ a rhyme as well!
We will be posting our formal entry into the Courvoisier Collective sometime next week, which means that this weekend will include some delightfully boozy experimentation! If you are also interested in joining the fun, there are a few key dates to bear in mind:
- Now until August 24th: Users can submit recipes and vote for their favourites online at www.courvoisiercollective.com
- August 24th – September 7th: The chef judging panel review each recipe
- September 7th: Six finalists are contacted and invited to attend an exclusive tasting event in October where their dish will be recreated and sampled!