Blue Bottle is known for its coffee, but its pastry program -- headed up by Miette alum (and wife of owner James Freeman) Caitlin Freeman -- is starting to get a following in its own right. The team makes beautiful, art-inspired desserts at SFMOMA and thoughtful, rustic cookies and cakes for its cafes, including the newest concoction: Edith Heath bars, a take on the Heath candy bar. Blue Bottle invited us into their kitchen for the day to watch pastry manager Alyssa Meijer Drees make the newest member of the lineup.
It all started when Caitlin Freeman approached Drees about creating an approximation of a Heath bar, that toffee/chocolate candy, for their new cafe in Heath Ceramics' Mission factory and showroom. Drees started by looking up the ingredients of Heath bars on the Hershey's website, and was surprised to discover that almonds were in the mix (we didn't know that either).
So she set about thinking how to incorporate those flavors in a treat that wasn't a straight confection -- candy-making isn't part of her training, nor part of the Blue Bottle pastry mission -- and eventually hit on the idea to combine Heath with millionaire bars, a British cookie made with layers of shortbread, caramel, and chocolate.
The new Edith Heath bar, named for the Heath Ceramics founder, starts with a thin layer of shortbread, made with brown sugar instead of white for a nuttier, more nuanced flavor that plays off the other ingredients.
After that, Drees makes a simple caramel and folds in roughly chopped almonds -- the different sizes of the nut pieces echo the tile mosaic in the Heath showroom.
The caramel/almond mixture is then layered onto the cooled shortbread, put back in the walk-in for a bit until it sets, and then covered with dark chocolate ganache made from Recchiuti chocolate (Drees tried milk chocolate, but the resulting bar was overwhelmingly sweet). Once it sets, she cuts the bars into slices -- first scoring them with a nifty tool that creates evenly spaced lines -- and packs them off to Heath.
The final product is incredibly delicious: The buttery, nutty, crumbly shortbread is a nice counterpoint to the rich smooth chocolate, and the chocolate's bitterness cuts through the sugar onslaught of the caramel. Almonds provide texture and another layer of flavor, and the whole thing has just the right amount of Maldon salt.
Of course the bars are rich. We won't even divulge how much sugar, butter, cream, et al went into the final product. But unlike candy bars like Heath and Twix filled with chemicals and junk ingredients, these are well worth the splurge.
Edith Heath bars retail for $3.50, exclusively in the Heath Blue Bottle location at 18th and Alabama.