Homemade baked goods make any occasion more special, whether you are serving up simple chocolate chip cookies or slicing a towering layer cake. But I will admit that there are some occasions that call for more festive desserts than others. When you need a dessert that practically shouts “celebration,” you need to whip up a batch of these Champagne Bars.
The filling for these bars is incredibly simple and champagne is the star. You’re going to need two cups of champagne, which is about 3 glasses short of a bottle. What you do with those remaining glasses of bubbly is up to you, but I recommend toasting the chef while your bars are in the oven. The champagne is combined with sugar, egg, and cornstarch to make the filling. The filling is reminiscent of a very light citrus curd but has a wonderful champagne flavor. The filling is very tender and while it can be sliced cleanly with a warm, sharp knife, the bars need to be refrigerated before slicing and should be kept cold before serving. It is the light consistency of the filling that makes these bars so memorable and so flavorful.
Champagne is unquestionably the star of this recipe, but you don’t need to use a particularly expensive bottle to get good results. That said, you don’t want to use an extremely inexpensive bottle or something you simply don’t enjoy the flavor of. A dry champagne/sparkling wine that has some fruity notes is your best bet. I used Trader Joe’s Reserve Brut North Coast Sparkling Wine in mine with very good results. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this particular bubbly, but it does have a very fruity nose (and a dry finish) that works exceptionally well in this recipe. It also had a hint of pink, which gave a subtle color to the bars. You could also grab a nice sparkling rose for a stronger pink color or a fruity prosecco, as well. Be sure to let the bubbles subside slightly when you are measuring your champagne so that you get an accurate measurement.
Since they’re uniform in color, it looks nice to give them a dusting of confectioners’ sugar before serving them, as well. You can cut them into bite sized pieces for easy nibbling, or cut them into larger squares to serve as a plated dessert. The buttery shortbread crust makes the bars easy to handle no matter how you serve them. Like champagne, don’t forget to serve these bars cold for best results and store any leftovers in the fridge, too.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp water
2 cups champagne or sparkling wine
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup cornstarch
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and lightly grease.
First, prepare the crust. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Pour in melted butter and water and stir until the dough begins to clump together. Transfer dough into prepared pan and press into an even layer.
Bake for 15-17 minutes, until the crust begins to turn golden brown at the outer edge.
While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.
Measure out the champagne and allow the bubbles to subside slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and egg until smooth. Whisk in cornstarch, followed by champagne. Whisk until mixture is very well-combined.
Pour champagne mixture carefully over the hot crust when it comes out of the oven.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the bars are set. The filling will be bubbling and may still jiggle very slightly. Allow bars to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight. Slice bars using a sharp knife, wiping the blade off between slices. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Makes 24 bars.