Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Bars


UPDATE: New photos were added on 12/13/2011, and the recipe now includes a link to a printable version.

Did you have a favorite candy bar when you were a kid? I had a few that I preferred, but the best ever to my mind was a Twix. That’s why I was determined to get these cookie bars right even though it took a couple of tries. This all started when I read the recipe for millionaire’s shortbread in the Baked book, and it sounded straightforward enough. The concept is exactly what you see here which is a layered bar of shortbread, caramel, and chocolate otherwise known as a homemade Twix candy bar. I had a caramel disaster in that the sweetened condensed milk which cooked in a double-boiler (for more than twice the suggested time) never became caramelly or thick enough. Plan B was using store-bought dulce de leche, but that didn’t work either because even chilled it isn’t firm enough. But, then I remembered the chocolate caramel squares recipe I had mentioned from The Golden Book of Baking, and its caramel layer is built in a slightly different way. After comparing the two recipes, I ended up mixing and matching and adding my own touch by keeping the chocolate glaze from Baked and using the caramel from The Golden Book of Baking and sprinkling the chocolate with French sea salt. To clear up all this confusion, I’ll include the final, complete recipe below.

The shortbread cookie base was made first, and the two books differ in that the Baked version is richer with a little more butter and an added egg yolk. For my final version, I went with the more basic shortbread with no egg from Golden Book of Baking. While the shortbread cooled, the caramel was made. In the successful version, butter, sugar, light corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk were combined in a saucepan over medium heat. It was stirred while the butter melted, then brought to a boil, reduced to a simmer, and stirred while simmering for about 20-25 minutes. The recipe suggests five minutes, but at that point it wasn’t caramel yet. I was not willing to accept failure number two, so I continued cooking until it looked right. From time to time during the 25 or so minutes, I would drop a little caramel onto a white plate to see the color clearly and how it set up at that point. When it looked like the filling in a Twix bar, the caramel was poured over the shortbread and was left to cool. Then, the chocolate glaze was made with melted chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Once melted together and smooth, that combination was poured over the cooled caramel. Last, I sprinkled sea salt on the chocolate before it set because I’m addicted to doing that with anything involving chocolate and/or caramel.

So, finally, after testing, failing, tinkering, and persevering, I did produce what could be called a homemade Twix bar kind of cookie. The three steps can easily be spaced out over two days, and the steps are simple now that I know what works. I did store the cut bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator to keep them firm, but they are solid enough to remain at room temperature and would travel well. Now that I’m happy with this version of a Twix, I may have to move on to trying Michel Richard’s adaptation of a Kit Kat.

Chocolate Caramel Bars
Adapted from Baked and The Golden Book of Baking

print recipe

Shortbread base:
2 c (300 g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (250 g) butter, softened
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar


Caramel layer:
1 c (250 g ) butter, cut into small pieces
1 c (200 g) sugar
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 cans (14 oz/400 g) sweetened condensed milk


Chocolate glaze:
8 oz chocolate of your choice (I used milk chocolate with about 40% cacao), chopped if from bars (I used feves)
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 c (125 g) butter, cut into small pieces
Fleur de sel for sprinkling

Shortbread base:
-Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C) and line a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
-Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Beat butter and sugar in a mixer on high speed until light and well-combined. Turn mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Place dough in the prepared pan and press into an even layer. Placing plastic wrap over the top and pressing with a flat-bottomed glass helps to spread and flatten the dough. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden. Cool pan completely on a rack.

Caramel layer:
-Place butter, sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Allow butter to melt, and stir to combine. Raise heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low again to maintain a simmer while stirring constantly. After ten minutes or so, you may want to switch to a whisk if the butter seems to be separating. For this step, the time could vary a lot depending on the heat of your burner, so watch carefully. The mixture should become a light amber, caramel color, and it should thicken a bit. You can drop a small amount onto a white plate to check the color and consistency while it's cooking. Mine cooked for about 25 minutes. When it reaches the desired color and thickness, pour mixture over shorbread, spread evenly with a heat-proof spatula, and allow to cool completely.

Chocolate glaze:
-In a large, heat-proof bowl, combine chocolate pieces, corn syurp, and butter pieces and place over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly, until melted and well-combined. Remove from the saucepan and allow the chocolate glaze to cool for 30 seconds. Then, pour the glaze over the cooled caramel and spread evenly with an off-set spatula. Allow the glaze to sit and cool for a few seconds before sprinkling with coarse sea salt.

-Cut into narrow bars and serve with a little nostalgia on the side.




46 comments:

  1. You're killing me. I need these now, with my afternoon coffee. Can I come over? Please?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cripes, I could never bake these as much as I wanted to because I'd have to keep them all to myself. Twix are some of my favorite candybars when I was a kid and these beauties sound incredible.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow! Those are absolutely incredible! I am a big fan of the sea salt with caramel and the shortbread crust just makes the whole thing perfection.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love anything caramel! You are a great baker!

    ReplyDelete
  5. My favorite candy bar was Take Five, still is. These turned out beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Those look so scrumptious! A real temptation!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am sending this link Lisa over to my friend in Dallas. She just made her first batch of caramel and I know she will want to try this fabulous recipe you have made...there goes my sugar high!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh - these look soooo much better than Twix......you sure did get it right!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Believe me or not Lisa, Millionaire shortbread is something outstanding that I have to bake. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I have to come back for reference. Yours look awesome! your family is so lucky : )

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love twix, too. I love you take on it. You gave it such an elegant look. I'd be afraid to eat it all. Ok maybe not. hehehe...

    ReplyDelete
  11. my favorite part of a twix is the caramel portion and for that reason, your bars are far superior. the ratio of caramel to cookie is much more preferable to me. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Millionaire's shortbread is very popular here in the UK, you have outdone yourself here, these are just beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You really had me at "shortbread base"... these look wonderful. And really, who can argue with all that caramel?

    ReplyDelete
  14. yumyum! i love millionaires shortbread cookies!

    ReplyDelete
  15. this looks great - its on my list of to-dos and believe I will do.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I lost a game of Trivia on a cruise because no one on our team knew what a Millionaire's Bar was/is.

    Your bars look amazing! I know I'd never forget what a Millionaire's Bar is if I'd seen yours first!

    ReplyDelete
  17. If I come knocking at your door this Halloween, will you let me have a few of these treats? Way better than those packaged Twix!

    ReplyDelete
  18. As you probably know, I find the combination of chocolate and caramel totally intoxicating. Add sea salt in the mix and I'm done for. Thank for for persevering for the rest of us! How did you get such perfect looking bars? Is that the result of them being refrigerated?

    ReplyDelete
  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Dana: You're too kind. They were refrigerated before I cut them, but the layers are stable enough to remain at room temp.

    ReplyDelete
  21. wow-these are so beautiful. and look utterly delicious. maybe you could be my pastry chef?

    ReplyDelete
  22. I am SO making these. I'm not kidding. I'm making these today. I have all of the ingredients. LOVE LOVE LOVE!

    I'm totally down with trying the kit kat recipe, too! I always wanted to get them at his restaurant in DC, but never wanted the calories!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Oh my Lisa, they are sinfully good! Tempting ... tempting!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Waw!! Now, this is so lovely,...pure indulgence, Lisa!!!

    Very rich & I so want it now!!!! MMMM,...GRAND!

    ReplyDelete
  25. While I usually steer away from sweets - that looks amazing!!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thanks for the recipe. I am going to surprise my husband with them, as this is his favorite candy bar too!

    ReplyDelete
  27. These are Twix for adults. No doubt, no doubt, no doubt.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Wow! Homemade Twix bars? Fabulous, Lisa! I love chocolate and caramel and these are too luscious for words!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Twix is my favorite too, so these are right up my alley and so pretty!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Just saw this picture on Foodie View and came right over to get the recipe. Gorgeous and love the sprinkle of salt! Can't wait to try it.

    ReplyDelete
  31. How fantastic they look. So elegant and not a kiddo twix.

    ReplyDelete
  32. lisa thanks so much for this recipe, this are my favorite cookie bars, and finally i can cook them in my house..
    im typing you from panama, :), i know you posted this long time ago, but now im going to keep following your creations.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I (and my granddaughter) made a batch last weekend (it was raining and nothing to do) So we were looking for something to make and came across your web site. Well they were a hit at home and at work all the women at my shop are willing to pay me to make more for them. A couple asked me if I was married.....

    ReplyDelete
  34. Do I need two 14 oz. cans of sweetened condensed milk or just one?

    ReplyDelete
  35. Anonymouse: Yes, two cans at 14 oz each.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Lisa, do you use salted or unsalted butter for this?

    - Allison

    ReplyDelete
  37. Lisa, these are the best cookies EVER. I snagged a couple of them at Carla's swap and was SO SORRY I didn't take more!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Do you refrigerate these at any point during the making process? And do you store them room temp or in the fridge? Thanks!!!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Anonymous: I have refrigerated after adding the caramel layer to speed up the cooling time, and I usually store them in the refrigerator after cutting them. They do fine at room temp, but when it's warm and humid here, I put them in the refrigerator.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Lisa, I made the bars and loved them. Do you know if I can freeze them for later use?
    The recipe made so much, I cannot possibly eat them all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cayla: Yes, I have frozen these before. I let them thaw in the refrigerator. The chocolate may take on a slight greyish bloom after freezing, but it still tastes great!

      Delete
  41. How many bars does this recipe make? It looks absolutly wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't include a quantity because it really depends on how you cut them. I cut narrow bars and had about 36 pieces.

      Delete

Blogging tips