Thursday, November 25, 2010

Salted Chocolate Caramel Bars

I borrowed Giada De Laurentiis' Espresso Caramel Bar recipe and made a couple of tweaks to make it my own.  First I increased the crust thickness, second I doubled the caramel thickness. I left out the coffee and I topped the chocolate with Himalayan Sea Salt and shaved chocolate. This experiment turned out to be a very tasty (and rich) treat that is easy to make if you need a quick and guest-pleasing dessert!

Here is the recipe for Salted Chocolate Caramel Bars- enjoy!

Cake Release or Vegetable cooking spray
3 C Graham cracker crumbs
1/4 + 1/8 C Sugar
2 + 1/4 sticks Unsalted butter, melted

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 F
1) Grease the bottom of a springform pan (a 9x13 pan will work ok- you can line it with foil then grease the foil, but a springform is best)
2) Mix the crumbs, sugar and melted butter to form a crumbly mixture.
3) Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the greased pan.
4) Bake for 12-15 minutes.
5) Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before layering on the caramel sauce (do not skip this cooling step! If you do, when you pour the caramel sauce it can break up your crust- I learned that one the hard way!)

Caramel: While the crust is baking, start making the caramel sauce. This part of the recipe can be halved, but I prefer a thick layer of caramel.

1 C Heavy whipping cream
2 sticks Unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 C light brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp Water

Instructions: Use a medium-sized saucepan
1) On medium heat melt the butter completely (but don't burn the butter).
2) Add in the brown sugar, whipping cream and water, stirring occasionally until the mixture reaches a boil.
3) After the mixture starts to boil, allow it to boil for 5-7 minutes without stirring. The temperature of the mixture should be about 240 F if you are using a candy thermometer; however, a complete rolling boil of the mixture for 6 minutes should be sufficient (the timed method is what I've used the 3 times I've made the recipe and it has worked out each time).
4) Once crust (see above) has cooled, pour the caramel mixture on top and allow to cool for about 30 minutes (the caramel will set up and be firm enough to form a distinct layer before you put the chocolate layer on).  *Note: I typically stick the pan in the freezer for about 20 minutes to speed up the process (I'm not patient :) )

Chocolate: While the caramel layer is setting on the crust, start making the chocolate mixture. Wait until there are about 5 minutes left of cooling because this part goes fast!
4 C (2 bags) Semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 C Heavy whipping cream
3 1/2 tsp Instant coffee  (optional)
1 tsp Himalayan Sea salt or Fleur de Sal (optional- used on top of chocolate- do not mix it in)

Instructions: Use a medium-sized saucepan on low heat.
1) Mix the chocolate chips, cream and coffee.
2) Stir the mixture constantly to prevent burning.
3) Once chocolate has melted and is smooth, pour evenly over the caramel layer and smooth with a silicone spatula.
4) Sprinkle Sea Salt on top of the chocolate, or grate chocolate to garnish.  Allow chocolate to set completely before cutting into bars.
*Note: The caramel layer tends to get slightly soft if the bars are left out of the refrigerator too long, so keep the bars refrigerated / frozen until you are ready to serve them.
*Another Note: This treat can be very rich, so cutting into 1-2" squares is recommended.