As a kid I was not a big fan of candy bars - I always found them too sweet, and I hated nuts for a long time. However, I did have a soft spot for Twix bars. I had simple tastes and was crazy for cookies, so what could be better than a simple bar with just chocolate, caramel, and cookie?
So far in my chocolate-making adventures I've only made truffles and filled bonbons, but yesterday inspiration struck and I decided to try my hand at chocolate bars. I had some leftover caramel from an earlier experiment with dried Ranier cherries from Trader Joe's and pecans from Arkansas that my mom gave me, and the caramel was a little too sweet to eat by itself.
I wanted to have one last hurrah in my nice Boston kitchen and also to use up some ingredients, so in the morning I baked a layer of chocolate shortbread with some blood orange zest I found in the freezer. This recipe will make a huge batch of bars, so you might want to halve it to start out. Also, it's quite time-consuming so it might be easier to make the caramel and cookie on separate days. You can even wrap the combined caramel-cookie mass and dip the bars on yet another day.
In any case, the bars turned out really well. I especially like to go a bit heavy on the sea salt in the caramels and use salted butter for the cookies, bringing out an extra dimension to the flavor. Using Callebaut caramel milk chocolate in the chocolate coating also complemented the caramel filling, so overall the experiment was a great success.
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
2 cups natural cane sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup honey
6 tablespoons unsalted butter,cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries (optional)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with parchment paper that extends over the sides. An easy way to do this is to get a rectangular sheet slightly larger than the pan and cut out the four corners so that it becomes an 8 by 8 square with four tabs on the sides . Grease with vegetable oil. In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Add the sugar, corn syrup and honey and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 257 degrees on a candy thermometer and remains there for five minutes, a total of 15 to 30 minutes.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and, with oven mitts on, stir in the butter, vanilla and salt. Pour into the prepared pan and let cool. Cool completely, and remove the caramel from the pan using the tabs of parchment paper.
Chocolate shortbread cookie layer
1 cup butter (salted or unsalted), cold and cubed
1 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1/2 orange, grated
Pinch baking powder
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (cut to 1/4 cup if using Valrhona cocoa powder, and add 1/4 cup more flour)
1. Place the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla bean seeds and orange zest in a medium sized mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are combined, about 1 minute.
2. Combine the baking powder, salt, cocoa powder and flour and add to the butter mixture all at once. Beat on low speed just until combined, about 1 minute. (Do not overmix)
3. Remove the dough from the bowl and form it into a 8-by-8-inch rectangle and wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour or up to a few days.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and remove dough from the refrigerator. Line the 8-by-8 inch pan with a parchment paper with tabs and place dough in the pan. Bake for about 10 minutes.
As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, remove the layer from the pan using the parchment paper tabs and place on a cutting board. Place the caramel layer on top of the cookie layer. While it's still warm, cut the cookie-caramel layers into bars of desired size and shape. Spread them out so the caramel doesn't stick together.