We spent this past weekend with our ‘Nati’ family (translate: Cincinnati family) which is always filled with lots of laughs and great conversation; in fact, there was a story about cupcakes that put all of us into fits of laughter but that story will have to wait until another post. I love, no, make that LOVE caramel – deep golden amber, buttery, silky, melt-in-your-mouth rich caramel. Pies, cakes, cupcakes (there’s that word again), candy – doesn’t matter – if it has caramel in it, that’s always my first choice for something sweet; add a bit of chocolate and a pinch of salt and I’ve died and gone to heaven. And since this weekend was going to be a super quick trip and since I was dying to share this recipe and since I knew I’d be leaving the leftovers with them (because really, I could eat an entire batch myself!), it was perfect timing. And because really, how can you go wrong with a Martha Stewart recipe?
A couple of notes: the original recipe calls for milk chocolate and then pour the entire batch of chocolate-caramel onto the baked shortbread base. The first time I made the recipe, I felt the milk chocolate was a bit too sweet and using the entire batch of chocolate-caramel overpowered the cookie – in fact, the cookie was lost completely. Sooooo this batch, I substituted 60% Valrhona chocolate and then used 1/4 of the sauce which was about the right ratio of cookie to chocolate-caramel. By all means, if you prefer milk chocolate and want to use all of the sauce, go for it. A great make-ahead recipe for Thanksgiving or holiday sweet table. By the way, any leftover sauce makes for KILLER lattes – coffee, milk and a teaspoon of the leftover sauce (or more if you like) and voila’ – a latte’ better than Starbucks and significantly cheaper – seriously!
CHOCOLATE-CARAMEL COOKIE BARS MAKES 16
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, November 2009
FOR THE CRUST
41/2 ounces (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for parchment
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
FOR THE CHOCOLATE CARAMEL
10 ounces milk chocolate, chopped (2 cups) – I used Valrhona 60% Dark Chocolate
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter – I used Plugra which has more butterfat, hence a richer carmel taste
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon table salt
tablespoon sea salt, preferably fleur de sel – I used Maldron as that’s what I had on hand
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Make the crust:
Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides; butter parchment, excluding overhang. Beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour and table salt, and beat until just combined.
2. Press dough evenly into pan, and bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
3. Make the chocolate caramel: Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, washing sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming, until amber, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter, cream, and table salt. Bring to a boil, stirring until smooth. Pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Stir to combine, and let stand until cool, about 10 minutes.
4. Pour mixture over crust. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight. Run a knife around edges; lift parchment to remove whole bar from pan. Sprinkle with sea salt. Trim edges, and cut into 16 bars. Bars can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.