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Chocolate Caramel Bars

chocolate caramel slice bars

Chocolate Caramel Bars*

Chocolate  caramel slice is a popular dessert in Australia, with a coconut cookie base, a layer of caramel made with condensed milk, and topped with a smooth river of chocolate. Every I see pictures of it, I want it, and don’t care how sweet and indulgent it looks.

The trouble is, I think when caramel is is made from sweetened condensed milk (as much as I LOVE that stuff), the flavor winds up a little flat. A couple of weeks ago I made chocolate caramel tartelettes for my own website, and the caramel in that was spectacular, so I used a similar caramel in the bars I made today.

Also, I didn’t want to add coconut to the base, as I wanted the caramel itself to really shine, so I made the base a simple shortbread crust.

It turns out I changed the recipe so much from the original caramel slice, that I just decided to change the name of it altogether and go with the very American sounding “Chocolate Caramel Bars.”

Chocolate Caramel Bars

for the crust:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

for the caramel:

6 tablespoons heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream, NOT “whipping cream”)
6 butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
pinch salt
1/2 cup water

for the chocolate layer:

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. For the crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 inch pan with an 8×12 inch piece of parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides (use a dab of butter under the paper to keep it in place). In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and salt until smooth. Add in flour, and mix until well combined, scraping the bowl down as necessary. Do not over mix. Spread mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until starting to turn golden brown. Set aside to cool completely.

2. Place cream, butter, vanilla and sour cream in a small dish or glass. Set aside. Set a small glass of water on the counter near the stove (this will be for testing the candy). To make the caramel, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water in a high-side heavy bottomed saucepan. Set over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, swirling the pan as necessary to keep the heat evenly distributed.

3. Watch the sugar mixture carefully. At first, it will look clear and watery. This means the water is still not completely evaporated. Once the bubbles in the sugar syrup start to look viscous, and the bubbles’ surface look thick, you will know that the water has evaporated, and the mixture is beginning to go through the various stages of candy. DON”T LEAVE THE ROOM! Watch for the syrup to turn a warm amber color. Take a teaspoon to retrieve a small amount of the syrup and drop the syrup into the glass of water. If it forms a hard ball of candy, then your syrup is done. If it is still soft, continue cooking the syrup until when tested again, it produces the proper hard blob of candy. Once the hard crack stage is achieved, pull the pan off the heat and carefully pour in the cream and butter mixture that you set aside earlier. At this point, the mixture will bubble violently. Use caution and whisk briskly until the mixture comes together and is smooth. Pour into the cooled shortbread crust. Place in the refrigerator until set, about 2 hours.

3. When the caramel is set, make the ganache. Heat cream in a microwave bowl for about 45 seconds. Pour in chocolate chips and vanilla. Let sit for about a minute or two, then whisk until smooth. Pour over caramel. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour more. Cut into squares.

*This picture was taken today, after I made the caramel without enough cream or chocolate (time to go to the store!). Yours will come out gooier and chocolatier.

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