- Nosh With Me - http://noshwithme.com -

Caramel Crunch Bars

I know it’s a weird thing to say, but I’m not sure how I feel about these bars. You’re probably thinking “shortbread base, chocolate and toffee top, what’s not to like?” and so am I, kinda. But I liken these bars to a so-so date. (Stay with me here.)

Like a so-so date, these bars are nice and sweet and pretty attractive. I could see myself having one and saying, “Eh, that was OK, but I’m not sure I want another.” And I could also see myself eying them on a tray and thinking, “You know, one more wouldn’t be so bad.” Like a date that you’re unsure about. Get it? Come on, I know you single ladies understand what I’m trying to say here.

Update: These were a huge hit and I think even better the second day. Go figure.

Anyway, fortunately for me, these bars are around 1,000,000 points each so the bulk of them are in the freezer while the rest are going with me tomorrow to force feed the girls at my eyebrow place. And finally, Dorie suggests using these to make ice cream sandwiches. I think she may be on to something there.

Base Ingredients
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. instant espresso powder or finely ground instant coffee (I omitted this)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon (I omitted this)
2 sticks (8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 oz. bittersweet or premium milk chocolate, finely chopped

Topping Ingredients
6 oz. bittersweet or premium milk chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup Heath toffee bits

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9×13 inch baking pan, line the pan with foil and butter the foil. Put the pan on a baking sheet.

To make the base: Whisk together the flour, coffee, salt and cinnamon.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and beat for another three minutes or until the mixture is light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla and turn off the mixer. Add all the dry ingredients, cover the stand mixer with a kitchen towel (so you and your kitchen don’t get showered in flour) and pulse the mixer on and off at low speed about 5 times, at which point a peek at the bowl should reveal that it’s safe to turn the mixer to low and mix, uncovered, just until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated. Add the chopped chocolate and mix only until the dry ingredients disappear. If the chocolate isn’t evenly mixed, finish the job by hand with a spatula. You’ll have a very heavy, very sticky dough. Scrape the dough into the buttered pan and, with the spatula and your fingertips, cajole it into a thin, even layer. (I cajoled using an offset spatula.)

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the base is bubbly – so bubbly that you can almost hear it percolating – and puckery. It will look as though it is struggling to pull away from the side of the pan. Transfer the pan to a rack and turn off the oven.

To make the topping: Scatter the chocolate evenly over the top of the hot base and pop the pan back into the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until the chocolate is soft. Remove from oven and immediately spread chocolate over bars, using offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the chocolate and press them down lightly with your fingertips (again, I used the offset spatula because hot desserts and my fingers do not get along well). Place the baking pan on a rack to cool to room temperature.

If, by the time the bars are cool, the chocolate has not set, refrigerate them briefly to firm the chocolate.

Carefully lift out of the pan, using foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. Trim the edges if they seem a bit thick. Cut about 54 bars, each about 2 inches by 1 inch, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours [1] by Dorie Greenspan.