by Stephanie Zonis
Crunchy Caramel Bars
These are my take on an old mainstream American classic, but they're better because they include chocolate! You don't need many ingredients, and they go together pretty quickly, but be warned that things can get a bit messy when you're making them! Feel free to substitute other nuts for the pecans in the topping—walnuts or roasted, unsalted peanuts would be a good choice.
Once made, these can be stored at cool room temperature for at least a week; they also freeze well. Be sure the caramels you use are soft and fresh. It is imperative that you butter the lined pan, as well as the cooking pot and utensils that will come in contact with the bars while you're making them. I cut these into small bars, as they are quite rich.
4 Tbsp. water
Enough individually-wrapped caramels
to make 1 pound when unwrapped
6 cups crispy rice cereal
9 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
(or use 1-1/2 cups semisweet chips)
1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
1 cup medium-fine-chopped pecans
Line a 13 by 9 inch pan (at least 1-1/2 inches deep) with heavy-duty aluminum foil (or two lengths of regular-weight foil), shiny side up, pressing out as many creases as possible. With softened butter, butter the lined pan. Butter the inside of a four-quart, heavy-bottomed pot; the bowls of several large spoons; a rubber spatula; and the tines of a sturdy whisk. Have a bit of softened butter standing by for pressing the mixture into the pan.
Pour the water into the four-quart pot. Make sure all of the wrapping has been removed from the caramels, then add them gently so they don't splash. Set the pot over low heat. Melt the caramels, stirring first with one of the large spoons you've buttered; mash the caramels slightly if they are stubborn about melting. Be careful here, as the water can splash until it is incorporated into the caramels. Stir constantly, scraping pot bottom and sides with rubber spatula occasionally. If your caramels continue to be stubborn about melting completely, as mine always are, switch to stirring them with a whisk. Whisk/stir briskly until caramels are smooth and melted and water is completely incorporated. Remove from heat.
All at once, add cereal. With one of the large buttered spoons, stir well just until ingredients are well-mixed and cereal is coated with caramel mixture. Scrape into prepared pan.
Immediately press evenly into bottom of pan, using the backs of buttered spoons (you'll have to re-butter the backs of the spoons periodically) or, if caramel mixture isn't too hot, your buttered fingers. Work quickly; this sets up rapidly. Allow to cool completely before applying topping.
In medium heatproof bowl, combine chocolate and shortening. Place over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl). Stir often just until smooth and melted. Remove from heat and hot water; dry bowl bottom and sides with towel. Pour slowly all over top of bars, then spread quickly with back of spoon or offset spatula to make as even a layer as possible. Immediately sprinkle pecans evenly all over top of chocolate layer. With back of a clean spoon, press pecans gently into chocolate.
Let stand at room temperature until set (or chill briefly just until set). Cover airtight and store at cool room temperature.
To cut, use a large, sharp, heavy, straight-edged knife. Butter or oil the blade (use tasteless vegetable oil). Remove uncut block, still in foil, from pan, and transfer to cutting board; gently peel foil back from edges. Score the top of the block where you want to make cuts, then cut down firmly with knife blade. It may be necessary to rinse the knife blade under very hot water, dry it, then re-butter it once or twice during the cutting process if you want to keep your cuts neat. Store cut bars airtight at cool room temperature; freeze for longer storage.
I Love Chocolate
Copyright © 2000 Francesca Chocolate Productions. All Rights Reserved.
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This page created October 2000