Posted by Grace Massa Langlois on Friday, 9th March 2012
I was craving one of my favourite dessert combinations, Sweet and Salty and I remembered these, Chocolate-Caramel Cookie Bars my friend Debra (Smith Bites) made a little while back. When Debra posted about them I recall wanting to run into the kitchen and make them right away (tempting!) and then one thing led to another and I’d completely forgotten all about them. How is that possible? Sometimes life gets in the way of guilty pleasures. It’s probably a good thing I forgot because these are amazing! And I had to stop myself from enjoying the whole batch of chocolate caramel and nutty deliciousness.
Debra finished these cookie bars with a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel (sea salt) and although I love salted treats the kids aren’t partial to sea salt. I still wanted that saltiness but I also wanted to add a nutty flavour so I decided to layer and top the bars with Pecan Praline. Adding the praline also provided that bit of crunch, the perfect contrast to the velvety chocolate-caramel ganache.
I did add a small sprinkling of sea salt to the piece, okay, pieces, I enjoyed. I couldn’t help myself! One taste and you too will find them hard to resist. And Debra is 100% correct if you serve these to your friends and family you’ll become an “instant rock star”.
I wanted to share some information with you regarding an ingredient I’ve become dependent on when making caramel, liquid glucose. Liquid glucose is an invert sugar. Invert sugar is ideal for baking because it does a number of things. It helps to prevent crystallization which is invaluable in caramel making and also when making sorbetto or ice cream. It helps to improve flavour and texture, increases tenderness and moistness and also helps to preserve baked goods.
Professional chefs use it because it provides a smoother mouth feel in preparations like ganache, fudge, caramel, sorbet and ice cream. It can be difficult to find, which is probably the reason why most home cooks substitute it with corn syrup. I do find in caramel making that corn syrup does work well too. When researching the ingredient I read that it also enhances aromas in sorbet and certain chocolate ganache applications. Up to this point I’ve only used glucose in caramel making. This dessert gave me the perfect opportunity to try it in a ganache application, not only would it prevent crystallization in the caramel but it should also deepen the aroma in the ganache.
I’m happy to report it worked like a charm. And I’m more than eager to try it in ice cream. I think crystallization is the one thing we all struggle with when making homemade ice cream. In the classic preparation for sorbetto alcohol and egg white is used to help reduce the crystallization, which ultimately does help to give a much better mouth feel but I do plan on trying glucose the next time I make it.
Although as I mentioned above liquid glucose can be difficult to find our local bulk food store carries it (I was very surprised) and I also believe Michael’s carries the Wilton brand. And I’ve also found a recipe for homemade invert sugar at The Kitchn. I plan on trying the recipe this weekend. From all I’ve read the syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
If you struggle with caramel making you may want to see if you can locate a bottle first because it’s fairly inexpensive to purchase. When it comes to making caramel I usually substitute a portion (1 to 2 tablespoons) of the sugar with glucose. If you use glucose in your baking applications I hope you’ll share you experience via the comments section.
Back to cookie bars, if you’re looking for a fairly simple recipe for a take along dessert I hope you’ll try these Chocolate-Caramel Cookie Bars. The classic pairing of rich chocolate and ooey gooey caramel is tempting on it’s own but paired with the crunchy, nuttiness of Pecan Praline and a butter cookie crust makes the pairing in these cookie bars even more alluring and downright out of this world delicious!
Chocolate-Caramel Cookie Bars with Pecan Praline
Makes 16 bars
- Pecan Praline
- Cookie Crust
- Chocolate-Caramel Ganache
If you do not have liquid glucose on hand (see note above), substitute with dark corn syrup or increase sugar to 150 g (2/3 cup).
Makes about 275 g or 10 ounces
- 127 g (½ + 1 tablespoon) caster (superfine) sugar
- 25 g (1¾ tablespoons) liquid glucose
- 45 ml (3 tablespoons) water
- 150 g (1½ cups) pecan halves, toasted and coarse to finely chopped
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick baking paper or silicone baking mat. If using non-stick baking paper lightly grease with vegetable spray (not necessary to grease silicone baking mat). Place a 20-cm (8-inch) ring mould (or sides of a springform pan) in the centre of the baking sheet. Place pecans in the mould in a single layer, set-aside. Lift the mould off the baking sheet.
- In a small saucepan, bring sugar, glucose and water to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar and glucose are dissolved. Continue to cook sugar syrup, without stirring, occasionally swirling the pan over the heat and brushing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water (to prevent sugar crystals from forming), to medium amber colour or 160° C (320° F) on a candy thermometer, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Working quickly, pour the hot caramel over the pecans making sure to evenly coat the pecans. Let stand until praline is set and cooled completely.
- To layer bars with praline, break off one-quarter (about 70 g or 2½ ounces) of the praline round into medium-size pieces. Transfer pieces to a resealable plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, crush praline into small pieces and transfer to small bowl, set aside. For garnish, break off a few additional pieces of praline and using the rolling pin, crush into small pieces, set-aside.
- Store leftover praline, first wrapped in non-stick baking paper and then placed in a resealable plastic freezer bag or airtight container in the freezer up to 1 month.
- 127 g (½ cup + 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened
- 50 g (¼ cup) golden yellow sugar (light brown sugar)
- 188 g (1½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- Preheat oven to 180° C (350° F). Line 23-cm (9-inch) square baking tin with non-stick baking paper, leaving a 5-cm (2-inch) overhang on all sides. Using a pastry brush, grease base and sides of baking paper with softened butter (do not grease overhang). In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt until combined well.
- In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Reduce mixer speed to low, gradually add the flour mixture and beat just to combine, occasionally scraping down sides, bottom of bowl and paddle attachment.
- Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared baking tin and press the dough evenly onto the base of the tin.
- Bake, rotating tin halfway through baking time, until lightly golden, about 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle reserved praline evenly over warm crust. Let stand on rack to continue cooling while you prepare the ganache.
If you do not have liquid glucose (read post above) on hand increase sugar to 338 g (1½ cups) (do not substitute with corn syrup for this element). FYI, take extreme caution when adding the butter and cream to the caramel because the caramel will boil ferociously and come up the sides of the saucepan. To reduce the “bubbling up” make sure butter and cream are at room temperature.
- 297 g (10½ ounces) good quality bittersweet chocolate, 60%, finely chopped
- 313 g (1 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) caster (superfine) sugar
- 25 g (1¾ tablespoons) liquid glucose
- 60 ml (¼ cup) water
- 85 g (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 240 ml (1 cup) heavy cream, 35%, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon sea salt, preferably fleur de sel (optional)
- Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
- In a small saucepan, bring sugar, glucose, and water to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar and glucose are dissolved. Continue cooking sugar, without stirring, occasionally swirling the pan over the burner and washing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water (to prevent sugar crystals from forming), until medium amber, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Remove from heat. While stirring continuously, carefully add the butter, cream, vanilla and salt. Return to medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring continuously until caramel is smooth. Remove from heat and pour the hot caramel over the chocolate. Let stand, 2 minutes.
- Using a flexible rubber spatula, beginning in the centre of the bowl and working outwards, stir the chocolate and caramel together until combined well and ganache is smooth. Let stand until cool, about 10 minutes.
- Pour ganache evenly over the praline layer. Grasp both sides of the pan and gently push the pan back and forth to ensure ganache spreads evenly to sides of pan. Gently tap the baking tin on the counter a couple of times to release any air bubbles that may have formed. Loosely cover with a sheet of non-sticking baking paper and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
To Serve Cookie Bars
**Special Note** For best presentation, I found popping the whole bar in the freezer (after removing it from the baking tin and baking paper) for 30 minutes made it much easier to cut the individual bars. Also, it’s best to cut the bars with a knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry with a kitchen towel in between each cut. To serve, bring individual bars to room temperature, sprinkle with pecan praline and enjoy! Allowing the bars to come to room temperature before serving ensures the best flavour. Sprinkling with praline just before serving ensures the praline will stay put because the chocolate-caramel is soft and sticky and did I mention luscious?
- Pecan Praline
- Sea Salt (Fleur de Sel), optional in place of pecan praline
- Remove whole bar from the refrigerator. To remove the whole bar from the baking tin, run a thin knife around the edges of the tin and carefully lift the baking paper. Transfer whole bar to cutting board.
- Sprinkle with reserved pecan praline or sea salt. Trim the edges and cut into bars.
- Buon Appetito!
Tags: after school treat, afternoon tea, bars, caramel, caramel recipes, chocolate, chocolate dessert, chocolate desserts, chocolate recipes, cookie bars, dessert, desserts, desserts for entertaining, entertaining, food, food photography, food photos, ganache, individual dessert, individual desserts, Martha Stewart recipes, petits four, salted-caramel, squares
Posted in Baking & Pastry, Baking Mise en Place, Basics, Biscotti, Cookies, Custards, Creams & Mousses, Fillings, Frostings & Dessert Sauces, Pasticcini, Pastries, Pastry Doughs & Batter, Recipes, Ricette di Base