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.
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
1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
1 cup medium-fine-chopped pecans
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.
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.
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.
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.
stand at room temperature until set (or chill briefly just until
set). Cover airtight and store at cool room temperature.
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.
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