Thursday, March 29, 2012

Caramel Crunch Bars, Sans Caramel

Weak month, Baking Sisters. Weak.

Yesterday was my birthday. Yay! It was also Rachel's Hebrew birthday (her English birthday is over Passover, which is not optimal for creating delicious baked goods) so we got cupcakes from Evil Crumbs. I had Evil Oreo and she had Evil Vanilla. Sinfully delicious.

Anyway, I have been baking quite a bit, but I haven't been making any new recipes. I'm going to try out some new stuff for my birthday party on Sunday and report back to you. But for now I thought I'd post about one of those recipes I've made a dozen times but, for whatever reason, have never posted about here. And where better to go for such a recipe than Dorie?

I don't know why they're called caramel crunch bars, since there isn't really any caramel involved (I guess the toffee?), but this is really one of my favorites nevertheless. I make it all the time. It's easy and it's rich, what could be better? The crust is an amazing buttery shortbread, and if you use good-quality chocolate and any-quality heath chips (you really can't go wrong with heath chips) you'll have a fabulous treat on your hands. Plus, it's fun to watch the crust bubble, and to lick the back of the spoon when you're done spreading the melty chocolate. I got the idea to put it in a mini-tart pin from a picture I saw on Tastespotting (this was before Pinterest, if you even remember such a time). It was good but the crust is necessarily going to be a little thicker, so keep that in mind and adjust your preferences accordingly. Dorie recommends using them as cookies in an ice cream sandwich but even I have to have to impose limits occasionally!

Caramel Crunch Bars

From Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the Base

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp instant espresso powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
½ cup brown sugar (packed)
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
For the Topping
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup Heath Toffee Bits


1. Preheat your oven to 375F. Butter a 9×13 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, espresso powder, salt and cinnamon.
3. Beat butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 3 minutes or until the mixture is light and creamy. Beat in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until almost incorporated.
4. Add the chopped chocolate and mix only until dry ingredients disappear.
5. Using spatula or fingertips press dough into buttered pan into a thin, even layer.
6. Bake for 20-22 minutes until base is bubbly. Remove pan and turn off oven.
7. Scatter chocolate evenly over hot base.
8. Return pan to hot oven for 2-3 minutes until chocolate is soft.
9. Remove from oven and immediately spread chocolate over bars using spatula or back of spoon.
10. Sprinkle toffee bits over chocolate and allow to cool to room temperature.
11. If chocolate hasn’t set by the time the bars are cool, place in refrigerator briefly until chocolate firms up.
12. Cut bars into rectangles or squares.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ethnic Flavor: Hamentashen with 3 3-year-olds

Purim, the Jewish holiday that starts Wednesday night, is really a celebration holiday.  Everyone wears costumes, has parties and eats delicious cookies called Hamentashen, all in celebration of the Jewish victory over the evil Haman.  Hamentashen are shaped like a triangle, like either Haman's hat or Haman's ear, depending on who you ask.

Hamentashen should be relatively easy to make.  You make dough, roll it out, cut circles, put in a drop of filling and then pinch them into a triangle shape.  However, I have yet to make hamentashen where the sides of the cookies don't open up.  If you have made yummy cookies and used good quality filling, this isn't a big problem, because they are still delicious, but it can be annoying to do all that work and still have them open.  When you are making them with 3 3-year-olds, this is even more likely to happen.

Some important things I have learned:
1.  You want to make the dough really, really thin.  Thinner than you would think.
2.  You should only put in a very, very small amount of filling
3.  Use some beaten egg around the edges of the circle before you pinch it to act as glue

If all these things happen, generally they won't open up, but if one of them is off, it won't work.  Most important is to use a cookie that is tasty and filling that you like (there are no rules -- you can use anything), so that even if they open, they will still be good to eat.

I used this recipe, from Kosher By Design.  Overall, they were a hit with the 3 year olds and their parents.
Related Posts with Thumbnails