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Chocolate-Caramel Cookie Bars

  • yield: Makes 16

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Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 4 1/2 ounces (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for parchment
  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt

For the Chocolate Caramel

  • 10 1/2 ounces milk chocolate, chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt, preferably fleur de sel

Cook's Note

Bars can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the crust: Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides; butter parchment, excluding overhang. Beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour and table salt, and beat until just combined.

  2. Step 2

    Press dough evenly into pan, and bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

  3. Step 3

    Make the chocolate caramel: Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, washing sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming, until amber, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter, cream, and table salt. Bring to a boil, stirring until smooth. Pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Stir to combine, and let stand until cool, about 10 minutes.

  4. Step 4

    Pour mixture over crust. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight. Run a knife around edges; lift parchment to remove whole bar from pan. Sprinkle with sea salt. Trim edges, and cut into 16 bars.

Source
Martha Stewart Living, November 2009

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Reviews (40)

  • Janelle 14 Dec, 2013

    I am confused as to why everyone says this caramel doesn't work...If you follow in instructions stated it works PERFECT!! And delicious! When you add the cream and butter, it does clump into a big hard sugar ball, but then it states to put it back on the heat and bring to a boil...which it then melts back to a liquid and you have a perfect caramel! I think everyone just gave up after it clumped and didnt finish what the recipe actually said!

  • MarthaRocks1213 25 Nov, 2013

    Ready to make these scrumptious bars for a second time. They really do taste like twix bars. I did combine the milk and dark as another reviewer had suggested and agree this was a good choice. A great way to use up odds of gourmet chocolate bars! These are a must for a dinner party or a simple get together. My colleague at work loved them too.

  • MaryDGinHP 21 Sep, 2013

    Like at twix bar, and so Rich

  • AshEklund 10 Apr, 2013

    These bars are fantastic. A couple of things I would change next time:
    1. Prick the shortbread before baking to prevent air bubbles.
    2. Use a mixture of milk and dark chocolate to cut some of the sweetness from the caramel.
    I had no issues with the caramel as written in the recipe.

  • Rachel Fowler 16 Dec, 2012

    i had trouble with the caramel too, esp, as i live in Denver, and i imagine the high altitude has something to do it. (i have similar issues when i make creme caramel, but the caramel there requires a great deal of water, not like this). the water evaporated and i was left with a hard pile of sugar that didn't melt again. Advice welcome!

  • loogiejane 28 Jul, 2012

    This recipe is genius. I don't know what inspired me to make it mid-summer as they're much more "holiday" feeling but I'm glad I experimented to discover it worked. Previous posters gave good advice to NOT put water into the sugar. I found a youtube vid on how to carmelize sugar and it was so darn easy! I let the cookie bottom cool for about 15 minutes before pouring candy layer on= no sliding caramel. Best of out fridge but still great at room temp- just gooier. Sprinkled lots of salt-sublime

  • simone96 28 Jan, 2012

    Delicious! This process for making caramel is not easy. Mine never turned amber, even after cooking 30min. All I had was a mess. So, I listened to the prev reviews and made caramel w/out the water,super easy. I highly recommend watching a video on line as one of the other reviews says. i suggest: http://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?p=how+to+caramelize+sugar
    Also, if you're using the standard 9X11 pan, you'll want to double the shortbread but one batch of chocolate caramel is enough.

  • SSCB 23 Dec, 2011

    I had trouble with the caramel ... tried it 3 times before I found a tip which recommended adding a 1/4 tsp lemon juice which helped keep it from crystallizing ... the bars are in the fridge and I hope the chocolate caramel topping does not slide off the cookie crust when I cut into them tomorrow

  • cameragirl13 1 Dec, 2011

    I made these last year as part of my Christmas cookie "gifts". They were far and away the surefire favorite of everyone! People are still talking about them and begging me to include them this year. Despite one review, this caramel never hardens as much as others and does need refrigeration. Follow the directions, but stir the sugar/water just until dissolved. Then don't stir again. Occasionally swirl the pan to get the color going. Use the pastry brush to clean the sides of the pan. Great

  • Manal4 14 Apr, 2011

    I made this recipe as it's the only change I made was substituting the sea salt with crunshed pistachio and it was really delicioius and everybody liked it.

  • Lisa2999 22 Dec, 2010

    Trying to melt the sugar and water in the pan was horrible. I knew I could check these comments and find the answer. Watching a youtube video for caramelizing sugar (without any water) was perfect!

  • jenhominid 21 Dec, 2010

    Cheldi - I would use almond flour instead of rice flour, it will have a better flavor with the caramel and chocolate.

  • jenhominid 21 Dec, 2010

    Cheldi - I would use almond flour instead of rice flour, it will have a better flavor with the caramel and chocolate.

  • jenhominid 21 Dec, 2010

    Cheldi - I would use almond flour instead of rice flour, it will have a better flavor with the caramel and chocolate.

  • FlakyPastry 17 Dec, 2010

    I totally agree with the previous commenter. The water is unnecessary in this recipe and wreaks havoc on what would otherwise be easy sugar caramelization. The first time I made it, the stars must have been aligned, b/c everything went exactly as the recipe said. (BTW, those clean-cut bars in the photo were done by using a hot wet knife.) The second time I made it, caramelizing was a fiasco b/c of the water causing sugar crystals to form. Watch a YouTube video on caramelizing--skip the water!

  • christieoftheprairie 16 Dec, 2010

    A couple of tips: the water is only to help the sugar dissolve. It must boil off before the sugar can caramelize. Also, once the sugar is dissolved and boiling, DO NOT STIR, that may cause crystallization. Only stir when it's time to add the remaining ingredients. It will harden, but work quickly and keep stirring until it all comes back. Again, I recommend watching an on-line tutorial. It's not difficult if you understand the process, which sadly, is not really addressed in this recipe.

  • christieoftheprairie 16 Dec, 2010

    Editors, I find there is usually a lot of information missing from recipes on this site. I've been caramelizing sugar for years, and it is no wonder that so many of the comments below indicate the recipe did not turn out. Why publish recipes that don't have all the necessary information? Readers, if you've never caramelized sugar before, you may want to check out some on-line tutorials.It's easy-once you have complete information. This recipe worked for me, but I've had practice with sugar.

  • love_my_sheltie 25 Nov, 2010

    I added corn syrup to the water which will prevent sugar crystalization. Otherwise, by boiling the water and sugar all of the water is evaporating so that you are left with a big sugar crystal. In order for the caramel to be "caramel" it must reach at least soft ball stage before and after adding the butter, salt, and cream. This may completely change the recipe, but it is delicious! Keep stirring after adding cream. I skipped the salt, did not like it.

  • ArtistaRaquel 22 Nov, 2010

    I meant to mention before, I used an 8" square pan and semisweet chocolate chips. The caramel never turned amber and was always clear, but it still worked out great. (In trying to get it to darken, I ended up boiling all the water off completely and was left with just crystallized sugar bubbles! I added a splash of water and it reconstituted, but still no darkening of the liquid.)

  • Bonnie047 21 Nov, 2010

    I made these but the caramel didn't set properly and slowly started to slide off the base. Not to be disheartened, I scooped off about 1/2 the caramel, roughly chopped the base and folded it through a 2 litre tub of softened vanilla ice cream - Voila! Caramel Crunch Icecream.The family loved it!

  • kenzbenz03 20 Nov, 2010

    Delicious! I made without the sea salt, and were fine. Would be interested to try with semi-sweet or dark chocolate. I used an 8 x 8 pan, so the caramel was extra thick, which was fine by me! I would put in the fridge over night to let it fully set. Perfect dessert option for people with egg allergies!

  • kenzbenz03 20 Nov, 2010

    Delicious! I made without the sea salt, and were fine. Would be interested to try with semi-sweet or dark chocolate. I used an 8 x 8 pan, so the caramel was extra thick, which was fine by me! I would put in the fridge over night to let it fully set. Perfect dessert option for people with egg allergies!

  • ArtistaRaquel 20 Nov, 2010

    Delicious! I made this with Pamela's Bread Mix / Gluten Free Flour. It was my first attempt at making a "regular" recipe with GF flour, and it turned out great. It makes me happy, having determined that I have a gluten issue only three weeks ago, that I can still make my Martha Stewart recipes :)

  • Lanet 18 Nov, 2010

    @lynnkitty

    Rice and corn do not have the gluten protein in them that those with celiacs disease or gluten intolerance should avoid. And there are some certified gluten free oat products out there. A good resource for those with celiacs disease is http://www.celiac.org.

  • lynnkitty 18 Nov, 2010

    Note to cheldi, I recently viewed a video on gluten intolerance and celiac disease. The bottom line was that anyone with gluten intolerance or celiac disease should absolutely not injest any grains. All grains have some level of gluten including, but not limited to flour, oats, rice, corn, rye, etc. Check out Suzy Cohen's site on Facebook to find the link. Very informative. Good luck!!!

  • logoaway 18 Nov, 2010

    These are delish! cheldi -You could substitute rice flour for the AP flour, but it may produce a more crumbly texture and generally you would use less (maybe 1 1/8c). Some combine the rice flour with potato and/or tapioca starch for a better texture. mshydrangea - once the water evaporates the crystals will then melt and caramelize. If you want to avoid the crystallization add a bit of corn syrup to prevent the formation.

  • cheldi 18 Nov, 2010

    i would like to make these for a party, but they need to be gluten free as the host has celiac disease. could they be made with rice flour?

  • cheldi 18 Nov, 2010

    i would like to make these for a party, but they need to be gluten free as the host has celiac disease. could they be made with rice flour?

  • CathiM 18 Nov, 2010

    Reading the directions, I don't see how you can make cookies like the ones in the photo unless you cook the dough, cut the bars then somehow spoon the chocolate over the cookie just right to get it to run down the sides. And fleur de sel needs to be used sparingly: just a crystal or two in each bite.

  • mshydrangea 3 Nov, 2010

    While making the caramel, the water evaporated at minute 10 and I was left with clumps of sugar. I tried again with the same result, but the mixture hadn't turned amber before the water evaporated. What should I do to prevent the evaporation?

  • IamLotusFlower 9 Oct, 2010

    These are the best cookies ever! They are the perfect combination of buttery, chocolaty, sweet

  • madellorto 4 Jul, 2010

    Oh my goodness ... these bars were delicious, super easy to make and everyone loved them. The salt on top is what makes it so great. This recipe is a keeper and I can't wait to make them again.

  • Meltemi 21 Feb, 2010

    Niktil, I can tell you without a doubt, caramel does not like the refrigerator. Why the directions say to refrigerate is beyond me. I graduated both culinary and baking and pastries and I have always known that to be true as caramel hygroscopic. Don't refrigerate, would be my advice.

  • Meltemi 20 Feb, 2010

    Why couldn't you double the recipe???

  • smoothness 13 Dec, 2009

    these are very yummy. i used bittersweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate, because i figured it would otherwise be too sweet. they were still a little too sweet for me, but everyone loved them!

  • NicTil1980 7 Dec, 2009

    I made these and refrigerated them overnight. When I was going to cut them, the chocolate caramel made it known that it hadn't "set" properly. I am not sure what I did wrong. But the taste of the chocolatey-caramelly goodness was spectacular!

  • MadilynRose13 24 Nov, 2009

    i am wondering if you can double the recipe?

  • tristangrace 12 Nov, 2009

    Reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally fabulous. And quite straightforward to make. I only had an 8 x 8 pan, and consequently the chocolate caramel layer was a bit thick. Can't wait to make them again.

  • tristangrace 12 Nov, 2009

    Reeeeeeeeeeeeeally fabulous. And very straightforward to make. I only had an 8 x 8 pan, and consequently the chocolate caramel layer was a bit thick. Can't wait to make them again.

  • claudinemarsh 11 Nov, 2009

    These cookies were easy to make, asbolutely delicious and HUGE hit!! You must try them.