Bittersweet Chocolate Caramel Bars

For Valentine, why not try these scrumptious chocolate caramel bars composed of three sublime layers- a buttery crust, a caramel center, and a dark chocolate coating! They can be prepared 2 days ahead so there’s no last minute work, and the recipe, which yields 16 bars, can be doubled or tripled depending on your needs.

Bittersweet Chocolate Caramel Bars

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened plus extra for greasing the baking pan
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour

Chocolate and Caramel Layers
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate), coarsely chopped
1/3 cup heavy or whipping cream

1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degree F. Butter an 8-inch baking pan, then line it with a sheet of aluminum foil cut 8 inches wide and long enough to extend 3 to 4 inches over 2 sides of the pan. Butter the foil.

2. In a mixing bowl cream butter with an electric mixer on medium speed, then beat in the sugar and salt. Beat 1 to 2 minutes to blend well, and then beat in the flour. Gather the dough into a ball and place in mounds, about a teaspoon each, on the bottom of the pan. With your fingers, press to form a smooth, even layer. Prick the dough with the tines of a fork. Bake until just starting to color lightly, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove pan, but retain oven temperature.

3. Place 1 tablespoon each butter and light brown sugar in a heavy, medium saucepan set over medium low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk until sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Add milk and salt and, whisking constantly, bring mixture to a slight simmer. Cook, whisking constantly and never letting mixture come to a boil, until it thickens and becomes a light caramel color, about 10 minutes. As milk cooks, it will caramelize lightly on the bottom of the pan so you may see some flakes floating in the mixture. That’s okay.

4. Pour caramel over pastry crust, smoothing into an even layer with a metal spatula or back of a knife. Return pan to oven and bake 10 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature.

5. Place chocolate and cream in a heavy medium saucepan set over medium low heat. Whisk constantly until mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then pour melted chocolate over cooled caramel layer and spread evenly with a metal spatula or table knife. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, 30 minutes or longer.

6. Run a sharp knife around inside edges of pan to loosen, then lift out pastry using the foil as an aid. Remove foil. Cut into 16 squares. (Bars can be made 2 days ahead; store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge.) Serve chilled or at room temperature. Bars are good either way. Makes 16 bars.

© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2012

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