Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars (aka Homemade Twix)

I had extra special visitors in town earlier this year, so of course we had to bake something ridiculously sweet and addictively delicious.  My dear visitors share my love of Twix candy bars, so we made a homemade version with buttery, tender shortbread, a chewy, thick layer of caramel, and a smooth, dark chocolate ganache.  Even though there are three separate components to this recipe, each is quick and easy to make (the caramel is is made from Kraft caramel squares).

IMG_5430

Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars

Makes One 9″ x 13″ pan
(from King Arthur Flour)
My notes are in [ ] below.

Ingredients

Shortbread Layer

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) All-Purpose Flour

Caramel Layer

2 cups (20 ounces) caramel, cut into small chunks [I used Kraft caramel squares]
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Chocolate Layer

3 cups (18 ounces) chopped milk chocolate or dark chocolate, melted [I used chopped Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate bars]
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (optional)

Directions

Shortbread Crust

  1. Preheat your oven to 300°F. Spray a 9″ x 13″ pan lightly with cooking spray, or line with parchment, and set aside. [I prefer lining with parchment paper.]
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the flour. At first the mixture may seem dry, but will come together as you continue to beat at medium speed.
    Take the dough (it will be somewhat stiff) and press it evenly into the pan. Lightly flouring your fingertips will help with any sticking.
  3. Prick the crust all over with a fork. The holes will allow steam to escape and the crust will bake evenly with fewer bubbles.
  4. Bake the crust until it’s lightly golden brown on top and the edges are deeper golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife around the edges to loosen the crust. Set it aside to cool completely.

Caramel

  1. Melt the caramel and cream over low heat in a small saucepan [or with short pulses of heat (20-30 second increments) in the microwave].
  2. Pour the caramel over the cooled crust and set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill and firm up.

Chocolate Layer

  1. Melt the milk or dark chocolate [I prefer dark chocolate] slowly in a double boiler or over very low heat.
  2. If it seems very thick, add a tablespoon of shortening to thin it. [I used shortening and find that it makes the chocolate easier to work with.]
  3. Pour evenly over the chilled caramel layer and spread to cover all of the caramel.
  4. Return to the fridge until the chocolate is well set.
  5. Cut into 2″ x 2″ squares to serve. [Don’t cut the bars directly out of the fridge as it will be difficult to cut because it’s so cold and the layers may separate.  Wait until the chocolate softens a little and then cut into bars.]

Note:  It’s best to store these bars in the refrigerator.  These bars can also be cut and dipped in milk chocolate to resemble Twix bars. After the caramel layer has chilled firm, cut down the length of the pan, splitting the bars into two long, narrow bars. Then cut each long strip into “fingers”. Dip the chilled bars into melted chocolate and place on parchment paper to set for several hours.

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