Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gooey Turtle Bars, Where Gooey Describes the Homemade Caramel Layer!

I bought a new cookbook. I know I'm not supposed to because I'm out of room. But I couldn't resist. Alice Medrich came out with a new cookie cookbook. I spent an evening studying it from cover to cover. In typical Marni fashion, I sat comfortably on the couch in sweats, I had HGTV on in the background, and I had a pack of Post-It note strips to mark the pages of the cookbook that I'd want to return to. But by the end of reading this cookbook, I had marked so many pages that the usefulness of this page-marking technique had been lost. I can't wait to make, well, basically everything out of this book!

Gooey Turtle Bars has an adjective in the title that I'm quite fond of. Not only is homemade caramel gooey, but it is unbeatable. Alice Medrich's version is perfect. It does require a candy thermometer because caramel is very sensitive to temperature. You have to watch closely to be sure you do not go over the specified temperature or your caramel will not be caramel. But I have faith in your abilities as a baker and I'm sure you can handle it! If you want to experiment with different flavors, try adding something other than vanilla to the caramel, such as lavender or almond extract. Or maybe add some fleur de sel.

And remember, when you're tired of stirring (you aren't allowed to stop for the entire 15 minutes the caramel is cooking), and you're about to throw in the towel and you find yourself whining that it's never going to reach 235 degrees F, just remember, your bicep is going to be so impressive! And your tummy is going to be so happy. And then I promise you'll make it through okay.

Gooey Turtle Bars
Adapted from a recipe by Alice Medrich in Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

1 recipe Shortbread Crust (see below)
1 3/4 cups (12.25 ounces) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey or light corn syrup
3/8 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon for coarse or flaky sea salt)
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (7 ounces) pecan halves, toasted
6 ounces milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 1 cup milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Line a 9x13-inch metal baking pan with foil on the bottom and all four sides, leaving some overhang for pulling the baked goods out of the pan to cut later. Follow the recipe below for the Shortbread Crust and then continue here with the instructions.

To make the topping: In a heavy 2- to 3-quart saucepan (about 8 inches in diameter) with a candy thermometer attached to the inside, combine the brown sugar, honey, salt, and water and cook on medium heat. Drop the 4 tablespoons butter into the pan. Stir constantly so the mixture doesn't burn (be sure you're using a heatproof spatula or you'll have delicious plastic in your caramel). Scrape the bottom and sides of the pan as you stir. Allow the mixture to reach a medium boil and continue stirring and scraping the pan for about 3 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and bring the mixture back to a boil. Don't stop stirring!

Continue boiling the mixture until the candy thermometer reads 235 degrees F. From beginning to end, it should take you about 15 minutes of stirring to make this caramel. Yes, your arm may get tired, but think of the biceps you're generating! As soon as the temperature reads 235, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Moving quickly, pour the caramel over the warm Shortbread Crust. You can tilt the pan or use an offset spatula to make sure the caramel is covering the entire crust. The caramel will start to set right away so you'll need to be quick. Sprinkle the toasted pecans and chopped chocolate over the sticky caramel and carefully press the pieces into the caramel with the palm of your hand so that everything is "glued" in place. Allow the caramel to cool and the chocolate to set before cutting into squares.

When you're ready to cut into pieces, lift up the overhang of foil, transfer to your cutting board, and peel off the foil. Use a long sharp knife to cut through the nuts and all the way down into the bars. Store in an airtight container for about a week.

Shortbread Crust
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line the pan with foil on the bottom and all four sides.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Mix well, then add the flour and mix just until incorporated. The dough will be oily and wet but that's totally normal. Use your hands to press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Smooth out any bumps and make sure to get the dough to reach the edges and corners of the pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is a rich golden brown with well-browned darker edges. Let cool before adding the caramel layer of the Gooey Turtle Bars above.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
To make the crust, melt the butter with the sugar, vanilla, and salt...

Stir to combine...

Add the flour and stir just until incorporated...

The dough will be oily and wet but that's normal...

Press the dough into the pan so that the surface is even and smooth...

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges are golden...

To make the caramel topping, combine the brown sugar, honey or corn syrup, salt, and water over medium heat...

Add the butter...

Allow the mixture to reach a boil and cook for about 3 minutes, then add the sweetened condensed milk and let it return to boil...

Stir constantly and maintain a boil until the thermometer reads 235 degrees F...

Stir in the vanilla, then pour the caramel into the pan over the crust...

Scatter the toasted pecans and chopped chocolate over the caramel and press the pieces down so they stick...

Let the caramel cool and the chocolate set before slicing and serving. YUM!!


Mom said...

I feel so lucky to have been with you when you made this! It was fun watching you work your magic and I've never had caramel better than this! Your pictures look every bit as yummy as the cookies really tasted!

Zach Landes said...

I ate way too many of these!!

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