chocolate caramel bars with a salty sprinkle

When I first saw this Beatrix Bakes recipe in a magazine, I thought to myself, do I really need another chocolate caramel slice recipe? I've been tweaking my recipe for years and I think it's pretty much perfect. It's also really popular with my workmates.

When I examined the recipe closely, it does vary a little from the classic recipe. 
Topping the slice with toasted nuts and sea salt is something I've done before, however the base and filling are a little different.

The base is a classic shortbread base without the addition of the usual coconut or almond meal. The caramel uses hard to find dark corn syrup with a little brown sugar rather than the usual golden syrup. I couldn't find dark corn syrup anywhere, so I used light corn syrup and added a little golden syrup. Molasses probably would have been better, but I didn't have any of that either. The recipe is butter heavy, so much so that I didn't have enough butter in the fridge to make a full batch. I made a half batch of the base and the chocolate topping but used the full amount of filling because can you really have too much caramel?

Here's the recipe for you which makes twelve (approximately) 2-inch x 3.5-inch bars. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Chocolate caramel bars with a salty sprinkle
180 g unsalted butter 
220 g plain (all-purpose) flour
50 g icing (confectioners’) sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Caramel filling
380g sweetened condensed milk
50g dark brown sugar
75g corn syrup
25g golden syrup
100g unsalted butter
2g fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla paste

25g pecans or natural walnuts
100g dark chocolate (60–70% cocoa), coarsely chopped
10g unsalted butter
pinch sea salt flakes

Preheat the oven to 160°C, conventional. You will need a 17cm/7-inch square tin. Cut two pieces of baking paper as wide as the tin and long enough to cover the sides, with some excess paper overhanging. Spray the tin with cooking oil spray and lay one piece of paper across the base of the tin and up the sides, then place the second piece on top (to form a crosshatch). The paper will allow you to lift the slice out of the tin easily.

Melt the butter and leave to cool a little. Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in a heatproof mixing bowl and stir to combine. Pour the butter into the dry ingredients and mix with your hands to form a sticky paste. Press the mix into the prepared tin and smooth it out with an offset spatula.

Bake for 45 minutes until the base is a tan biscuity colour. If any bubbles form under the base while baking, just prick them with a skewer to gently deflate them. Place the pecans (for the topping) on a baking tray and toast them, at the same time as the base, for about 20 minutes, or until deep golden brown.

Clean the mixing bowl. Choose a saucepan that will allow you to nestle the bowl on top, without it touching the water below. Fill the pan with 5 cm of water and bring to a gentle simmer on the stovetop.

Caramel filling
Put all the filling ingredients in the cleaned bowl. Place the bowl on top of the pan of simmering water over a medium–low heat, stirring well occasionally, until the butter has fully melted and emulsified. The consistency should be thick and gloopy and the colour just a shade darker – this will take about 10 minutes. Set aside at room temperature. 

Take the pecans out of the oven and cool to room temperature. As soon as the base is ready, remove from the oven and immediately scrape the caramel filling over the top. If the base cools too much, it will recede from the sides of the tin, which will leave the edges of the baked filling without a base underneath it (still delicious though!)

Return the filled base to the oven and bake for 15–20 minutes. If it starts to brown too quickly, reduce the oven slightly and continue to bake. When cooked, the middle will feel set and a little rubbery (be careful when you touch it – it’s caramel hot) and the sides should be starting to blister and turn light brown. Remove and leave to cool completely for 1–2 hours at room temperature.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of just-boiled water. Stir thoroughly and then pour over the top of the caramel. Smooth lightly with an offset spatula or simply tilt the tin to distribute the chocolate. Crush the walnuts with your hands over the top and sprinkle over the salt flakes.

Cool the slice until the chocolate is set to your liking – glistening and runny (about 15 minutes) or firm (about 45 minutes). Take hold of the excess paper on the sides, then shimmy and lift the slice out of the tin and place onto a chopping board. Peel the paper away from the sides. Dip a serrated knife in hot water, dry and chop into 12 bars.

Keeps for one day at room temperature in an airtight container, then refrigerated for 1–2 weeks. Best eaten at room temperature.

I haven't had any of the slice yet and I'm not bringing it into work until Tuesday, so I'll let you know next week how my workmates found it. (edit - my colleagues loved, loved, loved this version and one colleague even asked for seconds!)

It's snuck up on me, but Easter isn't too far away which means that Passover is just around the corner. Next week is Passover week on the blog, a full 5 days of tasty treats made without flour and artificial raising agents but with loads of eggs, nuts, butter, fruit and vanilla. I hope you enjoy what I've made for you.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


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