Like any proper Angelino, I spend a good deal of time sitting in my car participating in that daily rite of torture called commuting. In addition to keeping an eye out for the elusive chorizo truck during my morning pilgrimage up the 110 freeway, I also like to devote time to having deep thoughts.
Unfortunately for my chances at winning a Nobel Prize of any sort, the caliber and nature of my deep thoughts would be more at home in a Cosmo or Martha Stewart Magazine than Scientific American or The Economist. Much of the initial planning for Gingerbread Royce happened while I sat idling on the freeway. And more than once, I’ve found myself thinking through alternate ways of loading the dishwasher. Like I said, deep thoughts.
The origins of this recipe came from one such commute. And, given the nearness of my favorite holiday and the central role that candy plays in it, I thought now would be an apropos time to share. On that faithful morning a couple of months ago, I was pondering the merits of the Twix bar and how one might go about making them from scratch. In bar form. I’m sure there are recipes out there but I wasn’t really interested in anything that already exists. I wanted the challenge of creating my own. So I did. And after some trial and error that would make Goldilocks proud, I think I came up with a fairly decent version.
This recipe begins with a shortbread base. Shortbread is sort of like curry. While it categorically refers to a certain kind of butter-based baked good, the similarities between recipes end there. In this case, I’ve used a shortbread that includes golden brown sugar as a complement to the caramel that will sit on the top bunk.
First cream the butter. Then add the sugars and cream them as well. Trust me, the abuse of ingredients has just begun. Ooohhh…fluffy.
Press the sticky dough into a parchment-lined pan. Then poke all-over with a fork so that the steam can escape and you don’t get un-even shortbread.
Into the oven. And when it comes out: golden brown.
While the shortbread is cooling, it’s time to play with chemistry. Combine sugar, water and light corn syrup in a heavy sauce pan and bring it to a boil.
While things are heating up over here, melt the butter and add cream in a separate pan.
Soon (but really, it won’t seem soon enough. In fact, it will feel like an eternity because, you know what they say about watched caramel sauce), things will get a little golden.
In what seems like no-time, things go from pale gold to amber and it’s time to get down to business.
Once the caramel is just a tad darker than the picture above. Very carefully pour in the cream and butter mixture. Don’t be afraid, all hell is supposed to break loose at this point.
Don’t worry, things will calm down a bit. And then you wait for the caramel to get to that magical 248F on the candy thermometer.
At precicely 248F it’s time to pull the plug, get this off the heat and pour it over the shortbread. Now promise me something here. Promise okay? The aroma is going to be killing you…buttery, creamy, caramely. BUT now matter how strong the impulse, do not touch the caramel. If life was a game of Candy Land, caramel at 248 degrees would be the molten lava. Get it?
Spread the caramel evenly and sprinkle with sea salt. Then transfer the whole mess to the fridge and allow the caramel to set up.
When the caramel is firm, it’s time to crown our little project. Melt about a cup of your favorite chocolate (I’ve used bittersweet here). I’ve heard you can melt chocolate easy in the microwave, but I like to use a glass bowl over simmering water.
Once the chocolate is melted, spread it evenly over the caramel layer. I like to use an off-set spatula for the job. Yeah, I know, you’d like me to use some better skills when photographing stuff…
Let the chocolate set-up in a cool, dry spot. DO NOT PUT IT IN THE FRIDGE. Putting it in the fridge will cool the chocolate down too quickly and it won’t temper properly. The result is dusty looking chocolate.
As usual, I recommend letting the whole thing rest over night. Then. Cut as desired and try not to eat the entire pan.
Of course, if three layers is just a jumping-off point. Why not four. Or five?
The Scratch Twix Bar
Makes about 100 1 inch squares
- 20 TBS (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature.
- ½ C packed golden brown sugar
- ¼ C superfine sugar
- 2 ½ C sifted flour
- ¼ t kosher salt
- ½ C sugar
- ¼ light corn syrup
- 1 ½ C heavy cream
- 4 TBS unsalted butter
- ½ t vanilla extract
- Sea salt for sprinkling
- 1 C chocolate bits (I used bittersweet but use what you like)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add in sugars and cream additional 3 minutes. By hand, gently fold in salt and then flour until dough comes together. Press dough into a buttered, parchment lined 9X13 inch baking pan. Create vents by poking dough all over with a fork. Bake for 35-40 minutes until cookie is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.
For caramel. Combine sugar, corn syrup and ½ C water in a deep saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer. Bring mixture to boil. Continue to boil until caramel is a golden brown. Do not stir the mixture. In a separate pan, melt butter and add cream, letting the mixture come to a simmer. Remove from heat but keep warm. Once caramel reaches the desired color, carefully add-in the cream mixture. The liquid will bubble up immediately but will calm down quickly. Stir in vanilla with wooden spoon. Cook mixture for 10 minutes until it reaches 248 degrees F (note: the temperature will be this high when you pour in the cream but will drop some and then come back up). Once the caramel reaches 248 degrees, very carefully pour over cooled shortbread. Use a spatula to spread the layer evenly (do not use fingers and do not tough the caramel, it is extremely hot). Sprinkle sea salt over caramel if desired. Place shortbread and caramel into the fridge to cool.
Once the caramel is cool and firm, the final chocolate layer can be added. In a double boiler, gently melt 1 C of desired chocolate pieces. Once pieces are melted, gently spread an even layer over caramel. Allow the chocolate layer to set-up in a cool dry spot. Do not refrigerate until the chocolate is completely set (doing so will decrease the temperature too quickly and the layer will appear dusty or grey). Once chocolate is set, cut to desired size and store in the refrigerator.