Happy Valentine's Day!!! Taking a day off from my buttermilk quest and getting everyone hyper with some highly caffeinated Espresso Caramel Bars! I was watching Giada on Food Network one day and she was making these very rich, decadent bars. I have a love/hate relationship with this woman (ok...maybe it's more of a love/envy relationship). On one hand she is an excellent cook and has the greatest recipes; on the other hand she eats and eats and eats and still looks perfect and thin! It is so not fair! I try not to hold it against her, but it is not always easy. ;)
Where was I? Oh yeah.... so, these bars have a graham cracker crust that is filled with loads of butter (Paula Deen would be proud).....
and a layer of gooey, delicious, homemade caramel....
then it is topped with a VERY rich espresso chocolate ganache!
Make sure you cut these into very small bars (I cut mine into 1" x 1") as they are extremely rich. Giada decorated her bars with smoked sea salt which is beautiful but not necessary. I think they look great just as they are!
Make this recipe to give away as Valentine's gifts to your friends or for a romantic dessert or hide them away and eat them all by yourself! When you are done stuffing yourself with caramel yumminess, store the bars in the refrigerator!
Espresso Caramel Bars adapted from Giada De Laurentis
Vegetable cooking spray
12 whole (6 ounces) cinnamon graham crackers, crumbled or 2 cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment. Spray the paper and the sides of the pan with cooking spray. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the graham crackers and sugar. Process until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the melted butter and blend until the mixture forms into clumps. Spread the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing gently to form an even layer. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the crust is golden.
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
While the crust is cooling, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of cream, butter, sugar, and water. Stir over medium heat until the mixture is smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees F, about 5 to 7 minutes. Carefully pour the caramel over the warm crust. Cool for 20 minutes. Freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.
2 cups bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon smoked sea salt, optional
Combine the chocolate chips and cream in a small bowl and place over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the espresso powder. Remove the springform pan from the freezer. Pour the chocolate mixture over the caramel layer and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with smoked sea salt, if using. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour until firm or stick in freezer until firm. Cut into squares 1” x 1” and then return bars to refrigerator.
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