When I gave a version of these caramel bars to a neighbor of mine a couple of years ago, they immediately asked for the recipe. When they found out the recipe was in the cookbook I was writing, every time they ran into me, they asked me when the book was coming out, because they couldn’t wait to get the recipe.
- 2 1/4 cups (315g) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (100g) powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (255g or 2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups (450g) granulated white sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (200g or 1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
- Bourbon Chocolate Ganache:
- 2 cups (240g) chopped semi-sweet chocolate, (54% cacao)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- For Finishing:
- 2 teaspoons flaky finishing salt (like Maldon), or coarse sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and lightly grease an Anolon 9 x 13 inch cake pan. Fit a piece of parchment paper inside the pan, making sure there is a one-inch overhang on the sides.
- Place the flour, powdered sugar and salt in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch chunks and sprinkle over the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until the butter starts to break up into smaller pieces. Increase the speed slightly and continue to mix until a dough forms into balls. This may take awhile, and it may seem like the ingredients won’t form a dough, but they will eventually.
- Dump the dough into the middle of the pan and spread the dough chunks evenly over the pan. Press down on the dough to form an even, flat layer of dough over the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork all over, then place a piece of parchment paper over the dough and fill with pie weights, uncooked rice or dry beans. Bake until the edges turn golden brown and the top of the crust looks dry and fully baked, about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove and let cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
- Once the crust has cooled, make the caramel by heating the heavy cream and vanilla together in an Anolon 2-quart saucepan with pour spouts. Once bubbles start to form on the sides of the pan, cover and remove from heat.
- Place the sugar in an Anolon 4-quart pouring sauté pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook the sugar until it starts to melt, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, shaking the pan until the bottom layer of the sugar has melted. Stir with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon and continue to cook until the sugar has melted and caramelized, turning the color of an old penny.
- Remove from heat and drizzle a tiny bit of the heated vanilla cream into the pan. It will steam up so be careful. Stir the cream in and drizzle a little more in. Repeat until all the cream has been incorporated. If you add the cream too fast, some of the caramel will harden, but don’t worry about that. Add the butter and stir until it has melted. Return to heat and cook the caramel, stirring constantly, until the caramel has reached 240 to 245ºF (the soft-ball stage), about 8 to 12 minutes. Immediately pour the caramel onto the cooled crust and tilt the pan to make sure the crust is completely covered. Let cool to room temperature.
- Make the chocolate ganache by placing the chocolate and butter in an Anolon 2-quart saucepan with pour spouts. Turn the heat on low and gently melt the chocolate, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula. Do not try speed the process up with a higher heat, as the chocolate will scorch. Once the chocolate and butter have melted, remove from heat and stir the bourbon in, one tablespoon at a time, making sure the bourbon is incorporated before adding more. Pour the ganache over the caramel and spread to coat over the top of it. Sprinkle with the finishing salt and refrigerate the entire pan overnight to let the caramel and chocolate firm up. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cutting and serving.