When I asked my friend Jamey to bring dessert to our Moroccan dinner, I had no idea what he was going to bring — and no clue he was such a fantastic candy maker. These salted espresso caramel bars were over-the-top good and a fantastic treat at the end of our meal. I won’t lie – I ate three while we finished off the last bottle of red wine. From what I can see, this recipe is not one to tackle on a busy day but a great way to impress your friends. I highly recommend it for your next adventure in the kitchen.
Espresso Caramel Bars Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
- Vegetable cooking spray
- 12 whole (6 ounces) cinnamon graham crackers, crumbled or 2 cups cinnamon graham cracker
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- Chocolate Layer:
- 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 3/4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt, optional
- Special equipment: a candy thermometer
For the crust:
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 or waxed paper. 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. Cool for 15 minutes.
For the caramel:
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.
For the chocolate layer: 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 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.
Allow the layers to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Using a warm, slightly wet sharpened knife, carefully cut around the edges of the chocolate layer. Release the side of the pan and remove the paper from the bottom. Cut into 1 1/2 by 1/2-inch bars and store airtight in a covered plastic container.