Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Déjà vu with Caramel Crunch Bars...

I'll admit it and I know Jeff would do the same, we are both chocolate fiends... which made me quite excited to get started on the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day item today. These Caramel Crunch Bars have a decadent duo of chocolate with a sweet candy topping.

Shortbread dough is the base of these bars, but this is more than just a flour, butter, sugar and salt shortbread - this dough is perked up with a bit of espresso powder, cinnamon and pairs brown sugar with granulated sugar to add a caramel-like essence. The first chocolate addition comes in the form of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate stirred in at the last moment to stud the dough with dark speckles. When you go to scoop this into your baking pan to cover the bottom, you'll find that this dough is very thick and sticky. You can struggle with using a spatula and your fingers to get an even layer, which can be a little frustrating and messy. However, you could instead drop dollops of the dough all over the bottom of the pan and then lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top - then keep your fingers clean to freely squish the dough all over, connecting the dollops to make a smooth layer. If you happen to have a baby rolling pin on hand, that would also work well with this method!

Once the cookie base was baked to a rich golden brown, we brought in the second addition of chocolate by tossing on chopped pieces of sweet, creamy milk chocolate and then placing the pan back into the oven. You are not trying to cook the bars anymore, but the pan is left inside the warm oven just long enough to soften the chocolate, allowing you to spread it into a slick layer on top. I mentioned decadent right? Well, we were not done yet - these buttery bars are then generously showered with chocolate-covered toffee bits for a crunchy topping. If you can't find those, you could use plain toffee bits or even chop up a couple Heath toffee bars for the same effect.

So... I had a wave of that déjà vu feeling when I was making these, but I just let it go. Then, when I was eating my "quality control" piece, I could have sworn I've tasted these before, but I was so enraptured by the bars I forgot about it again. Now, I get to this point in typing the post and Jeff says "Those bars were so good, but I feel like I've eaten them before". Me too, I said! So, we both go at racing speed to check the blog and guess what? Sure enough, just over a year ago in June we made them for a treat day.... oh crap! The good news is that we were still in Maryland, but still. It was interesting going back to see what I did with the recipe, using all bittersweet chocolate and vanilla sugar instead of granulated. I do think though that I liked the milk chocolate and bittersweet combination better than completely bittersweet. Either way, I guess this was a sign that if you haven't given these a try yet, they are too good not to!

Dinner was a new recipe at least and Jeff has already requested that it definitely needs to make a planned re-appearance at some point. I started these Chipotle Pork Burritos by warming up a pool of canola oil to brown three-quarters of a pound worth of lean ground pork.

We took out the crumbles and then drizzled in a little more oil to begin cooking chopped onions and a couple cloves of garlic. We also seasoned that combo with smoky cumin and distinct ground coriander. The pork is tossed back in and the mixture is made saucy by adding a mild salsa - we went with mild as we were also adding a couple minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to ratchet up the spice. Once the ingredients had warmed through, we freshened up the mixture with a small handful of chopped cilantro. Not a fan? Swap it out with parsley!

You can assemble these burritos with a classic large flour tortilla, but we decided to use those fun Flatout wraps. We have both really grown to love these since we tried them in those chicken roll-outs we made awhile ago. We spooned the moist pork filling down the center of the wraps and topped it with shreds of sharp white Cheddar and diced red bell pepper. The recipe called for diced tomato too, which would have been a nice addition, but I overlooked that when I went to make our shopping list for the market - oops! To heat them through, melt the cheese and add a slight crispness to the outside, the assembled wraps go into the oven for a few minutes. Juicy and cheesy with a pleasant smoky kick from the chipotles, I know I will be preparing these again to store in the freezer when we need a quick lunch on a busy day. I'm betting you could even stretch this out and make a few extra servings if you added a bit more salsa and beans!


  1. Yum. This meal sounds great from start to finish.

  2. Thanks Laura! It sounds like the bars were quite the hit at the office today!