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Chocolate-Caramel Slice

May 12, 2008

I received raucous cheers and applause for these babies. I am not kidding, there were whoops and shouts and there was some profuse praise, I think brought on by the sugar high these things induce. They are rich and almost unbearably sweet, the chocolate sugar overdose avoided only by the bits of salt scattered across the top. And they were an overwhelming hit with everyone who tasted them, even the mostly vegan woman who happily ate them despite the fact that they are loaded with butter and sweetened condensed milk.

When I first read the recipe in Bon Appetit, I thought they sounded lovely but were probably more trouble than they were worth. The recipe has three parts: the crust, the caramel, and the chocolate topping. It involved a candy thermometer. It involved cooking and then chilling and then cooking and chilling some more. But I wanted to do something impressive for the last-day-of-class party we had in cataloging, so I thought I’d give it a go, and as it turns out they are not nearly so difficult as they sound.

I did end up buying a candy thermometer for this, rather than just winging it, as I usually do, and I’m glad I did. I would probably have ended up cooking the caramel for much longer than required, and these treats would probably not have been quite so delectable. I found a candy thermometer for three bucks at the hardware store, so it’s not like this is a big investment or anything. There’s really no reason not to have this handy tool in your arsenal, especially as it can also be used for deep frying, and will come in handy when I make fried chicken in a few weeks.

I have no idea why the Australian chef who came up with this recipe calls it slice. Is it an Australian thing? When I hear slice I pretty much think of pizza, or perhaps fruit pie, but I don’t often think of bar-type snacks. But whatever the name is (one woman I know said it was called millionaire shortbread), they are quite impressive and everyone will fall over over in adulation when you serve them.

Chocolate-Caramel Slice

(from Bon Appetit, May 2007)

For the crust:

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 T. ice water
  • 1 large egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 350F, and butter an 11×7 inch baking dish. Mix the flour, brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt together well in a large bowl, and then add the butter pieces. Use your hands to break up the butter and mix it with the flour mixture until it all looks like coarse sand. You could probably use a pastry mixer, and I’m starting to think that is another tool I should add to my ever-growing collection. But hands work just fine, too.

Add the cold water and the egg yolk, and use your hands and/or a fork to continue mixing the dough together until, as the recipe puts it, “moist clumps form.” I wasn’t entirely sure what size moist clumps I was looking for, and I attempted to use and electric mixer, too, which wasn’t that helpful. The dough should stick together when you press it together, though. Once the clumps are moist enough (er?), press the dough into the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Pierce it with a fork and bake for about 20 minutes. Set it aside to cool completely before adding the caramel and chocolate. I made the shortbread the night before and finished with the toppings the next morning.

For the caramel:

  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar
  • 6 T. unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 T. dark corn syrup (or, if you can find it, Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which is a British thing, apparently)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix all the ingredients together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture comes to a low boil. Attach the candy thermometer, and continue to cool the caramel, boiling gently and whisking constantly, until the temperature reaches 225F. It should probably take about six minutes and the color will be a lighter golden color than you might expect (at least mine was). Once the caramel is ready, remove it from the heat and pour it over the shortbread crust, smoothing it into an even layer. All the caramel to cool and set for about 15 minutes before pouring the chocolate mixture over it.

For the chocolate:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 3 T. whipping cream
  • Coarse sea salt

This is the easiest part: mix the chocolate and whipping cream in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

Spread the chocolate in a thin layer over the warm caramel, and then sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Refrigerate the whole dish for at least an hour before serving.

I am telling you, people will swoon. You will come close to falling into a sugar coma. And these things will disappear fast. They are kind of tricky to cut and get out of the pan, but that’s ok, because it makes you feel like you’re working for your tasty treats. Whatever you want to call these things, they are pretty spectacular, and well worth trying out the next time you want to impress people with sweet things.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily permalink
    May 12, 2008 12:43 pm

    Oh yeah, I am trying this one out:-)

  2. kim e. permalink
    May 13, 2008 5:29 pm

    oh goodness, I should just loosen up my pants now!

  3. May 14, 2008 8:34 am

    Do you think this would be doable without a candy thermometer? I’m a little cheap when it comes to kitchen gadgets I may never use again…

  4. May 22, 2008 8:05 pm

    Andrea–I say definitely doable without a candy thermometer. Although they only cost $3 and you can use them as hot oil thermometers, too. Without one, you just want to wait for the caramel to be light tan and creamy, and not too candy like.

  5. May 29, 2008 1:28 pm

    Thanks. I couldn’t find a candy thermometer for under $12 in my ‘hood so I took the risk. The slice turned out very well! Thanks for posting!

    You asked about the term “slice”. Yes, it is an Australian thing. Small, flat dessert squares are called slice: you’ve got your lemon slice, date slice, coconut slice, hedgehog slice…. I’m a displaced Aussie and I miss my hedgehog slice sometimes… made with Canadian ingredients it just isn’t quite the same.

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