Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chocolate-Caramel Bars

I am totally serious when I say these are the BEST bar cookies I've ever made or eaten.  Now I haven't made trays and trays of bar cookies, but when a whole dinner party (us + 2 families) all love them and your husband's co-workers love them, then you know it's one darn good bar cookie.  I am chomping at the bit for a good excuse to make them again.  I can't for us or I'll pretty much eat them all, which would be good for my tummy but not good for my waistline.

You know you want to try them!

Today's Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
20 vanilla caramels, unwrapped
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  For crust, in a medium bowl, stir together
flour and brown sugar.  Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until
mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Press into bottom of an ungreased
9x13 pan.  Bake for 15 min. 

See these nice and coarsely chopped pecans - yum!  If you don't have
pecans then I'm sure walnuts would work.  I'm even wondering how
peanuts or pistachios would work out.

Sprinkle pecans and coconut over the hot crust.

I found this flaked - unsweetened coconut in bulk at whole foods for
$1.99 a pound.  Do you know how much coconut it takes to make a
pound?  TONS!  I bought probably 2 cups or so for $.42.  Also, if you
have a WinCo near you they don't have the right coconut in bulk, but
they have caramels and probably pecans.  I've started shopping in the
bulk quite a bit there and it saves me tons of money!  Just a few tips
I wanted to share.

Why unsweetened coconut?  It is already sweet enough as it is and I
also think the sugar in the sweetened coconut might make it burn. 
The unsweetened adds a nice but not overpowering coconut flavor. 
My husband loves to add it to his shakes (meal replacement shakes
not regular high calorie ice cream shakes) so we use it there too.

Meanwhile, for filling in a small bowl, combine sweetened
condensed milk and vanilla.

Carefully pour over pecans and coconut, spreading evenly.  Bake
for 25-30 (I did 25) minutes more or until filling is set. 

Cool in the pan on a wire rack - off the stove for 10 min.

Who knows what happens in the oven, but that filling turns into some
magical caramel gooeyness that is so lovely.  The edges were a little
brown when it came out so I was scared I burned it, but you know
what?  It was my favorite part I think ~ but I am partial to

A close-up of the yumminess right out of the oven.

In a small saucepan, combine caramels and milk.  Cook and stir
over medium-low heat just until caramels are melted.

Doesn't this caramel look lovely and so smooth?  It takes a bit of
patience so don't rush it!

Drizzle caramel mixture over filling.

Sprinkle with chocolate pieces.  Cool completely.

Even after sitting for about 3 hours the chocolate pieces weren't
firming up.  I put them in the fridge for about an hour and then
got them out about 1/2 hour before we ate them.  Perfect!

I so want to make another pan right now and go eat it all myself!

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