You might ask, “Rebecca, how DO you hang on to a bounty such as Jeff?” And I would answer in three little words. Sometimes those three little words are “Heath Toffee Bits.” Sometimes, they’re “Caramel Crunch Bars.”
The bars have three layers: a shortbread base topped with melted chocolate chips and a lethal smattering of toffee bits. Can’t miss, right? Well, like a newborn baby, these bars are far more appealing a few days out of the oven. They need the extra time for the flavors to meld and the shortbread to solidify so that you don’t have a crumbly mess.
Although, the crumbly mess IS good on ice cream.
Caramel Crunch Bars
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”
Makes about 54 bars
- 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or finely ground instant coffee
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 ounces bittersweet or premium milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 6 ounces bittersweet or premium milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup Heath toffee bits
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9×13 inch baking pan, line the pan with foil and butter the foil. Put the pan on a baking sheet.
- To Make the Base: Whisk together the flour, coffee, salt and cinnamon.
- Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and beat until the mixture is light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, and turn off the mixer.
- Add all the dry ingredients, cover the stand mixer with a kitchen towel , and pulse the mixer on and off at low speed about 5 times. Turn the mixer to low and mix, uncovered, just until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated.
- Add the chopped chocolate, and mix only until the dry ingredients disappear. If the chocolate isn’t evenly mixed, finish the job by hand with a spatula.
- Scrape the dough into the buttered pan, and press it into an even layer.
- Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the base is bubbly. Transfer the pan to a rack, and turn off the oven.
- To Make the Topping: Scatter the chocolate evenly over the top of the hot base, and pop the pan back into the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until the chocolate is soft. Remove from oven and immediately spread chocolate over bars, using offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the chocolate and press them down lightly with your fingertips. Place the baking pan on a rack to cool to room temperature.
- Carefully lift out of the pan, using foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. Trim the edges if they seem a bit thick. Cut about 54 bars, each about 2 inches by 1 inch, taking care not to cut through the foil.