*Bunneh Test Kitchen*
I tend to print out recipes, put them in one of my recipe binders, and then forget about them for months… years… Recently we had some friends over for dinner, so I decided that was as good a reason as any to pull out one of these recipes.
The one I chose is called Thousand Dollar Bars, from King Arthur Flour. They are, in essence, homemade Twix ® bars. It’s not a very complicated or difficult recipe, but it is time-consuming and can be a bit messy depending on your approach.
First step is the cookie layer. Line your pan with parchment paper – don’t trim it, though. You want the paper to go up all four sides pretty high, trust me.
Mix all of four ingredients together. Both times I’ve made this recipe (yes, I made these twice within a week – they’re so good), my cookie layer has come out very crumbly, so I clearly need to figure out some adjustments. Mix-a, mix-a, mix-a, then smoosh-a, smoosh-a, smoosh-a into the pan. Don’t forget to poke the dough all over with a fork before baking – I forgot the first time.
Once the dough is baked and cooled, you get to melt the caramel. The first time I did this, I used Werther’s Baking Caramels. They’re super smooth and tasty, and easy to unwrap, but there’s still the unwrapping.
The second time around, I couldn’t find these in the store but I found something glorious – Kraft Caramel Bits! What! These are perfect for this kind of project, and now that I know where to find them I’ll only use them going forward for sure. No unwrapping, and they’re tiny so they melt super quickly.
Once the caramel (with some heavy cream added to make it even smooooother) is all nice and melted, you just pour it on the cookie layer (this is the step where you understand why you wanted parchment paper up the sides of the pan earlier, too).
I used a spatula to encourage the caramel to ooze along to the sides and corners, and banged the pan on the counter a few times to get it to kind of even out. I wasn’t too worried about bubbles, honestly, since I knew it would get covered up in the next step.
The pan of gooey-caramel-covered cookie goes into the fridge, and then comes the next part: melting chocolate. I have a Wilton chocolate melting pot, which I learned very quickly is not, in fact, big enough to hold the 3 cups of chocolate chips that I needed for this recipe. My solution was to melt 2 cups, then add the 3rd. The result was a lot of chocolate oozing over the top of the pot.
I also found out that as I did not plan ahead to make these bars the first time, I didn’t have enough milk chocolate chips. I did, however, have a bag of Hershey’s kisses in my baking stash, so…
Once the caramel layer is firm and the chocolate is all melted and smooth, you can just pour the chocolate on top (again: yay for parchment paper!), using a spatula to spread it around. Pop the pan back into the fridge, and in a couple of hours you can take it out and easily cut your bars.
Ta-da! Thousand Dollar Bars!
As I mentioned before, though, the cookie layer was super crumbly. People had to eat these over plates, napkins, trash cans… it was ridiculous. I resolved to dip them in the chocolate next time, to both hold the cookie layer together and to give them more of the Twix ® bar look.
When we had some other friends over just a few days after the first round, I set to work. I bought an alarming number of bags of Nestle milk chocolate chips, as well as the Kraft caramel bits. The handle of my Wilton chocolate melting pot had broken (too heavy I guess… oops), but I had – ingeniously, I thought – remembered we had an unused fondue pot that surely could be used.
Well. Let me just say it’s a good thing I bought so many bags of chocolate chips. A fondue pot does not at all replicate a double boiler, which most people probably know, but I had not ever used one myself. Apparently when you use it to melt chocolate, the idea is that you mix said chocolate with wine or things, which is what keeps it from getting all hard and awful and not-smooth… like my first batch of chocolate chips did. Oops again.
Now I had 3 cups of melted chocolate that looked and felt wrong, but still tasted good. What to do? Pull out a slew of candy molds, that’s what!
That unplanned side project done, I put together a sort-of double boiler and melted another 3 cups of chocolate the right way.
And since I had the fondue pot unpacked already, I figured I should make use of the adorable little fondue forks!
This mostly worked well. There were two problems… one: the chocolate wasn’t really deep enough for a full dip, so I was half-dipping and then scooping chocolate over the top with a wooden spoon; and two: trying to get most of the chocolate to drip off often resulted in the caramel layer softening up to the point that the fork no longer had a grip, and the bar had to be fished out of the chocolate with a regular fork.
In other words: it was a huge, very time-consuming mess. I had chocolate on EVERYTHING, people.
I’ve also mentioned the crumbly cookie layer… this was still an issue as well. By the end, there was almost as much cookie crumb in the pot as there was melted chocolate.
At some point, I got tired of the dipping/scooping. I had to melt more chocolate, as dipping (and dripping, and unintentionally flinging) was using up more than the called-for 3 cups. I thought to myself, foolishly, self, why not just pour chocolate on the bottom of a pan, put in the bars, and pour chocolate over?
I’m sure you can guess that this was just as much of a messy disaster as you’d expect. They did not cut apart without a fight, and I had an astounding amount of leftover chocolate pieces after said fight. Most of them were just too ugly for me to feel good about serving (my boyfriend’s kids will be happy about that, though).
However, I can safely say that the chocolate did what I expected, which was to hold the cookie layer in place when eating the bars. It also softened that layer up, which helped reduce crumbling.
These are a HUGE hit with my coworkers, spurring a surprising amount of conversation over the dipped vs not-dipped versions. I’ve decided on yet another variation I’d like to try, and I have several willing and very eager taste-testers already lined up. I’ll be sure to update the Bunneh Baking Facebook page once that happens, so be sure to check in!by