Bar cookies are so much fun to make. They can be as simple as blondies and brownies, or they can be made of several layers that give them a more complex flavor. When I was flipping through my cookbooks, these caught my eye, especially when they were described as being very similar to Twix bars. You start with a shortbread base, and then go about making the filling. The book describes a microwave method, but this is not something I would recommend. The mixture will start bubbling over if you keep it in the microwave too long, so I would recommend trying to plan ahead and bake the sweetened condensed milk in the oven. This is basically making dulce de leche, so really you could just use a store-bought container of that and it would work just fine. After you pour the filling over the shortbread base, just refrigerate until firm so that you can top it with the chocolate glaze. I made the bars the night before I needed them, put them in the refrigerator, and the next morning before I left for work I took them out and left them on the counter. By the time I got home, they were the perfect consistency for cutting (although I’m sure you don’t need that long- 30 minutes should be enough time for them to soften to a good cutting consistency).
We loved these! I loved the layers and how they went together. It’s hard to go wrong with a caramel filling and chocolate topping. They were definitely reminiscent of a Twix bar, and were a great simple dessert to enjoy.
Source: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
For the shortbread:
½ cup sugar
1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten
For the caramel filling:
28 ounces sweetened condensed milk
For the chocolate glaze:
6 ounces dark chocolate, (60% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
Make the shortbread:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter together until blended.
Add 2 cups of the flour and beat until well combined. Add the egg yolk and beat for a few seconds, or until just combined.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust the top off the dough and your hands with a little flour. Use your hands to gently work the dough into a 6×6-inch square. You will have to turn the dough and sprinkle the top with flour as you go. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup flour on the surface of the dough. Fold the dough over and knead until incorporated, then flatten the dough into a rectangle. Transfer the rectangle to the prepared pan and press it into the pan.
Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Make the caramel filling:
Put the sweetened condensed milk in a medium heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of boiling water over low heat. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until thick and caramel colored. Remove the bowl from the pan and beat until smooth. (alternately, you could just bake the sweetened condensed milk in a roasting pan at 350 degrees for the same amount of time).
Make the chocolate glaze:
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled caramel layer and use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer.
Put in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the glaze hardens.
Remove the pan from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving so as not to crack the chocolate glaze. Cut into squares and serve.
The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.