Salty and sweet. Round two.
So I was at Starbucks last Friday night for, like, the first time since…I don’t know… probably since dinosaurs worked as baristas. (If anyone else just got a crazy image of an apron- clad dinosaur unsuccessfully trying to steam milk with it’s teeny three-toed hand/foot let me know – we’d probably be great drinking companions.)
Anyway, since date nights are few and far between for us I thought I’d celebrate, you know, “me style” by getting something sweet to go with my Tall Caramel Latte. Starbucks has such a tempting array of sweets… all the HUGE pieces of cake, brownies, cheesecakes, cookies and whatnot. Except since I’ve been tracking my calories on livestrong.com I am depressingly aware of the fact that those enormous goodies have like, 800 calories in them. Le sigh. BUT – on the upside – they also had a little tray of “petite” sweets all under 200 calories.
(Yeah, you guessed it. They all looked lovely… and like they could be eaten in about one and a half bites. But that’s okay. I’m an adult. I can be content with just a bite or two. Repeat repeat repeat.)
So, since I’m a big time caramel addict I got a Salted Caramel Sweet Square to go with my Caramel Latte. For 190 calories I was pretty impressed. It had a shortbready crust covered with bits of pretzel (I think), something like fudge and sticky caramel on top. I started thinking immediately of how I could do something similar at home (and make it easily adaptable to be gluten free).
These squares my daughter and I made last night in about 15 minutes. She was very excited to help me make them which was cool because she never wants to do any cooking with me. Say “chocolate” and a girl’s ears perk up I guess.
I’ve modified the recipe slightly to make them a bit easier to handle. We ate these with a fork for the most part but that’s easily adjusted.
They are almost gone now, by the way. The kids and I cut them up this morning “to take pictures”…and then totally ate a quarter of the pan for breakfast. Mommy nutritionist FAIL.
Here’s the set up –
First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grab an 8″x8″ pan and crush up pretzels until you have about a cup. I let my daughter use a glass to crush these straight in the pan. You can crush them finer if you like. We liked the larger bits though. Gave the whole thing a nice crunch.
That’s mi’ja there. Melt six tablespoons of butter…
And add it, along with two teaspoons of sugar to your crushed pretzels. Mix thoroughly and use a fork to press it down evenly into the bottom. Slide into the oven and bake for eight minutes.
Next we’re going to make a quick and easy ganache for the chocolate layer. Classic ganache is simply one part chocolate to one part heavy cream (by weight). Warm, it is used as a sauce. At room temperature it makes a decadent frosting. Cold out of the refrigerator it is almost as thick as fudge. I used 8 oz of chocolate chips and a cup of heavy cream to get that bowl right there. You don’t need that much for this recipe – I made extra to use this weekend. For today, grab 4 oz chocolate chips and 3 oz heavy cream (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp). Using less cream will result in a firmer ganache that is easier to cut into bars. Simply microwave your cream until boiling, pour it over your chocolate, and let it sit at least five minutes before stirring. It will take a minute but eventually your chocolate and cream will come together into a smooth, pourable sauce.
And lastly, let’s make our caramel. We’re going super easy today. Unwrap 20 caramels (Kraft Traditional Caramels are GF, as are many others), add two tablespoons milk or cream (I already had the cream out so I figured what the heck), and microwave until hot and bubbly.
Stir together to form a very thick sauce.
Pour the ganache over your baked pretzel crust.
Now drop spoonfuls of caramel into your chocolate…
And swirl with a knife until pretty and marbled like this. The caramel is heavier than the chocolate and will want to sink if you mess with it too much.
What’s this? This is the one I made for my husband, the one out of six of us who can’t eat wheat. His pretzels look, taste, smell, and crunch, EXACTLY like regular pretzels. But his pretzels are shipped from Israel and cost literally TEN TIMES as much as regular pretzels do. So he got his own little salted caramel in a ramekin.
And there we have it! Salty, crunchy, creamy, chocolatey, caramely goodness! And if you cut the pan into 16 small squares like these, your calorie count is considerably less even than the treat I had at Starbucks. PERFECT with a cup of coffee…I think I’m going to go grab one right now 🙂
Salted Caramel Squares
1 cup crushed pretzels (GF or regular)
6 Tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp sugar
4 oz chocolate chips
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp heavy cream
20 Kraft Traditional Caramels
2 Tbsp milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix crushed pretzels, melted butter, and sugar in an 8″x8″ glass baking dish. Press down evenly with a fork and bake for 8 minutes.
Place chocolate chips in a bowl. Microwave heavy cream until boiling and pour over chocolate. Let sit five minutes and then stir until smooth.
Unwrap caramels and place in a small bowl with milk. Microwave on high until hot and bubbly. Stir until smooth.
Pour chocolate over baked pretzel crust.
Drop caramel by the spoonful over chocolate. Use a knife to marble.
Refrigerate until firm enough to cut into squares.
Makes 16 squares.