My dreams came true on Sunday. If you didn’t notice me shouting it from the Insta-sphere, THIS. HAPPENED.:
Oh just the tiniest 12-week-old baby Frenchie. WHOSE NAME IS BERNIE. With the nicest owner who let me pet that teeny little ball of wrinkle and take 10000 pictures and threaten to take him home. The stuff [my] dreams are made of, people. The stuff. Of dreams.
As in, I can’t think about anything else. WhencanIgetapuppywhencanIgetapuppywhencanIgetapuppy??? And also: grahamcrackercrumbscaramelpecanschocolate.
After meeting the puppy of my dreams (and eating an entire pot of fondue at Grendel’s Den), I came home and ate the best caramel-pecan-graham bars in the whole world and subsequently had the best Sunday e-v-e-r. Puppies + cheese + chocolate = MelsSweetLife ideal day.
These bars are whasssssupppp. They’re kind of a pain to make (ahem, homemade caramel), but I promise you they are worth it. I mean, can you ever go wrong with caramel and pecans and graham cracker crust and dark chocolate drizzle and a puppy named Bernie? Can you?
You can’t. So make these bars and and bask in their chewy caramel-ey graham cracker glory.
And think of Bernie. Always.
Caramel Pecan Graham Squares
yield: about 16 squares, depending on size
For the graham cracker crust**:
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tablespoons honey
- pinch of cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped pecans, toasted
For the caramel layer (recipe slightly adapted from Ina Garten):
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the chocolate drizzle:
- 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
*Edit: Originally I had noted that the crust seemed very crumbly, so I did some research and realized the ratio of butter to graham cracker crumbs was too high – I’ve reduced the amount of butter from 8 tablespoons to 5, which should solve the crumble problem!
- Prepare the graham layer: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 if you’re using a glass baking dish). Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the butter, graham cracker crumbs, honey, and cinnamon. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan to form a smooth, single layer. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Place on a wire rack to cool while you make the caramel. Sprinkle the toasted pecans to form a layer on top of the graham crust.
- Prepare the caramel layer: In a deep saucepan (at least 4 1/2 inches deep) combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel is a warm golden brown color. Do not stir – just swirl the sugar mixture around in the pan. Watch carefully, because the mixture will burn quickly! While the sugar is cooking, bring the cream, butter, and sea salt to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside. When the caramelized sugar is the right color, slowly add the cream mixture to the caramel – it will boil up at first but should subside after a few seconds. Stir in the vanilla with a rubber spatula and cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 244 degrees F (between soft and firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Carefully pour the caramel on top of the pecans/graham crust in the prepared pan. Put the pan into the fridge and allow it to cool for a few hours, until the caramel is set.
- Prepare the chocolate drizzle: In the microwave or using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips and shortening; stir to combine. Drizzle over the cooled caramel bars. Allow the chocolate to harden, then cut into squares (tip: it’s easier to cut the bars if they’re at room temperature, but make sure the caramel and chocolate have set before you start slicing!). Store in a sealed container at room temperature.