Are you really ready to read this post? You are about to dive into addiction. One bite of these Chocolate Espresso Caramel Bars and you’ll be hooked. I was watching Giada on Food Network one day and she was making these very rich, decadent bars. Espresso or coffee is one of those ingredients you can use secretly to ramp up the flavor of chocolate. A crunchy cinnamon crust with a layer of caramel, topped with rich espresso-chocolate, and a hint of salt. The 3 layers include a buttery graham cracker crust, a smooth caramel center, and a rich chocolate top layer. Sprinkles of sea salt on top bring out the sweet and salty. These Espresso Caramel Bars are candy for grownups I guarantee if you bring this to a party. You’ll leave with an empty plate and you’ll be asked repeatedly for the recipe.
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
- Vegetable cooking spray
- 12 whole (6 ounces) graham crackers, crumbled or 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 3/4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon salt and sliced almond for garnishing.
For the crust: Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round spring form pan with parchment or waxed paper. Spray the paper and the sides of the pan with cooking spray. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the graham crackers and sugar. Process until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the melted butter and blend until the mixture forms into clumps. Spread the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing gently to form an even layer. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the crust is golden. Cool for 15 minutes.
For the caramel: While the crust is cooling, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of cream, butter, sugar, and water. Stir over medium heat until the mixture is smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees F, about 5 to 7 minutes. Carefully pour the caramel over the warm crust. Cool for 20 minutes. Freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.
For the chocolate layer: Combine the chocolate chips and cream in a small bowl and place over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the espresso powder. Remove the springform pan from the freezer. Pour the chocolate mixture over the caramel layer and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with smoked sea salt and sliced almond. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour until firm.
Allow the layers to come to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Using a warm, slightly wet knife, carefully cut around the edges of the chocolate layer. Release the side of the pan and remove the paper from the bottom. Cut into 1 1/2 by 1/2-inch bars and store airtight in a covered plastic container.
Note: Caramel is very, very hot and very sticky. Keep a deep bowl of water with lots of ice in it nearby if you’re a newbie: if some caramel lands on your hand, plunge it right into the ice water immediately. And wear an oven mitt just to be sure when handling hot pot.