Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Crack(ers)

This is how this post was born: unable to bear the thought of facing a full 8 days without non-kosher desserts during Passover, I set out to make Momofuku Milk Bar's Crack Pie, but realized it contained oats. Then I got the brilliant idea to make Milk Bar's Compost Cookies and substitute matzoh for pretzels, but that recipe still called for flour. In a frantic Google search I somehow managed to combine the terms "matzoh" and "crack", and ta-da!!! I introduce to you your new addiction, Chocolate Caramel Crack(ers). Smitten Kitchen to the rescue, I should've known!

This is literally one of the best things I've ever eaten. Each cracker is so perfectly crunchy yet chewy and the flavors evolve seamlessly- first matzoh crunch, then melt-in-you-mouth caramel, followed by sinfully rich chocolate with a burst of sea salt- then the nuts. Deb from Smitten Kitchen puts it perfectly: stored in a container, "it should keep for a week," she says, "but I've never seen it last that long."

Why these crackers bear the addictive attributes of crack: 1. They combine sweet and salty. 2. Chocolate caramel sea-salt never fails- (I cite Butter Lane's sea-salt chocolate frosting shot here as evidence). 3.Smooth layers of caramel and chocolate are sandwiched between a matzoh base and crushed pecan/almond top to create a perfect harmony of chewy and crunchy.

I think the caramel in this recipe deserves its own paragraph. I don't know if it was from toffee deprivation during my braces years, but I literally could not get enough of the delectable caramel gooeyness. Who knew butter and brown sugar yielded such an amazing result? Watching the caramel bubble as it formed (see pictures below) and then cool into the perfect thickened consistency sent me into a wide-eyed frenzy of excitement. My taste buds were in love.

Chocolate Caramel Crack(ers) (from Smitten Kitchen)

4 to 6 sheets matzo or approximately 40 Saltine crackers or crackers of your choice

1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces

1 cup packed light brown sugar

A big pinch of sea salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate)

1 cup toasted chopped almonds, pecans, walnuts or a nut of your choice (optional)

Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional) but HIGHLY recommended!

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet completely with foil, and then line the base of the foil with parchment paper, cut to fit.
Line the bottom of the baking sheet with matzo or crackers, covering all parts. [If using matzo, you'll need to break pieces to fit any extra spaces, which will be annoying because despite being perforated, it does not actually break in straight lines. I have some luck pressing a serrated knife straight down along a section between perforations, if that (hopefully) makes sense.]
In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for three more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla, and then quickly pour it over the matzo or crackers. You’ll want to spread it quickly, as it will begin to set as soon as it is poured.
Bake the caramel-covered crackers for 15 minutes, watching carefully as it will bubble and the corners might darken too quickly and/or burn. You can reduce the heat if you see this happening.
Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand five minutes, and then spread them evenly across the caramel. An offset spatula works great here. If you’re using them, sprinkle the chocolate with toasted chopped nuts and/or sea salt. (The sea salt is great on matzo. On Saltines, it’s really not necessary.) Once completely cool - I sometimes speed this process up in the fridge, impatient as should be expected in the face of caramel crack(ers)- break into pieces and store it in a container.


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