Espresso Caramel Bars
(credit goes to Giada on Food Network for this one)
Crust:vegetable cooking spray
12 whole cinnamon graham crackers, crumbled (or 2 cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
Chocolate Layer:2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 teaspoons instant espresso powder (instead of this, I used strong brewed coffee in liquid form)
1 teaspoon smoked sea salt, optional (I do NOT use this ingredient)
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 springform 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 (OR do what I did and microwave in 45 seconds intervals on half power.) 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, if using. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour until firm.
Allow the layers to come to room temperature, about 30 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.They go really well with the Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries featured on Heidi's blog. See?
(I did change the recipe slightly, so see her blog for the original. But they are totally healthy and good for you...unlike the previous dessert. Balance :0))
FAT FREE CHEESECAKE STUFFED STRAWBERRIES
18-20 large strawberries
1.4 oz. package of fat free Cheesecake pudding
1 7-8 oz can whipped topping
1 cup of skim milk
Mix the pudding and skim milk together with a whisk for 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping. Place in refrigerator for 15 minutes.Wash strawberries and cut off stems. Let strawberries dry on a paper towel on the cut end. With a sharp knife cut the strawberry in quarters from the tip without going all the way through the strawberry. Put filling in a large ziploc bag and cut the end off (or pastry bag if you have one). Put tip in strawberry and squeeze filling until it comes out of the sides and top of the strawberry. Store loosely covered in the fridge.
editing on Saturday just a bit to add that I served both of these at a Girl's Night In last night. Both are perfect girl's night food...and we also discovered that if you cut the strawberries too far so that they're in pieces they are delicious just dipped into the cheesecake mixture. To be fair, I think it was Anthony who suggested it :0)