[donotprint] People often ask me where my recipe ideas come from. It’s a fair question. Sometimes I adapt recipes from cookbooks, magazines, and other websites – I credit the source when I do this. Many times I just throw ingredients together having a good foundation of knowledge of what goes well with what. I also love re-creating dishes I have tried in restaurants or friends’ houses. But once in awhile I’ll have the beginnings of a recipe pop into my mind and stay there until I do something with it. It’s often a still frame vision of sorts. Once I have the image in my mind I start deconstructing it and then reconstructing it frame by frame using ingredients and methods which work for me. When mentally reconstructing a recipe in my mind I start asking myself certain questions like a scientist would. “What would happen if I added this? How can I make these ingredients work together? How can I streamline the process to make it easier and faster?” These are the questions which run through my mind when I’m developing recipes. My hope and end goal is to have created something visually pleasing and equally delicious.
For the past two weeks I have been obsessing with a food vision of a chocolate candy bar using caramel and Nutella. As days passed and my mind racing on how I could pull this vision off, I leaned heavily on the glory days of my youth. When I was a kid I loved Twix candy bars. What was not to love about them? Crunchy cookie sticks with caramel topping coated in chocolate. I was addicted to them like I was addicted to Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Esprit tote bags, white Keds, and side way pony tails. It was not uncommon for me to walk three blocks to the 7-11 store with two quarters in my hand. The moment I walked into the store I would turn right two aisles down. Two steps later on the right hand side my beloved Twix bars were waiting for me. I would grab one one and head to the counter to pay. I grabbed one quarter from my pocket and slid it across the counter looking up at the clerk and waiting for him to give me the look of approval that my chocolate was paid for and rightfully mine. After our transaction I would walk around to the other side of the store. I placed my candy bar in my coat pocket and grabbed my other quarter. Holding on to it with my right thumb and pointer finger I pushed it into the arcade sized Galaga video game. Oh how I loved playing Galaga. Once my game was over I waited until I was outside to unwrap my candy bar and eat it while walking home relishing every bite. Mmmmmmm.
As candy bar prices began to rise I noticed the quality of the chocolate bars decline even as a kid. I would think to myself.. this chocolate doesn’t taste so good. By the time I was in high school I stopped eating candy bars because they tasted like wax and the deep chocolate flavor I once enjoyed was now in memory only. Not all was lost. I became a huge fan of Mentos, Mamba candy, Skittles, and Starbursts.
Fast forward to today. I wanted to re-create a Twix like bar except I knew I wanted to use honey-wheat pretzel sticks as the cookie for the salty sweet effect. Using one pretzel would have been too skinny for a candy bar. But I knew two pretzels side by side would be just perfect. I loved the idea of hints of salt from the pretzels colliding with chocolate and caramel. So when I was imagining how to do the caramel layer I considered a few options. I wanted these candy bars to be simple but I knew if I asked YOU to make homemade caramel this additional step would be where many people would simply decide not pursue this recipe any further. I imagined some of you thinking, “forget it… its’ not worth it.” So with this in mind I decided to use Kraft caramel squares.
I needed the caramel to bind the two sticks together and the texture of the caramel squares would be perfect for a candy bar. Knowing four whole caramel squares would overwhelm everything I decided to cut each square in half. I proceeded to place the cut caramels in the microwave for 8 seconds, just long enough to soften them to be pliable but not too long to melt them. I wanted the caramels to be firm enough to hold the pretzels together like poster gum. I’m so glad I went this route because my idea worked beautifully just as I imagined. I grabbed one half square at a time and lined four of them in a row on top of the two pretzels and shaped them so they fit perfectly. I applied just enough pressure to push the caramels down to hold the pretzels together. This gave it a uniform look which made me very happy. Next, I flipped the caramel pretzels over to fill with Nutella.
I spooned Nutella into a sandwich bag and cut the corner – similar to a pastry bag. I piped a pea size bead of Nutella along the center seams of the pretzels. From there I took the back of a spoon and gently spread the Nutella across the entire top surface pushing the spread down more in the middle to fill any gaps.
My idea was coming together. The last step was to coat my candy bar in dark chocolate.
I melted dark chocolate chips in the microwave until smooth. Using a fork, I gently placed my caramel pretzel bar (Nutella side up) in the chocolate gently tilting the pretzels side to side until it was completely coated. I lifted the candy bar from its chocolate bath and placed it on parchment paper to dry. I sprinkled sea salt on the tops of half my candy bars for the salted chocolate caramel effect.
As you can see my chocolate bars turned out beautifully… everything I envisioned it to be. I loved taking a bite into one bar and seeing a layer of caramel, Nutella, pretzels, and chocolate. As for taste…oh my goodness. A thousand times better than anything you can buy in the store – did I mention it had Nutella?!!!!.
The best part about making these chocolate bars were how quick I whipped up a dozen. Seriously.. I made a dozen in under ten minutes. No baking or using the stove top was required. Just one minute in the microwave, cutting, assembling, and dipping – that was it! In fact, you could easily make a batch for yourself for a late night chocolate fix and be satisfied in knowing it is a gazillion times better than anything you could buy at the grocery store. Hope you guys love these bars as much as I do! Enjoy! [/donotprint]
- 24 – square caramel candies, cut in half
- 24 – 4 inch honey-wheat pretzel sticks like Rold Gold or Trader Joes
- ⅓ cup Nutella
- ⅔ cup dark chocolate chips or your favorite type of chocolate
- optional: sea salt
- Place caramel halves on a plate in a single layer. Microwave the caramels for 8 seconds, just until they are pliable but still firm. With two pretzels side by side in the palm on the hand, line four caramel halves along the pretzel from one end to another. Gently pushed the caramels down using a thumb and index finger to bind the caramel to the pretzels. Repeat this with all the pretzels and caramels. Spoon the Nutella into a sandwich bag and cut the tip off. Pipe a pea sized bead of Nutella on the non caramel side of the pretzels. Carefully spread the Nutella across the top surface with the back side of a utensil handle. Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe container and microwave for 1 minute and stir until smooth. If necessary, microwave for an additional 30 seconds to get the chocolate smooth. Place the pretzel (Nutella side up) on a fork and carefully dip the pretzels in the chocolate rocking the pretzels side to side to get the pretzel bars completely coated. Lift the bar from the chocolate and allow any excess chocolate to drip off. Place bars on a plate or board lined with parchment paper. Place the board in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or the freezer for 10 minutes to help harden the chocolate coating.