Our good friend Buzz is getting married today!!! At a winery! In California! (We're a tad excited. Can you tell?)
I think it's safe to say that Buzz is our oldest friend, considering that we've known each other since before we even existed. Our moms were roommates in college all the way in Illinois, and somehow both of them managed to end up in the Bay Area after school. Then Buzz's dad introduced his friend (Daddy)Bob to Mama B, and the rest is history.
We obviously share a lot of memories with Buzz, but when looking for inspiration for a Buzz-themed treat, one memory stood out:
For mine and Becky's thirteenth birthday, Buzz's mom (our "Aunt" Jan) took us skiing. The trip required that we start our drive to the lodge in the middle of the night so we could make the most of our day on the slopes. When Aunt Jan woke us up for breakfast at some diner off the highway, we stumbled into a booth, still half asleep.
Maybe it was the turtleneck, maybe it was Buzz's sleep-heavy eyes - we don't really remember details. But at some point before our pancakes arrived, Becky glanced at Buzz and announced that she looked like a turtle.
Yes - we all agreed. Buzz most definitely looked like a turtle.
And then we started laughing. And laughing. And laughing.
I honestly hadn't thought of that moment in years until Becky brought it up and said we should make Turtle Bars in Buzz's honor. But now that I think about it, it is a perfect example of our friendship with Buzz - we see each other at our worst and best, we can speak frankly when we need to, and most of all, we're silly and we laugh a whole lot.
The recipe for these bars may look as long as our friendship with Buzz, but each individual step is not all that complicated. The hardest part is waiting for them to set up properly before digging in.
Buzz and Doug - we love you and we wish you all the happiness two turtles...er...people, can have!
- Katie & Becky
Caramel Turtle Bars
Adapted from Fine Cooking
Makes about 4 dozen 1-1/2-inch-square bars
For the crust:
Non-stick cooking spray, vegetable oil, or melted butter for the pan
7 oz. (14 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. table salt
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
For the caramel topping:
2 cups pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped (we used 1 cup each pecans and walnuts)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. table salt
For the ganache:
6 Tbs. heavy cream
2 oz. good-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
Make the shortbread crust:
1. Line a straight-sided 13x9-inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal. Lightly coat the sides of the foil (not the bottom) with nonstick cooking spray, oil, or melted butter to prevent the caramel from sticking.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, brown sugar, and salt. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
3. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm. Meanwhile, position a rack near the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. You can also toast the pecans at this time if you have not already.
4. Bake the dough for 20 minutes, and then decrease the oven temperature to 300°F and bake until the crust is golden all over and completely set, about 15 more minutes.
Make the topping:
5. Sprinkle the pecans evenly over the crust.
6. In a heavy medium saucepan, bring the brown sugar, cream, butter, corn syrup, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until all the ingredients are melted and smooth. Let the mixture continue to boil, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240°F, about 6 more minutes. Turn off the heat and immediately (but carefully) pour the caramel evenly over the prepared crust. Let the bars cool completely, about 2 hours, before garnishing with the ganache.
Make the ganache:
7. Put the chocolate in a small heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 3 minutes. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until combined and smooth.
8. Fill a plastic zip-top baggie with the ganache, snip the tip off a corner, and drizzle the ganache decoratively over the caramel bars (you don’t have to use all the ganache - [but why wouldn't you?!]; keep the extra in the fridge for 5 days). Let the ganache set for 30 minutes to an hour.
9. Carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board. Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Cut the bars into 1-1/2-inch squares. They will keep at room temperature for 1 week. (Note: we found it easier to slice these bars after refrigerating them for a few hours.)