Saturday, January 24, 2015

Krusteaz Choco Caramel Squares

These sweet-tooth munchies have a fudge-brownie cooky base, topped with non-nut nougat and chopped nuts. Nougat etymology includes nuts; the sweet confection on the cooky is not nutty—only the final topper. For expediency in this article, "nougat" refers to that middle layer, a combination of melted chocolate chips and squeeze-packet caramel.

About a year ago, I bought a box of Krusteaz Molten Deep Dish Chocolate Cookie with Caramel Center. I periodically would read the instructions, wondering if I really wanted to use up all the ingredients for 12 cookies that had "molten" centers. The yield seems pretty paltry, especially considering extra hassle beyond other munchies I make.

I looked at suggested recipe alternatives on the box. I wasn't warm to requirements for additional ingredients.
So, I took inspiration from the Seattle Bars and tried something else, skipping all the additional ingredients except for nuts, and adding melted chocolate chips. Was the process less hassle? No. But the results won rave reviews, and gave me ideas for a future similar but different munchie.

This recipe differs somewhat from other recipes I've posted because I needed to improvise as I went along. I've added several parenthetical thoughts during the process. My pixstrip shows the following image areas:
  1. Ingredients and utensils (Pics do not include additional implements I needed to use later.)
    1. Utensils and ingredients. The dashed line indicates the mix kit is part of two preparation stages. (The left side shows the dough ingredients, the right side shows the topping ingredients.)
    2. Oblong pan and spray oil
  2. Doh!
    1. Bowl of the cooky dough—mixed eggs, soft butter, and Krusteaz powder
    2. Pan with the raw, pressed cooky dough, spread out to edges
    3. Pan with the baked cooky slab (Note: During the baking, I needed to press some of the dough down to flatten for height consistency.)
  3. Squares!
    1. Cooky squares in larger, wax paper-lined pan (Note: First, I flipped the cooky slab onto a cooling rack, cut it into 24 squares, then placed the squares right side up onto the larger, wax-lined pan.)
    2. Cooky squares, topped with with choco-caramel and nuts.
    3. Finished squares in cupcake liners and tote tin
  • 9" x 13" pan
  • Pastry blender
  • Mixing bowl for blending to-be-baked ingredients together
  • Mixing bowl for melting chocolate chips, then blending in the envelope of Krusteaz caramel "sauce"
  • Spoon(s) for later distributing the choco-caramel topping onto the baked cooky squares
  • Additional helpful items during process
    • latex or vinyl glove(s) for spreading out the cooky dough, then later for pressing down inconsistent-height dough during baking
    • Cooling rack
    • Wax paper
    • Additional pan or cooky sheet
    • Plastic knife for separating the baked cooky slab from the pan
    • Knife fur cutting squares
    • Plate for nuts
    • Cupcake papers
  • For the cooky slab
    • 1 egg
    • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
    • The bag of the Krusteaz mix powder
  • For the topping
    • 4 oz chocolate chips
    • The 4-oz package of the Krusteaz caramel topping
    • 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (Suggestion: Place on a plate or other flat area.)
Instructions (for the cooky slab)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the oil and egg.
  3. Stir the Krusteaz powder into the wet ingredients.
  4. Spray the oil generously onto the pan. (Spray REALLY generously at the edges and corners!)
  5. Distribute the cooky dough evenly onto the pan. (Gloves help for less-mess pressing.)
  6. Bake for about 13 minutes, and check progress. (The dough rose unevenly, so I pressed the high part to flatten it even with the rest of the slab.)
  7. Finish baking for about another 3 minutes, verifying doneness with toothpick or lightly pressing the cooky slab for springiness.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for a couple of minutes or so.
  9. Use a plastic knife to carefully separate the cooky slab edges and corners from the pan, then flip the pan upside down onto a cooling rack.
  10. Cut the cooky slab into 24 squares, placing them right side up. (I initially subdivided the slab into 4 quarters, placed them right side up onto a larger, wax-lined pan, and finished cutting them into squares.)
Instructions (for the topping and completion)
  1. Melt the chocolate chips.
  2. Snip the envelope of caramel and squeeze it into the bowl.
  3. Alternately stir and heat the chocolate and caramel together.
  4. Use spoons or similar implements to distribute the nougatty mixture onto the cooky squares. (Using two spoons, I made use of the thick mixture's inertia for transports and gravity for the drops.)
  5. For each square, turn it upside down and lightly flatten it onto the plate of nuts, then place it right side up elsewhere. (The nougat acts as a glue.)
The batch made 24 squares, ~142 calories (gasp!) each. The box recipe itself would have made 12 molten-filling cookies at 220 calories each. Adding nuts and chocolate chips increased calories, but dividing the batch into 24 portions reduced the per-unit calories.

Post-recipe thoughts
If making similar squares and using cake mix, for the "molten" caramel, I'd try a spoonable caramel ice cream topping like they use for sundaes. "Smucker's" prominently comes up in Google for ice cream toppings, even without using Smucker's for a search term. These Smucker images are making my mouth water!

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