Before making these, I had never tempered chocolate, which explains why my chocolate bars look so "rugged" and rough around the edges (literally!). They tasted pretty good, and I was excited about how the chocolate looked after chilling them in the freezer.
There are many tutorials online about tempering chocolate, but tempering is basically the process of heating up chocolate to about 115-120 degrees Farenheit (depends on the type of chocolate), "seeding" the mixture with unmelted chocolate to reduce it to 80 degrees, and then heating the mixture back up to about 85-88 degrees, and keeping it there while dipping the filling into the chocolate.
This process is supposed to yield a chocolate coating that is shiny and produces a crack. It is a tricky process, I found out. The temperature can go up quite quickly, and you want to make sure you don't add any liquid to the chocolate, or it will seize (that includes any wet utensils you use to stir or dip the chocolate!). For my first attempt, I hope I did pretty well. I would like to practice a bit more with a better chocolate then Ghiradelli chocolate, but I think these were just fine for my purposes (i.e., for basic, quotidian consumption).
The recipe for the filling is below; the chocolate portion of the recipe is different from the one I used for these bars. You can take a glance at this video to learn more about tempering chocolate. Use milk or dark chocolate for these bars. Enjoy!
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350* and lightly grease a 9 x 9 baking pan. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and salt. Stir in the flour just until the dough begins to come together in walnut-sized chunks. Press the dough into the prepared pan and bake 20 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Cool completely. Begin the filling as soon as the crust goes into the oven.
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk (I used my leftover, crockpot dulce de leche)
Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring often, 60-90 minutes, until golden brown. Alternately, cook the caramel in a double boiler, covered, stirring occasionally (every 15 minutes or so). The only difference in the methods is the amount of attention given the caramel and the tools needed. When thick and deep golden, spread caramel evenly over cooled crust and refrigerate until caramel is cool and set.
Chocolate Topping (THIS RECIPE IS NOT FOR TEMPERING CHOCOLATE!):
6 ounces good-quality dark or semi-sweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli)
1 Tablespoon butter
Coarse sea salt (optional)
Melt the chocolate and butter slowly over low heat and spread over the cooled caramel layer. Sprinkle sea salt over the chocolate. Refrigerate until set. Slice and enjoy. Store the bars, covered, in the fridge.
If you decide to temper the chocolate, all you need is the type of chocolate you prefer, such as milk or dark chocolate. Avoid using chocolate chips.