These Pecan Caramel Chocolate Bars are a family favorite. I make them every year for my Christmas Cookie Basket and though I make changes to what is included in the basket I am told repeatedly that these must stay.
These cookies, yes they are cookies, originate from Rose's Christmas Cookie book. Rose Levy Beranbaum is one of my favorite cookbook authors and this book is used frequently in my kitchen, especially during the holidays.
Making the Caramel
One of the main ingredients is the caramel sauce. Making this recipe was the first time I had made homemade caramel and I was amazed at how much better homemade caramel tastes than store-bought. It is not as sweet and the flavor is richer and more complex.
The first few times I made the caramel I followed the directions to a tee and I never took my eyes off the bought as the sugar caramelize and turned a deep amber. But the more often I made it the more comfortable I became with making caramel and making adjustments.
Here are some tips for making a delicious caramel sauce:
Use corn syrup in the recipe. Corn syrup prevents the caramel from crystalizing and helps it maintain a smooth texture.
Only stir enough to dissolve the sugar. Whether using water or corn syrup only stir the sugar and liquid until the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring and don't stir again until you add the cream. Frequent stirring can cause crystallization (lumps of hard sugar) especially if using water. If crystallization occurs then you have to start over.
Use a thermometer. Use a thermometer to ensure you cook the caramel to the correct temperature. The temperature is especially important if you are making candy or sugar decorations. My favorite thermometer is the Thermapen Mk4.
Use a bigger pot and a long-handled spoon. Because the caramel bubbles up when the cream is added use a pot that is bigger than you might normally use for this amount of ingredients. For this recipe I used a 2-quart pot. A lot of steam is generated when the cream is added, so use a long-handled spoon so your hand is not so close to the steam.
When the caramel is finished store it in a glass jar. When it is completely cool store it in the refrigerator. The caramel is good up to the expiration date on the cream that was used to make the caramel.
Making the Pecan Caramel Chocolate Bar
The caramel can be made a few days in advance. I always make extra caramel in case I decide to make more cookies and because extra caramel is just a good thing. I sometimes use chopped chocolate and other times I use the Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips. I prefer pecans, but you can also use walnuts. This recipe is very versatile.
These cookies will keep up to 3 weeks in an airtight container, separated by wax paper. When I make these cookies for my Christmas cookie basket they are one of the first ones I make because they stay so good for so long.
If you make these cookies please take a picture and tag me on Instagram @bakesbybrownsugar and use the hashtag #bakesbybrownsugar.
Pecan Caramel Chocolate Bars
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) white granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (82 grams) corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (125 grams) heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (106 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (63 grams) quick-cooking oats
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 9 tablespoons (127 grams) salted butter melted
- 3 ounces (85 grams) bittersweet chocolate chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans roughly chopped
For the Caramel
- Measure the cream into a glass measuring cup and set it near the stove. Place 1 tablespoon of butter in a small bowl.
- Combine the corn syrup and the sugar in a 2-quart non-reactive saucepan and cook over medium heat. As the mixture heats up gently stir with a metal spoon until the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved stop stirring.
- Continue to cook until the mixture comes to a boil and starts to caramelize to a deep amber. It will read 360 degrees on a digital thermometer.
- Immediately remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the cream to the caramel and stir with a long-handled spoon. It will bubble and splatter, continue to stir until the caramel is smooth and add the butter.
- Return the caramel to the stove and continue boiling over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F. Immediately pour the caramel into a glass jar that is big enough to hold 2 cups. Allow the caramel to cool for 10 minutes and stir in the vanilla.
- If making the caramel a few days in advance, store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Reheat in the microwave for 30 seconds so it is pourable.
For the Cookie Base
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides of an 8 x 8-inch pan to keep the caramel from sticking.
- Put the flour, the oats, the brown sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl and stir with a large silicone spatula to combine. Add the melted butter and mix together until no specks of the flour mixture remain.
- Scrape the mixture into the pan and press it into the pan so it covers the bottom evenly.
- Bake it for 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and evenly sprinkle the chocolate pieces and the walnuts over the top. Drizzle the caramel mixture evenly across the top and return the pan to the oven for 15 minutes until the caramel is bubbling.
- Remove the bars from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Run the tip of a cake spatula all the way around the edges of the cake to loosen the warm caramel from the sides of the oven.
- Allow the bars to cool completely on a wire rack. Use a small metal spatula to loosen it from the sides of the pans. Use an offset spatula to lift the edges of the cookie bars and invert the bars onto a cutting board. Reinvert the bars and then cut into 2 x 2-inch squares.
- Store the bars in an airtight container and separate the layers with wax paper. The bars will keep for about 3 weeks.