I have an odd habit when it comes to eating. O.K., I actually have several odd habits when it comes to eating (i.e. snacking on frozen peas), but with this post in mind, I have one quirk in particular.
I like to deconstruct my food.
I don't mean "deconstruct" in a super fancy-pants Top Cheffy kind of way, where all of the dish's individual components are separated and artistically arranged on a plate (and usually drizzled with some sort of foam.) I mean "deconstruct" in a more traditional sense: I like to take my food apart, piece by piece, before consuming.
Let me offer up a run-of-the-mill turkey and swiss on rye as an example. Most normal people would consume this sandwich by picking up one half and biting into it......then biting into it again.....and again, yes?
Most normal people would do this. I repeat, most normal people.
I, on the other hand, feel the need to eat my sandwiches layer by layer. First, I eat the top slice of bread. Then, I eat the swiss (or the lettuce and tomato, whichever comes first.) Next, I'll eat the turkey, slice by slice, and finally, the bottom piece of bread.
I don't know why I stick to this routine. Freud would probably have a field day with the analysis though. And Emily Post would tell you that this is incredibly poor etiquette (but I still send hand-written thank-you notes, so I am allowed this one, Em.) My husband would tell you that it drives him crazy.
My earliest memory of playing the "let's take our food apart" game is from about third grade in the Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart cafeteria. I deconstructed a Ho-Ho. First, I peeled off that oddly-textured chocolate shell. Now that I think about it, how do they achieve that slightly waxy consistency? Ew. Next, I would unroll the chocolate cake and eat the sugary white frosting, followed by the cake. I'm certain that the nuns were appalled.
Candy bars were no exception. The best example of this was a Twix bar, which I would stick in the refrigerator or the freezer before eating, so that it the buttery caramel would easily peel back from the crisp shortbread cookie.
I still love Twix, but I never buy them anymore (except maybe to hand out to trick or treaters.) For today's post, I thought that I'd change things up a bit. Instead of deconstructing a Twix, I decided to construct a Twix, layer by layer. I'd seen a few versions of this recipe floating around the Internet and in magazines, so I took bits and pieces from various recipes (namely Sherry Yard's version and Martha Stewart's version), and put my own little spin on the candy.
Here are my extra tips for making these copycat candy bars:
- The bars can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, covered. Because the caramel might be too hard after chilling, you might want to allow the bars to sit at room temperature a bit before serving.
- If you don't have any Fleur de Sel, Maldon sea salt, or a flake salt, you can substitute kosher salt
- I used Lyle's Golden Syrup for the caramel portion of the recipe, which has an appearance similar to honey and a buttery flavor. I found it at our local international market, but I believe that it can also be found at certain Whole Foods or Cost Plus markets. Per the recipe, you can substitute corn syrup.
- The best way to cut the bars is by using an extra-sharp knife that has been run under hot water.
Homemade Twix Bars
12 tablespoons (6 ounces) butter, softened
¼ cup golden brown sugar, packed
1 ¾ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Chocolate caramel layer
1 ½ cups sugar
9 tablespoons golden syrup or corn syrup
6 tablespoons water
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup sweetened condensed milk
¼ teaspoon sea salt or Fleur de Sel (plus more for sprinkling)
¼ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (optional)
Chocolate coating (if you are dipping the individual bars, double this amount)
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Prepare the shortbread crust: Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line a 9X9-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing for a 1-inch overhang. Butter the foil/parchment or spray it with nonstick baking spray.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add the flour and the salt, and beat until combined. Transfer the dough to the pan and press it into an even layer using your hands or a spatula.
Bake the crust until it turns golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Prepare the caramel: In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, syrup, and water. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly and wiping down any stray sugar crystals on the sides with a wet pastry brush. Once the mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring.
Insert a candy thermometer into the mixture and continue to cook until it reaches 300F degrees. At this point, remove the pan from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream (the mixture will bubbly vigorously.) Whisk until smooth, then whisk in the condensed milk and the salt. Whisk until smooth, then whisk in the chocolate (optional) until smooth.
Return the pan to the heat and whisk constantly until the temperature reaches 240F degrees. Pour the mixture over the shortbread crust and sprinkle the surface with additional coarse sea salt or Fleur de Sel. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill until firm, about 1 ½ hours.
Prepare the chocolate coating: Melt the chocolate with the butter in a double boiler set over low heat. You now have two options for coating the bars:
1. Pour the chocolate mixture evenly over the chilled caramel layer and spread to cover all of the caramel. Return the pan to the refrigerator until the chocolate is set. Using a sharp knife run under hot water, cut into 2 x 2 0 inch squares to serve.
2. These bars can also be cut and dipped into the chocolate to more closely resemble Twix bars. After the caramel layer has chilled, cut down the length of the pan using a sharp knife that has been run under hot water, into two long pieces. Then cut each piece into strips, about ¾-inch wide. Quickly dip the chilled bars into the melted chocolate, turning to coat, and place them on a wire rack set over parchment paper to set until firm.