The Pastry Chef's Baking
Make your own candy bar brownies for Halloween. A shortbread layer, topped with a brownie layer, topped with a caramel layer, dipped in chocolate.

Candy bar brownies

A delicious treat for Halloween care packages.

When you think of Halloween, many people think about the costumes and dressing up, spooky decorations, orange, black, and scary movies. For me, it's always been about the candy. I hated dressing up in costumes, even when I was a kid. It was just so unnatural to put on some get up and pretend to be someone else or something that you're not. What was the point?? It wasn't my thing. I think I was just born old.

However, in that wonderful American tradition of trick or treating every Oct. 31, I would shamelessly set aside those scruples and head out into the neighborhood with my friends in the name of candy gathering. I'd have my plastic pumpkin pail and chant out "trick or treat!" with the best of them. The "good houses" were the ones who gave out snack-size Snickers, Twix, Almond Joys and Kit Kats. The BEST house in the neighborhood was the one who gave out the full-size bars. Serious joy. You have to understand, my parents never bought candy. It was bad for our teeth, bad for our health, a waste of money, blah, blah. So Halloween to a kid with my sweet tooth was probably better than Christmas.

Now, as an adult, I don't really buy the Halloween candy except to give out and/or to use in baking. My sweet tooth has evolved to a higher level of snobbishness than "grocery story chocolate." But I still have fond memories of the candy I used to enjoy during Halloween time. Twix was one of them, mostly because of the shortbread. And the caramel. Plus the chocolate. OK, I liked all of it. So naturally, I also liked the concept of the homemade Twix bar that's made with a shortbread base, a brownie layer, topped with a caramel layer and enrobed in chocolate. Now this is right up my alley.

I adapted this recipe from a Delicious Discoveries blog and made a couple of modifications, mostly cutting out the initial chilling steps. You don't want the shortbread to get too brown in the first baking, just a pale golden, since it'll keep on baking when you bake the brownie layer on top of it. But don't underbake it either because you want it to bake enough to provide a crisp texture. Follow the proportions of the caramel layer I listed below as that set up perfectly when chilled. If you add too much heavy cream, your caramel won't set up and will be too liquid which will make it difficult to enrobe in chocolate. Too little cream and your caramel will be too hard and chewy.

The last step calls for enrobing in chocolate. Normally, chocolate should be tempered first if you're going to use it as a coating. By that, I mean it needs to be melted and raised to a certain temperature, depending on the type of chocolate you use but typically it should be to 100-105 degrees F (dark chocolate on the higher end, white chocolate on the lower end, milk chocolate in the middle). Raising them to the higher temperature destabilizes the crystals.

Then you add a "seed" chocolate which is a piece of solid chocolate in the same flavor you're using, i.e. add a milk chocolate seed to melted milk chocolate, dark to dark, etc. Once you add the seed chocolate, stir the melted chocolate around it until it's in the proper working temperature. For milk chocolate, that's 86-88 degrees, for dark chocolate 88-90, for white chocolate 80-82. The seed chocolate allows the melted chocolate a template to reform their crystals around. Once your melted chocolate is at the working temperature, you can now use it for enrobing.

What happens if you don't temper chocolate first? When your chocolate cools and sets, if isn't tempered properly, you'll see greyish streaks on your enrobed product. That's the cocoa fat that separated out. It doesn't affect the taste but your end product won't look as pretty. Tempering chocolate isn't hard but it can be time consuming and if you don't have a tempering machine, you at least need a good thermometer, preferably an instant-read digital thermometer. I do have a tempering machine but I don't normally use it unless I'm making a batch of homemade truffles or a lot of things that need enrobing. My digital thermometer ran out of batteries long ago and I have yet to replace it. Which means I didn't temper these properly. Some turned out okay, some came out a little streaky. But I was in a hurry because I wanted to get these done and set so I could package them up and make the Saturday mail to send them out in a care package. Hopefully the recipients don't mind.

Candy Bar Brownies

Shortbread layer
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
Caramel layer
11-ounce bag Kraft caramel bits
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Brownie recipe
Brownie recipe from "Ultimate Chocolate" by Patricia Lousada

  • 8 x 8 pan
  • Good quality milk or semisweet chocolate for enrobing

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup (45 g) cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup self-rising flour (I substituted 1/2 cup all purpose flour + 1/4 teaspoon baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon salt)
3/4 cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8” square baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

For the shortbread layer: beat butter until soft and creamy, add sugar and flour and mix until it forms a dough (do not overbeat). Pat into an even layer in prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

While shortbread is baking, prepare brownies: melt the butter in a small, heavy-based saucepan, then stir in the cocoa until blended and set aside.

Beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and stir in the chocolate mixture. Sift the flour over the top and fold it into the mixture. Fold in the nuts, if using.

Once the shortbread layer is done, pour the brownie mixture over it in an even layer and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until just cooked through and springy to the touch.

Place pan in the refrigerator to cool. Once brownies are firm, heat caramel bits and heavy cream until uniformly liquid. Pour melted caramel over brownies and spread evenly. Refrigerate again until firm. (Do not cheat this step.)

Grab the ends of the foil and remove from pan. Peel the foil off the sides and bottom and place the brownies on a cutting board and cut into thin bars. Melt chocolate for enrobing and dip bars, placing on a wax paper lined baking sheet until chocolate is set.

Related post: Care Packages (tips)

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