I’ve been drooling over this recipe for a while now, so last weekend, I dug in, got over my fear of cooking molten sugar on the stove, and just did it. And oh, was it worth it.
Deb from Smitten Kitchen posts recipes like, twenty times as often as I do, and they’re all pretty attainable (no la-di-da sugar or butter), sometimes smack-myself-on-the-head-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that simple, and always delicious. This recipe fits into all three categories. Who knew that matzo, sugar, salt, vanilla and chocolate could yield something so groundbreaking?
I decided to make these after my husband (the wedding was awesome—cake pictures to come!) poo-pooed my idea to make basic brownies for work. This recipe was actually fairly easy to make—I’m not sure why I was so stymied by the idea of making homemade caramel. Hot sugar burns, perhaps? But it all ended well. Very well.
Picture it: Pasadena, 2009. A recently married eater/baker/writer (in that order for sure) stands at the stove, looking at a cookie sheet fresh from the oven that holds not cookies, but something actually better: a rectangular sheet of matzo, covered in crunchy caramel, covered in melted chocolate, dusted with salt. She stands at the stove, prodding the creation with a finger every ten seconds, thinking each time, “I want to eat this. I bet it’s cool now. It NEEDS to be cool now.” But each time, it’s still hot and melty. An hour and a trip to the freezer later, she breaks off a corner, takes a bite, and discovers heaven.
Ok, enough weirdo third person. This is a darn good recipe. You should make it.
I resisted my usual urge to futz with the recipe, and only made substitutions when I had to. Deb recommends toasted chopped almonds and other nuts as a topping, but I just used salt. I couldn’t find pretty, flaky sea salt, so I just used kosher salt. She also recommends lining the tin-foil-lined pan with parchment paper, but I just used my handy Silpat. The next time I make this, my only change would be to hold off on dumping all the piping hot caramel onto the matzo, and maybe reserving just a little so the caramel isn’t overwhelming. Check out Deb’s process pictures—I’m too impatient to take them, and it shows how thin the caramel is on the crackers. Mine was more like a swamp. Which was still good, I’m just a “less is more” person when it comes to super-sweet things.
Chocolate Caramel Crack(ers) (as Deb calls the recipe)
From Smitten Kitchen
4 to 6 sheets matzo or approximately 40 Saltine crackers or crackers of your choice
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces
1 cup packed light brown sugar
A big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate)
1 cup toasted chopped almonds, pecans, walnuts or a nut of your choice (optional)
Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional only because salty Saltines + extra salt might be too much, but on unsalted matzo, the crunch and salty-sweetness is a must)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet completely with foil, and then line the base of the foil with parchment paper, cut to fit, or a non-stick baking sheet like Silpat.
Line the bottom of the baking sheet with matzo or crackers, covering all parts. (If using matzo, you’ll need to break pieces to fit any extra spaces, which will be annoying because despite being perforated, it does not actually break in straight lines. Deb suggests, and I agree, that pressing a serrated knife straight down along a section between perforations works well.)
In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for three more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla, and then quickly pour it over the matzo or crackers. You’ll want to spread it quickly, as it will begin to set as soon as it is poured.
Bake the caramel-covered crackers for 15 minutes, watching carefully as it will bubble and the corners might darken too quickly and/or burn. You can reduce the heat if you see this happening.
Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand five minutes, and then spread them evenly across the caramel. If you’re using them, sprinkle the chocolate with toasted chopped nuts and/or sea salt.
Once completely cool (Deb puts hers in the fridge, mine went in the freezer, and I’m sure some patient saint out there lets it sit on the counter for a few hours) break it into pieces and store it in a container. It should keep for a week. Once my sweet-hungry USC co-workers figured out what the strange-looking bag of brown-covered matzo really was, it was gone in a few hours.