I love the sections in Cook's Illustrated where they "revisit" a traditional home recipe like chocolate brownies, carrot cake or corn chowder and try to perfect and rejuvenate it. Sometimes a recipe is just too good to give up on. Such was the case with these bars that Mommy Dearest made for the Christmas cookie plates. She followed the directions perfectly and regardless of what Kraft may say, they did not solidify and ended up leaking over many of our other lovely confections. Caramel Peppermint Crescents? Not a great combination.
The ingredient combo in these bars appealed to most of us but we had a very difficult time prying them off of the plates to actually taste them. I had to come up with a way to remedy the issue because caramel, marshmallow and graham crackers are too high on my list to pass this recipe up. Below is the result. You can view the original recipe for a comparison and you will see in the reviews that several people had the same issue that we did and also felt there was too much chocolate (which I pared down). I am not entirely surprised considering the process and ingredients used in the original recipe would most likely not yield a solid bar unless frozen and then your dentist would be thanking you and your wallet would be crying.
Caramel Crunch Barsadapted from Kraft
9 Graham cracker sheets
2 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk any fat content will do, I used one can fat free
1/2 C unsalted butter again, you can use light sticks of butter
1/2 C roasted peanuts I prefer the dry roasted
1 C miniature marshmallows
1 C (3-oz) coarsely crushed pretzels
4 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T melted peanut butter for drizzling optional
Line 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick foil or grease regular foil generously.
1. Fit 7 1/2 graham cracker sheets along the base of the pan as tightly as possible. Crush up the remaining graham crackers to distribute crumbs between the cracks. This was a particular complaint among the original recipe- people felt the caramel leaked below the crackers and created a sticky mess.
2. Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in sweetened condensed milk and turn up heat to medium-high, bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to medium-low to simmer. Stir mixture constantly until it thickens and turns amber in color. Time will vary depending on your stove top but with my gas range it took about 20-25 minutes (a little less if I cooked on medium heat but be careful not to burn and do NOT walk away from the stove).
3. Gently pour and smooth caramel over graham crackers.
4. Press peanuts, marshmallows, pretzels and chocolate over the caramel. To ensure that everything sticks and to give a toasted look to the marshmallows, I will turn on the broiler and put the pan in the oven for 2 min.
5. Drizzle peanut butter over top if desired.
Nutrition: 245 cal, 9g fat, 120mg sod, 38g carb, 32g sugar, 1g fiber, 5g protein