I first found this recipe in my Giada at Home cook book, and this quickly became my go-to dessert recipe for parties. Espresso, chocolate, and caramel – it’s an obvious crowd pleaser. But it took me several tries to make the tweaks to make this perfect. (And considering the online recipe is a bit different from the one in the book, I think the recipe makers at Food Network had some edits as well!) My final product is the perfect bite-size snack to end any special meal, or served as something sweet with some coffee.
The original recipe called for too much butter in the crust for my taste, which left a bit of a coating on the bottom of the graham crackers. Follow the measurements below and you’ll get perfectly crisp and non-greasy crust every time.
The recipe does require a candy thermometer to get that perfect caramel texture, but if you don’t have one just pay very close attention to the temperature and amount of time that the caramel simmers. (The first time I made these years ago I did not own a candy thermometer and just eyeballed it. It came out fine.)
It’s best to let each layer cool and set at room temperature before adding each additional layer. But if you’re in a hurry, you can rush the process along and put it in the fridge. I mean, we’ve all taken short cuts!
The chocolate layer is super simple, just melted over a double boiler (or a glass bowl over a simmering pot of water). Just be sure to stay put and keep stirring so that the chocolate doesn’t overcook.
The last step is to top with some sea salt. I tend to add it after the chocolate has set a bit, otherwise the heat from the fresh chocolate will melt the salt into the layer, whereas I prefer the salt to stay crystallized on top. It creates that perfect salty crunch, combined with the sweet chocolate.
And finally, just cut them up and wait for the compliments! They are very rich in flavor, so cut them small…although most people will probably go back for seconds! 🙂
This decadent dessert looks like it came from an Italian bakery, but it’s really simple to make yourself. Buon appetito!
Giada's Espresso Caramel Bars
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
- 12 graham crackers, crumbled (or 2 cups graham cracker crumbs)
- 1 3/4 cup light brown sugar, divided
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), divided
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (12 oz)
- 2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
Make the Crust
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square pan (or similar size) with parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over the sides.
Melt 1 stick of the butter in the microwave or in a saucepan. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the melted butter and blend until all combined. Spread the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing into an even layer.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges of the crust are golden brown. Cool at room temperature for 10 minutes. (If in a hurry, place in the fridge to cool.)
Make the Caramel Layer
In a saucepan, combine half of the heavy cream (1/2 cup), remaining butter (1 stick), and remaining brown sugar (1 1/2 cups), along with 1 tablespoon of water. Stir over medium heat until the mixture is smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240°F, about 5-7 minutes.
Remove from heat and carefully pour caramel over the cooled crust. Cool and set at room temperature (about 30 minutes).
Make the Chocolate Layer
Combine chocolate chips and remaining heavy cream (1/2 cup) in a double boiler, or in heat-proof bowl over simmering water. (Make sure the bowl does not touch the water.) Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth, about 3 minutes.
Whisk in the espresso powder and stir until combined. Pour chocolate mixture over the cooled caramel layer and smooth the edges with a spatula. Allow chocolate to harden at room temperature, 1-2 hours. (Can place in fridge to speed up the process.) After an hour or so, top with sea salt.
Cutting & Serving
After cooled and set, lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper. Run a sharp knife under hot water and carefully cut into 1 inch squares. Store in airtight container in fridge.
Before serving, allow the bars to come to room temperature, or about 1-2 hours.