December 9, 2012

Turtle Bark

Christmas baking season is here!   

Every year, my mom, sisters, and I have a Christmas bake-a-thon with Christmas movies on in the background.  It's always so much fun and very special, and we'll brainstorm creations weeks ahead.  The bulk of the baking consists of different types of cookies, but we usually come with another sweet confection or two, like fudge, truffles, and bark.  What are you planning to bake for the holidays?

When I saw this Turtle Bark featured on Blue-Eyed Bakers, I could not believe how simple it looked, especially since the base of the bark is comprised of graham crackers.  It's hard to resist the chocolate caramel pairing, especially when crunchy toasted pecans are thrown into the mix.  The graham cracker base just adds that perfect cookie-like crunch.

For this bark, you make the caramel sauce, and the homemade caramel sauce is outstanding.  To extract the best flavor from your nuts, toast them for about ten minutes or so.  After the bark is finished, sprinkling some sea salt just helps deepen the chocolate flavor.

This bark is easy to make, but the hard part?  Waiting for it to chill before you can sample it. :)  After you sample it, you could put it in tins for gift giving.

Enjoy the sweetness of the season!
Turtle Bark

1 cup whole pecans, lightly chopped
10 whole graham crackers (large rectangular size)
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sea salt, as desired

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Toast chopped pecans for 10 minutes.  Continue to leave the oven on.

Line a 9 x 13" pan with parchment paper, and grease the paper and sides of the pan using cooking spray.  Arrange the graham crackers in a single layer in the prepared pan, and use any smaller graham cracker rectangles or broken graham crackers to fill the gaps.

Combine the sugar, butter, and heavy whipping cream in a medium-sized heavy saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir occasionally.  Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla.  The mixture will bubble up, so don't be alarmed!  Stir in the toasted pecans.  Pour this butter mixture of the crackers, and spread evenly to coat.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbly.

While the pan cools, melt the chocolate chips on the stove in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of water at medium heat.  Stir constantly until melted.  Pour the chocolate over the caramel-pecan layer, and you can tip the pan back and forth until evenly coated.  Sprinkle immediately with sea salt, if desired, and refrigerate until cool and firm.

Remove the bark from the pan using the parchment paper, and cut into bars/bark using a sharp knife.  Store in the fridge, covered, to ensure the chocolate does not become too soft.

Source: Adapted from the Blue-Eyed Bakers, originally from Eat.Drink.Smile.

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