Nina’s Cooking! Recipe #1: Salt+Caramel+Chocolate

I’ve always had a fear of boiling sugar.  There is something daunting about hot, boiling, sticky stuff.  Is it going to burn?  How much stirring is too much stirring?  So, I’ve always avoiding cooking anything with caramelized, caramel-dipped, or caramel filled.  Don’t get me wrong: I’ve never encountered something caramel-y that I don’t like, but the prospect of a pan of burnt sugar and a kitchen filled with smoke has always put me off.

No longer. It’s easy, guys. Like really easy.

The following recipe comes, adapted mostly by circumstance, from Smitten Kitchen, the best of the best in the realm of cooking blogs.

You will need:
Enough matzos or saltines to cover an 11×17 baking pan (please, please line this pan with parchment paper before covering with crackers)
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter cut into a few pieces (so it melts faster)
1 cup of packed brown sugar (recipe called for light, but we used dark, so I’m not sure it matters)
A pinch of sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (semisweet worked great, but if you want something a little less sweet, go for bittersweet)
1/2 cup toasted, slivered nuts [optional]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

The process is easy: start with a parchment paper lined baking sheet (11×17). Cover it with some sort of thin, white cracker like saltines or matzos. I used saltines, which adds all the necessary saltiness, but matzos would probably be easier to work with because the pieces are bigger.

Next came the daunting part: butter, dark brown sugar, heat. Deb from Smitten Kitchen calls for light brown sugar, but the light brown sugar in our cabinet was more similar to a brick than anything edible, so we used dark brown, which works fine. Mix the butter and sugar in saucepan. The important part here is to stir over medium heat. Nothing should stick to the pan. Nothing should burn. So stir, stir, stir. The caramel is done when it has thickened a fair bit and pulls from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and add vanilla and sea salt.

Next, quickly (caramel hardens fast) pour the caramel over the crackers and spread it as best you can over the surface. This is where using matzos makes more sense. The saltines shifted in the pan while spreading the caramel, which I imagine would be less of a problem with matzos because they are much larger. But, on the plus side, a lot of the caramel ended up on the underside of the crackers which was pretty tasty.

After spreading the caramel over the surface, pop the pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the caramel. You do not want it to burn, especially around the edges.

Take it out of the oven and immediately pour the chocolate chips over the top. Let them sit (hard, I know) for 5 minutes so that they melt through.

Then, using a spatula, spread the chocolate chips over the caramel covered crackers.

Sprinkle with the nuts if you are using them. If you used matzos instead of saltines, adding more sea salt sprinkled on top would definitely be tasty. Salt + chocolate + caramel never fails.

Let them cool. Cooling in the refrigerator is recommended, because you can eat them sooner. And they don’t last long…


Photo credit: Anna Quinlan

Nina Sparling (Editor, “What’s Up”) is a bi-coastal aspiring bread baker frustrated with the current food system. Originally from Berkeley, she moved to New York, complaining most of the way, until she found the Met and figured out the subway (but still has serious envy for Bay Area vegetables). Currently a sophomore at Sarah Lawrence, Nina studies languages, political ecology, and geography and tries to figure out how they all relate.

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