Dream Dishes: Kelly Jensen’s Caramel Slice

November 4, 2015

A Taste of Home

My family moved a lot. From Australia to England, to Europe, back to Australia and then to the U.S. I returned to Australia for college and moved back to the U.S. fifteen years ago. In between all that moving I traveled. I’ve been to so many wonderful places and met the most amazing people. I’ve lived in farmhouses, chalets, cabins, beach houses, apartments, condos, manor houses and gatehouses, caravans, tents and a converted postal wagon. I lived on the beach for a month way back in…well, a long time ago.

As I examine my stories I can easily see the influence of my upbringing. So many of my characters are searching for a place to call home and for people they can call family. A constant during those years was my family. As a unit we were very close and, as we absorbed new cultures, we created our own traditions. One of the things I remember most clearly, though, is my mother’s cooking. My mum was an amazing and adventurous cook. She tried a lot of local recipes and to this day, I’ll eat just about anything. But she always balanced the new with the tried and true, and one of my favourites was her caramel slice.

Caramel slice is like a bar cookie. I think that’s how an American would describe it. It’s what my mum made for school bake sales and special treats. It’s what I make when I need a little taste of home, wherever I am. I’ve had to adapt the recipe as it’s hard to get some of the ingredients over here, particularly as I live in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. I did find Golden Syrup at my local supermarket recently, which may prove a disaster for my waistline, but it does get cold here in the winter. Stupidly cold.

(Yeah, I know, I’m not even that far north.)

The ingredient I have the most trouble with is the desiccated coconut. You cannot substitute the flaked coconut readily available in American supermarkets, either the sweetened or unsweetened variety. It’s too moist and altogether the wrong texture. So the recipe below is half my mother’s and half a biscuit base (cookie?) borrowed from elsewhere and further tweaked to fit!

 

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Caramel Slice (Dessert)

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 20 minutes and another 10 for the chocolate. Cooling/setting time: 15 minutes and then at least an hour. Makes about 20 ‘slices’.

Ingredients

Biscuit:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
4oz (I stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tbsp ice water
1 large egg yolk

Caramel:

2x 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6oz unsalted butter, diced
2 tbsp golden syrup (Lyle’s) or dark corn syrup
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Chocolate:

6oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp whipping cream

 

Preparation

Biscuit:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Blend the first 4 ingredients in a food processor. Add butter. Pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the tablespoon of ice water and egg yolk. Blend until clumps form. Press the dough onto the bottom of your pan and bake for about 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Caramel:

Stir the first 5 ingredients in medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Take care to stir across the bottom frequently as the sugar will settle there and burn, putting little black lumps into your caramel. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stirring constantly, boil gently until the caramel is thick (if you’re the type to use a thermometer, temperature should be around 225°F). Should take about 5-6 minutes. Pour the caramel evenly over the biscuit base and leave to cool for about 15 minutes.

Chocolate:

Melt chocolate with cream in microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring occasionally. Spread chocolate over warm caramel and refrigerate for at least an hour. Overnight is best, but it’s hard to wait!

Cut into 2 inch squares. Makes about 20. ☺

 

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