Ambidextrous Twix Bars

Did ya miss me?

Have to admit, the primary reason for the lengthy hiatus was summer laziness.  I really planned to come back with fresh recipes in September.

Then, at the end of August, at what was supposed to be a routine exam, a "suspicious" shadow suddenly appeared on the technician's screen ...

... long story short, a biopsy revealed stage I breast cancer.  I won't share the real gory details, but the good news was that because it was caught so early, I was able to avoid chemo and *just* endure a month of radiation treatments.  BTW, my last zapping will be Monday ... yay!

In between zaps, I did manage to continue my annual tradition of mega-candy making for holiday gifts to Hub's better clients.   This year, in case I had a bad reaction to the nuking, I reluctantly dropped a few recipes (sorry, candied citrus peel), and in their places doubled a few of the more simple ones, like mad-easy chocolate dipped pretzels and candied almonds.

A little background before getting to the new stuff.  Despite all the from-scratch candy, I still had a place in my heart for Twix Bars: shortbread cookie base, topped with a layer of caramel, then enrobed in chocolate.  Love 'em!  Whether left or right bars, I'll eat 'em all!

Always wanted to make them myself, but thought they would be very time consuming, so I never bothered.  But after accidentally finding a few recipes for Twix Bars while researching for other things, they didn't look as complex as I thought.  However, virtually every recipe I found used store-bought caramels, and after years of enjoying homemade caramels I just couldn't bring myself to use store-bought.

But, interestingly enough, almost all those recipes that used store-bought caramels made their shortbread base from scratch ... a real head-scratcher to me, since I find it difficult to make a good "shortie" but have zero problem with scratch caramels.  Go figure.

Anyway, Twix Bars were in the back of my mind (if you know me, food is always on my mind, but I digress) when I entered the local hospital for my first treatment.  While the older side of the hospital has a Dunkin' Donuts franchise, the waiting room of the relatively new cancer center has a small but very free coffee bar and an equally complimentary basket of treats.  Included was that magical shortbread cookie Lorna Doone.

Lorna Doone has its own separate place in my heart (yes, I have a candy heart).  As a kid, I went to summer day camp.  Each weekday the bus picked us Bronx kids up and brought us deep into the Garden State.  Along the way we passed a Nabisco cookie factory.  Twice a week they produced (we assume by the aroma) Lorna Doones.  And twice a week the entire busload of kids practically hung out one side of the bus, trying our best to inhale as much sweet air as our lungs could hold. 

Anyway, back to the present.  As I opened a pack of Lorna Doones, and held up one of those cookie squares, I realized that if split in two, each half would each make a perfect Twix clone base.   So I took the remaining 3 cookies home (after all, an opened package couldn't be put back, amiright?), and made a micro-mini practice batch.  Not left or right, but rather ambidextrous, more or less. A bit of scientific testing on select library staff proved I had a winner!

Ambidextrous Twix Bars 
Yield: up to 80 relatively identical mini-bars

1 (10 oz.) box Lorna Doone (or 40 of your favorite shortbread cookie squares)
2 Tbl. unsalted butter, cut up
1/2 rounded cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
3 Tbl. light or dark corn syrup
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
5 Tbl. sweetened condensed milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (24 oz.) bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbl. vegetable shortening

Holding a sharp knife with both hands (one on the handle and one on the opposite side of the blade), firmly push down through each Lorna Doone to cleanly cut in half.  Set cookie halves in a single layer on a large cookie sheet covered in parchment; set aside.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, sweetened condensed milk and butter in a 1 quart saucepan.  Stir constantly over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the butter has melted.  When mixture comes to a boil, insert a candy thermometer, then carefully stir occasionally.

Reduce heat to medium-low.  Continue to stir occasionally until the temperature reaches 240-242F, approximately 10 minutes.  Immediately remove from heat; carefully stir in vanilla extract.

Try to be less messy than I was.

Spoon a 1/4 teaspoon of caramel on each cookie half.  Let caramel set up for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Pour half of chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon shortening in a heat-safe 1-quart bowl.  Microwave at full power for 1 minute.  Stir, then microwave at full power for 30 seconds; repeating until chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

Chocolate-enrobed Twix Bars in various stages of setting up

With a dipping fork, dip a bar into chocolate, turning bar as necessary to make sure it is completely enrobed.

Lift bar up and tap fork several times on inner edge of bowl to allow excess chocolate to drip off.

Carefully slide bar off fork onto baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining bars, melting remaining chocolate chips and vegetable shortening as needed.

Store completely set bars in a tightly covered container or freezer bag at room temperature up to a day or two, in fridge up to a week or in freezer up to a month.

Allow bars to come to room temperature, still in container (to prevent moisture from forming on bars) before serving.


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