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Gooey Turtle Bars



For the shortbread

  • 14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

For the caramel/chocolate layers

  • 1 ¾ cups (12.25 ounces) packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey or light corn syrup
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt (½ teaspoon for coarse or flaky sea salt)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups 7 ounces whole pecan halves, toasted
  • 6 ounces milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or 1 cup milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips)


For the Shortbread

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line the pan as specified in the individual recipe with foil.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Don’t worry if the dough seems too soft or oily. Press and smooth the dough evenly over the bottom of parchment or aluminum foil-lined, greased pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is a rich golden brown with well-browned darker edges. Let cool on a rack before proceeding as directed in the recipe.

For the caramel & chocolate layers

  1. Prepare the shortbread crust as directed.
  2. In a heavy 2- to 3-quart saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, combine the brown sugar, honey, salt, and water. Set on medium heat and add in the butter. Stir constantly with a heatproof spatula, scraping the corners and bottom of the pan as the butter melts. From time to time, scrape the mixture off the spatula against the top edge of the pan and scrape the sides of the pan clean.
  3. Bring the mixture to a medium boil and continue stirring and scraping the pan for about 3 minutes, dissolving the sugar.
  4. Stir in the condensed milk and return the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, scraping the sides, corners, and bottom of the pan to ensure that your caramel doesn’t burn. Adjust the heat so the mixture boils actively but not too furiously. Continue stirring and cooking until the mixture registers 235°F on a candy thermometer. Total cooking time will be close to 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Scrape the hot caramel over the warm crust.
  6. Tilt the pan to level the caramel. Scatter the toasted pecans and chopped chocolate over the surface and set aside until the caramel is cool and the chocolate is set. (I let the caramel set slightly, and then spread melted chocolate over the caramel, and sprinkled the pecans on top. Feel free to use either method, both work wonderfully!)
  7. Slice the bars into relatively small pieces, they’re very sweet. I’ve found their easier to slice when chilled. Keep in an airtight container for up to a week. Enjoy!
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 40
  • Category: bars
  • Cuisine: dessert

Keywords: turtle bars, caramel, chocolate, bars, brownies, candy, dessert