A few weeks ago I got the incredibly brilliant (insert sarcasm here) idea to make a TWIX® copycat recipe substituting white candy melts for the chocolate. I was feeling pretty confident at the beginning of the journey, but that confidence soon gave way to the brutal reality of recipe development involving baking and candy making. They are as much science and chemistry as they are skill and genuine good luck. Despite those facts, I felt like I wanted a challenge.
Technically speaking, this is not really a TWIX® copycat. It is merely “inspired” by TWIX®. ;) After doing some recipe research, I found that many TWIX® copycat recipes involve ready-made ingredients such as shortbread cookies and unwrapped caramel candies. While these recipes looked temptingly good, I wanted something more homemade. Remember the tagline in my blog header? The best made is homemade!
My daughter, Katie, became my official taste tester. She was under strict instructions to give me her honest opinions on the flavor and texture of the product I was producing. “Taste this and tell me what you think” became my mantra for over a week. Katie was amazingly patient.
The initial recipe for the cookie portion tasted just right, but when I tried to remove the cookies from the pan, they lost their cohesiveness. Not even the caramel could hold the cookie base together. If you find that you have a need for gritty, sandy, crumbly cookie particulates, I have just the recipe for you.
My first attempt at the caramel received an all-out “F”. That hurt a little bit because I had used my favorite Microwave Caramels recipe, except that I had changed the proportions, cooked it on the stove instead of in the microwave, and only scorched it just a little bit on the bottom. Apparently the flavor was pretty good, but Katie did not like the texture; she said that it was supposed to be gooier. I made a stank face when she wasn’t looking and then felt guilty about being unchristian.
I felt even worse when Katie made the kind and generous suggestion that we could salvage the first batch of caramel by using it on popcorn.
The suggestion was a good one, so we made a giant bowl of caramel popcorn. And ate it for a while. Would you like the rest of it? You can even have the bowl. Let me know what method you use to extract the remaining popcorn.
As the week wore on, my determination to make the bars from scratch began to waver. I came really close to caving in to quick and easy methods for the cookie base and the caramel. Then I remembered that my last post, Pretzel Chocolate Rounds, was based on assembly rather than recipe (3 ingredients and 15 minutes). It was the impetus I needed to head back to the kitchen for another round.
Through perseverance, the recipes for the cookie base and the caramel finally came together. (Thanks, Trink, for the suggestions about changes in the cookie recipe!) I don’t have a clue as to how to make candy melts, but I might have gone the homemade route on those as well if I had a recipe. Or maybe not.
I do have my limits. I am so totally not Martha S.
After all is said and done, this recipe knocks TWIX out of the ballpark. I learned so many valuable things through trial and error and feel pleased with myself. This is a product that is made by human hands, not a factory machine. Do you know how good that feels?
Thank you to my sweet daughters, Diddle and Trink, for your help. Thank you, Gavin, for making my day perfect when you showed sincere amazement that your Mom-Mom actually made the cookie and the caramel and didn’t buy them at the store.
Although these pictures show that I am using a stand mixer, I have also used a regular electric hand mixer with a large mixing bowl. I chose the stand mixer for ease in doing a step by step photo process.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour baking soda, and salt. Wow! Look at you go. Good job!
Begin by mixing together the butter and powdered sugar until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the lightly beaten egg and egg yolk and then the vanilla. Mix together on medium speed until well blended.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients a little at a time, mixing lightly between additions. After the final addition of the flour mixture, blend on medium speed until ingredients are well blended and smooth. Put dough into the prepared baking pan (foil lined and buttered). Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the baking pan. Bake cookie base for 16-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. The partially cooled cookie base can be put in the refrigerator for faster cooling.
To prepare the caramel, begin by melting butter in a heavy bottom 3-quart sauce pot over medium heat. Add the white and brown sugars. Cook and stir over medium heat until smooth and well blended and just beginning to bubble.
Add the corn syrup (or Lyle’s Golden Syrup) and stir or whisk to combine. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk and mix well. You see that I have a candy thermometer clamped to the side of the pot. Using a thermometer is important to the successful outcome of the caramel. You want to bring the caramel to a “soft ball” stage, which is 238-245 degrees F. If undercooked, the caramel will be too soft to hold its shape when it is cut into bars. If overcooked, the caramel will be too firm and difficult to chew.
Take a moment from your stirring and with a wet pastry brush, wash down the edges of the pan to remove any sugar crystals which may have collected there. If sugar crystals are reintroduced to the finished product, they will cause more sugar crystals to grow (quickly!) and the caramel will be grainy. It doesn’t taste bad…its just sort of gritty instead of smooth. The water that is introduced to the caramel from washing down the sides of the pot will not effect the outcome of the caramel. After washing down the sides of the pot, start stirring again! STIR, STIR, STIR while the caramel is cooking. It took 15 minutes for my caramel to come to the “soft ball” stage. Your caramel time may vary. Just keep stirring so that the caramel will not burn on the bottom of the pan. Adjust the heat as necessary while you are cooking.
When the caramel has reached the soft ball stage, pour it over the cooled cookie crust. Shake the pan gently back and forth to level the caramel. You may see air bubbles just under the surface of the caramel; poke them with a toothpick to release the air…if you want to. Sometimes I do it and sometimes I don’t. (shrug) Allow the caramel to cool completely before cutting. Put the partially cooled pan in the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process.
After the caramel has cooled completely, use the foil to gently lift the cookie/caramel slab from the baking pan and place on a cutting board. Leave the foil underneath the cookie/caramel slab.
To cut into narrow 1/2″-5/16″ strips across the long edge. Cut across strips, dividing them into equal thirds. You should end up with 69-78 three-inch bars.
Melt 1 bag of white candy melts according to package directions. If using a microwave, use a bowl. In this picture I used an 8- x 8-inch baking dish. It did not work as well as I had hoped. A bowl is much better. Dip the bottom only of each bar in the melted candy, then set on parchment paper or a silicon mat to cool. Note: If the candy melts begin to thicken, reheat until desired consistency is reached.
The candy on the bottom of the bars cool relatively quickly. I found that by the time I had dipped the last bar, the first bars had already cooled so that I was able to move on with dipping the top and sides of the bars.
One the candy coating on the bottom of the bars has cooled, add another bag of white candy melts to any remaining white previously melted candy coating in the dish or pot. Melt according to package directions. With the caramel top facing down, dip each bar into the melted candy so the top and sides get coated completely. Hold the bar with one end toward the dish to allow any excess to drip off of the bar. Set aside on parchment paper or silicone mat to dry.
When the coating has dried, trim the extra coating from the base of the bars.
For decorating with candy melts: Working with one color at a time, melt according to package directions. Drizzle candy melt over the bars as desired.
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