Ecstasy Bars (aka, magic bars on crack or salted caramel magic bars)

It’s 3:00 a.m. and I’m exhausted.  The caffeine is starting to wear off.  Do you ever feel nauseous when you are lacking in the sleep department?  Well, I just reached that point.  One more hour and I will have been awake for 24 hours.  I worked 13 hours today.  Thirteen!  It wasn’t really by choice either.  It was mandatory over time.  You may (or may) not be wondering why I am still up at this ridiculous hour of the morning.

I’m still up because I’m forcing myself to stay awake so that I can sleep soon.  I am working the graveyard shift the next two nights.  And guess what?  I have NEVER worked a graveyard shift before.  So my brilliant plan is to stay up as late as I can so that I can sleep until about 4:00 p.m., have dinner, and head off to work for my 12 hour shift that starts at 7:00 p.m.  I have another brilliant plan to take pseudoephedrine (i.e., the derivative to methamphetamine) and coffee to keep me awake through the wee hours of the night while I work tomorrow and the day after.  In fact, that used to be a favorite cocktail combination of mine while I was in pharmacy school trying to stay up for midterms and finals.  However, do as I say and not as I do, in that I do not advise anyone to take this drug combination.  It can really get your heart racing and blood pressure rising, which can be a no-no especially for those with a pre-existing (or even unknown) heart condition.  Therefore, avoid this.   Actually, just pretend you didn’t even read the last half of this paragraph.  Anyhow, I digress, as usual.

I was so anxious about not being able to stay up tonight that I bought a new movie and a new Nintendo Wii game to keep myself entertained/awake until I can go to sleep.  Well, instead of watching TV or playing video games (which I had every intention of doing), I entertained myself by concocting yummy things in the kitchen.  I’m making my version of magic bars (aka, seven layer bars), except that my magic bars are on crack.  They have been finished with a generous drizzle of my salted caramel sauce.  So they’re not just any magic bars… they’re magic bars on crack.  Actually, they’re even better than that.  They are ecstasy bars.

And as I sit here while blogging this post and listening to the snores of my sleeping dog, my brain is slowly shutting down and my eyes barely open.  I think it may be bedtime soon…

Ecstasy Bars

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup dark chocolate morsels
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup salted caramel sauce

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat muffin tin with cooking spray.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press into bottoms of muffin tin.  Layer evenly with sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips, followed by the shredded coconut.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from muffin tin.  Drizzle with salted caramel sauce.  Store covered at room temperature.

[If you don’t want to go through the hassle of using a mini muffin pan, use a 13×9 inch baking pan.  Line the pan with foil, coat with nonstick spray, and layer as directed above.  Allow to cool, and then simply lift up the foil up and out to remove from baking pan.  You’re left with perfect magic bars.  Cut into squares and devour.]

Makes 36 servings (small, as these are very rich)

Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce

I first discovered salted caramels a few years ago while watching the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network.  It was love at first sight.  The salted caramels, that is.  Not Ina Garten, even though she rocks the Kazbah.  I was immediately intrigued when she said “salted caramels.”  I had never heard of this phenomenon.  But I just knew it was going to be a wonderful thing.  Savory and sweet wrapped up into one little morsel of goodness.  Yum.  It couldn’t get any better than that. (Well, actually it can because I discovered maple bacon caramels a few years later.)  I searched for the recipe, bookmarked it, and waited for the perfect time to make these little treats.  I guess I didn’t really need an excuse, but I was sort of stalling because I was intimidated by the whole candy-making process.  I read numerous reviews from those who attempted the recipe, and was terrified that the caramels were going to be either too soft or too hard.  But they were perfect when I finally had the opportunity to make them.  And when I popped one of those salty, buttery, creamy caramels in my mouth, I came to the realization that… life is good.

So now I have an obsession with anything salted caramels… especially salted caramel sauce.  Ooooooh-weeeeeee, that stuff is good!  This stuff will make anything taste better.  Drizzle it over your favorite desserts and/or fruits, and you got yourself a flavor party in your mouth.

Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce (adapted from Cork and Rind)

1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel (reduce to 1/2 teaspoon if it’s too salty for your liking)

In a DEEP saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium-high heat. I know it’s tempting, but do not stir the sugar-water mixture. Just swirl the pan to mix. Continue to boil for about 10 minutes until the caramel is a warm amber brown color (observe color changing process below). Do not walk away while the sugar is boiling. Once the color starts to change, it doesn’t take long from deep amber to a not-so-pleasant burnt sugar taste.

In the meantime, bring the cream, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, set aside and keep warm.

When the caramelized sugar is the right color, slowly add the cream mixture to the caramel – it will boil up violently (this is why a deep saucepan is necessary). Once the bubbles subside, whisk until the cream has been incorporated into the sugar mixture.

Use right away, or allow to cool to room temperature and pour into a container for storage. Caramel sauce can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks. Before using, either warm the sauce or allow it to come to room temperature.

Calories per tablespoon: 100 (approximate)