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Salty caramel and chocolate christmas crackers

Christmas is widely considered to be a time for giving.  Being a “foodie” I am overjoyed by any opportunity to cook for others.  Christmas gives me a wonderful excuse to create homemade gifts for friends and loved ones.  My staples for the past few years have been White chocolate and pistachio nut fudge and Christmas nougat.  There are times that I have considered making other things but invariably I have people requested the old faithfuls.  I have always oblidged without question…..until now.

Searching for something to make at this time of year brings its own set of criteria.  For me it must be something that has a maximum pay off for minimum effort.  Let’s face it, we all get so busy during the holidays and making gifts for others it is still another thing to add to the list of things to do.   No matter how much one enjoys giving a handmade gift, buying something generic certainly is much less time consuming. 

So you can imagine my excitement when I found something I could create in less than 30 minutes that I knew others would enjoy.  Making these is a simple process, no sugar thermometer is required for the caramel, nor a bain-marie for melting chocolate.  The recipe almost sounded too good to be true, but it wasn’t.

I think I might even have to adapt this recipe for Valentine’s Day.

Enjoy!

Salty caramel and chocolate christmas crackers (recipe from Dish Magazine – December 2010/January 2011 [1])   

Ingredients
100g (3.5 ozs/¼lb) plain salted crackers such as Salada
225g (1 cup/2 sticks) butter
¾ cup (150g/5.3ozs) soft brown sugar
200g (7 ozs/½lb) plain dark chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (60g/2 ozs) pistachios, chopped
½ cup (60g/2 ozs) dried cranberries, chopped   

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/Gas 5).  Line a 22cm x 33cm (8 ½ in x 13 in) shallow baking tray with baking paper.   Place the crackers in the base of the tray without overlapping, so they cover the base, breaking them to fit if required.

Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring well, until it bubbles and is combined.  Remove from the heat and pour immediately over the crackers as evenly as possible.  Place in the preheated oven for 8 – 10 minutes or until bubbling all over and the caramel is starting to darken.

Remove from the heat and sprinkle the chocolate over evenly, then return to the oven for a further minute or until the chocolate has just melted enough to spread.  Using a spatula or palette knife spread the chocolate evenly so is smooth on the surface.

Sprinkle over the pistachios and cranberries and leave until the chocolate is just set before cutting into pieces.  Store the crackers in an airtight container for up to a week.

My tips/alterations:  *I used half dark (70% cocoa) and half milk chocolate for the topping, just because I had some milk chocolate I wanted to use up.  It worked well.      

[2] 

ease: 9/10.  Very easy 
prep time: 20mins.  
cooking time: 10mins.
total: 30 mins.            

taste: 9/10.  The balance of salt and sweetness was excellent and the cranberries added a little bit of sharpness which balanced well with the rich flavour of chocolate.  They were crunchy and chewy at the same time.  

would I make it again:  Absolutely and it won’t just be for Christmas!