We are nearing the end of May (how is that even possible?!) which also means our big season of birthdays is over. Phew. It starts with mine in March, then we celebrate Gabe in April and both boys in May. Ivy is already counting down the days for her September birthday.
This year we celebrated Baron’s in a big way with a fundraiser for mosquito nets. I think I mentioned this here before or maybe in our newsletter but back in November Baron had the idea of using his birthday as an opportunity to raise money. After reading that the deadliest animal on earth is actually the mosquito he decided to raise money for mosquito nets. Over the course of this fundraiser we had the chance to meet the president of World Concern who told us first hand the life-saving benefits these nets would have on countries who are riddled with mosquito-born illnesses. She looked Baron right in the eye and told him, “you are not just buying mosquito nets, you are saving lives.” Meanwhile, I was a puddle in the corner. We also visited the Institute for Systems Biology to learn about all their incredible research being done as they work tirelessly to find a cure for Malaria.
After his big birthday fundraising bash we managed to raise over 8,000! Which means through World Concern we can purchase 8,267 mosquito nets to be distributed to communities around the world in need. Now that’s how you celebrate an 11th birthday.
We don’t have many traditions around our birthdays but I love the simple ones we do have. A few streamers cascade in the doorway of the birthday boy or girl’s room stealthily hung while they sleep. They each choose a special (read: sugary) cereal to enjoy on the morning of their birthday and they get to plan the menu for their birthday dinner. This year Baron requested Lasagna with caesar salad and a Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treat cake for dessert. For his birthday, Roman, who usually goes for Chorizo Macaroni and Cheese, requested sliders (I made Banh Mi sliders) and Billionaire Bars for dessert.
Have you heard of Millionaire Bars? They are basically like homemade Twix bars. But our kicked up version, which we’re calling Billionaire Bars, have a base of chocolate chip cookies in lieu of shortbread. The cookie base is capped with a creamy caramel and topped with bittersweet chocolate and a dusting of flaky salt in an attempt to tame all that sweet. While the family chorus sang happy birthday to Roman I stacked the bars tall on a plate then topped it with a flaming ‘6’ candle and told everyone to tilt their head upside down to imagine the ‘9’ that should have crowned the stack.
Caramel making can induce a bit of stress as it does require precision. Relieve these fears by getting yourself an instant read thermometer. I am a fan of the thermapen but really any will do. In the video you’ll notice that I test the caramel by using a glass of cold water. This is how grandma made candy and it basically gives you a little peak at the caramels constituency once cool but caramel moves through the stages of soft ball to hard ball quickly and continues to cook even after you’ve turned off the heat so again I think the most accurate and easiest way is to use a thermometer.
Yield 24 bars
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (or use dark brown sugar)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
12 ounces (1 bag) chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
1/2 teaspoon flake salt
8 oz/ 1 cup sugar
6 oz/ 1/2 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup (or corn syrup)
1/4 cup water
6 oz/ 3/4 cup heavy cream
2 oz/ 4 tablespoons butter, soft
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounces chocolate
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon flake salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13 baking dish.
In a small saucepan melt the butter. Continue to simmer until the milk solids rise to the top then gently sink as they caramelize. The butter will shift in color and smell nutty.
In a large bowl combine the sugars and stir in the browned butter. Stir in the eggs, and vanilla, then the flour, baking soda and sea salt until everything is well combined. Stir in the chocolate.
Add the batter to the baking dish then press in with the back of a spatula or wooden spoon. If it starts to stick I like to lightly wet my hands with just a touch of water then press in the dough. Finish with the flake salt then bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges are deeply golden and the middle is set.
While the base cools prepare the caramel.
Combine the sugar, golden syrup and water in a large saucepan. Stir gently to combine then wash off the sides of the pan using water and your clean hands to feel if any sugar remains on the side. If stray bits of sugar fall into the caramel it can cause the caramel to crystallize so it’s important to make sure all the sugar is in the bottom of the pan mixed with the water.
Place the lid on the pan and put over high heat. Having the lid on during the first few minutes of boiling creates condensation that further helps to wash away any sugar that may be left on the sides of the pan. After 5 minutes remove the lid and let the caramel continue to boil until it reaches 300 degrees F. If some of the caramel starts to color you can gently swirl the pot to combine.
Add the cream, butter and salt once it has reached 300 degrees F and then continue to cook until the caramel reaches 248 degrees F. At that point remove the pan from the heat and pour over the chocolate chip cookie base.
Refrigerate to cool.
For the chocolate glaze add the chocolate and the butter to a microwave safe bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring well in between each eating, until completely melted. Pour this over the cooled caramel and spread into an even layer. Top with the flake salt. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm then slice and serve.