Well, I tried. I told myself I was going to stay away from desserts for a while. But….TWIX BARS. I really tried, but come on. TWIX BARS!!! Plus, with Halloween coming up I actually had a good excuse to make them. It’s not me, it’s Halloween. Halloween made me do it. Really, it couldn’t be helped. (In my head this is a perfectly logical argument.)
Whatever the excuse, I am so glad I made these because they are fantastic. Brandon, cynical person that he is, would like you to know that they are not exactly like a Twix because the ratio of cookie to caramel to chocolate is off, but BLAH BLAH BLAH (I am sticking out my tongue right now). No they aren’t exactly the same, but they have the same essence. That’s all I ask for in a homemade version of something, I don’t need an exact molecular copy. In fact, I love that there’s more caramel and a thicker cookie because I like those parts the best (and even if you don’t you can control how thick you want to make each layer). The shortbread cookie is crisp, the caramel is sweet and smooth and the chocolate tops everything off perfectly. It’s an awesome treat.
But I couldn’t be happy with just replicating a Twix bar. We’ve already established that pumpkin is on my mind. So as soon as I saw that the cookie part of the bar was just shortbread, the wheels started turning in my head and I thought: What if you replaced it with pumpkin shortbread? I know I like pumpkin and chocolate and I know I like pumpkin and caramel, so it only makes sense that I’m going to like pumpkin with chocolate and caramel!
And I was right, the flavors really go great together. My only complaint about the pumpkin version is that the pumpkin shortbread just isn’t as crisp as the other shortbread. But since pumpkin is so moist, I’m not sure this can be helped. I tried out several pumpkin shortbread recipes and this one has the right texture, even it’s softer. When comparing the two recipes, the pumpkin shortbread has a lot more butter, so I think reducing that would help.
This recipe (well, recipes, but both versions are exactly the same except for the shortbread) seems like it might be complicated but it’s pretty simple to make. First, you bake the shortbread, then you make caramel and pour it over the shortbread and then you spread chocolate ganache on top. The part that takes the most time is the caramel, but don’t be scared off by it! I’ve made caramel before and I’ve messed it up plenty of times, but I didn’t have any problems making this. The only issue was my own impatience waiting for the temperature to rise because that’s the part that takes the longest time, but you don’t have to actually do anything but watch it, you’re not even allowed to stir! And once it finally gets to the right temperature you just have to whisk for a little bit and you’re done.
All-in-all, these are fun to make and I was very happy with the outcome. Now I’d love to try making more of my favorite candy at home! Along with Twix, my other favorites are Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kats. I buy those every year for Halloween, hoping we don’t have many trick-or-treaters, so I can have them all for myself. 🙂 What’s your favorite Halloween candy?
Homemade Twix Bars – Original and Pumpkin version
Pumpkin shortbread adapted from meals.com
The only difference between the two versions is the shortbread recipe. I’m combining both recipes into one since they are similar, just pay attention when it says “original version” or “pumpkin version” depending on which you are making. The chocolate and caramel parts are exactly the same for both versions.
Dessert, Candy | Servings: about 2 dozen
Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 1 hour | Total time: 3 hour 30 min
Original version shortbread
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. ground rice (basically rice flour: rice processed in a spice grinder or blender until it is able to pass through a fine sieve to remove chunks)
Pumpkin version shortbread
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 5 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (For a crisper cookie, try reducing to 1 cup)
- 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or regular corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized if you can find it)
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt plus more for sprinkling
- 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (chips are fine)
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (original version) or 300 degrees (pumpkin version). Spray a 9×13 inch baking pan or two 9×5 inch loaf pans (two 9 in cake/tart pans would work also) with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Spray the parchment.
- Mix together flour and other dry ingredients except sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large mixer bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Pumpkin version only: Add in pumpkin and mix well.
- Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. It will be crumbly but should hold together when you squeeze it. (Pumpkin version isn’t as crumbly, it’s more like a dough.)
- Press dough evenly into the bottom of the baking pan. An easy way to ensure it’s even is to fill the whole pan and top the dough with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Then place a smaller, square bottomed pan on top and gently press down over the entire surface. I found this to be even easier with loaf pans since they are made to fit into one another other.
- Original version only: Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown*. Rotate the pan from front to back after about 12 minutes.
*Note: The original recipe says to bake until the shortbread is a “deep golden brown”, but mine was still a light golden brown when I took it out after 30 minutes. In hindsight I think I dried it out a bit too much by baking it for longer trying to get the darker color so you’re probably better taking it out in the 22-25 minute range even if it’s not “deep golden brown” yet.
- Pumpkin version only: Place in the oven and bake for 80 minutes or until firm and golden brown. Rotate the pan from front to back after about 40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Do not remove from pan. While the shortbread is cooling start making the caramel.
- Mix the sugar, golden syrup, water, and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Wipe down the inside of the pan using a damp pastry brush or your hand to remove any sugar crystals from the sides. Place the pot on medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
- Insert a candy thermometer into the pan so you can monitor the temperature. Turn the burner down to medium and again wipe away any stray sugar crystals that appear. Do not stir from this point on. Keep an eye on the pan. The mixture will be very bubbly.
Important note: If it at any point it starts to smell like the mixture is burning (mine did at about 250-260 degrees), turn your burner down a few notches. I was down to medium-low by the time my caramel was done. (This may have more to do with my old stove, hopefully yours is more consistent!) The mixture will be very dark when it’s done and will probably smell a little burnt anyway, but don’t worry it will taste fine!
- When it reaches 300 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 1 minute, or until the bubbles subside. Carefully whisk in the heavy cream (the mixture bubbles up when you add the cream). Stir until smooth, then whisk in the condensed milk. Add the salt. Whisk until smooth.
- Return the pan to the burner and stir constantly over medium heat until the caramel reaches 240 degrees. Remove from heat and pour over the shortbread. While the caramel is warm, sprinkle the surface with more salt. Allow to set for about 2 hours.
- Once the caramel layer is set, melt the chocolate and butter over low heat or in the microwave. If using the microwave, melt it in 30 second intervals, stirring well each time.
- When it’s completely melted, spread over the caramel and smooth it into a nice even layer.
- Place in the refrigerator to set for about 15-20 minutes. Cut into desired shape and size.
Store wrapped in foil or wax paper in a cool spot. Can be stored in the refrigerator, but let sit out for 15-20 minutes so the caramel will be easier to slice.