Clara Gluten Free

The Right Pan

With Hurricane Sandy prep in full swing last weekend—yay! the power is back today!—I did a lot of bread-baking. And after baking 6 loaves of my very own sandwich bread, I felt like it was time to take a break from normally-scheduled recipe-casting and discuss some technique: pan shape. It matters. 

Yes, that's one of the 6 loaves that came out of one my 6 identical glass loaf pans. I'm partial to glass, because they give better crusts and, being more inert, healthier loaves.

What's remarkable about these loaves, as opposed to all the other loaves I've made since developing the recipe, is the high rise and straight sides of the slices. The recipe is what makes the reactions happen to form that sort of structure, but especially with GF recipes, it's the pan that gives the food its shape. Since there isn't any gluten in the bread, though, there's very little stuff that's there to give it an internal structure. As a result, the batter/dough (hard to tell which, with gluten free baking) follows the shape of the pan. The dough climbs up and latches onto the sides of the pan while baking, and if the sides of the pan aren't what you like—well, the final shape won't be either. But if you get six identical Pyrex pans in the exact shape you are looking for, the recipe will be the same. Perhaps like me, you will feel pretty dang-nab-special. 

And now, back to your regularly scheduled recipe-casting.

Chocolate Pretzel Caramel Bark

The story for this recipe is pretty short: I saw chocolate, pretzels, and caramel all over pinterest AND I managed to get my caramel sauce down (read: to work). Hence, chocolate, pretzel, caramel bark.

In terms of making the idea truly GF, well, I used GF pretzels. They exist. In terms of making chocolate bark, well, I used chocolate (I like Ghiradelli and Calibaut brands). In terms of making caramel, well, that's the fun part.

Caramel is made from melted and toasted sugar, with butter and cream stirred in. That said, there are some nifty sweetened condensed milk versions, but I like to cook with the sugar because the flavor is what I expect- and the sugar looks cool as it cooks. The phase changes- and especially how the sugar crystal structure work- are fascinating. The sugar melts around 360 F, and after this point, if non-melted sugar get into the liquid, or the pan gets banged up, the liquid will suddenly crystalize. Sometimes, it can be remelted, but sometimes it burns before this is possible- it depends how crystalized the sugar gets. But the real magic comes in when the butter and cream are added- the caramel will seize up into a beautiful, webby mass, but then melt down into finished caramel sauce. Kind of extraordinary. 

Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Bark- Makes 18 servings
*Note: quantities for the pretzels, chocolate, and chocolate chips are very loose, as the recipe can be easily increased to make more quantity, or reduced for less. Alternatively, the ratios can be changed for a different texture, if that's what you would prefer. Also, please note that if the chocolate chips are tossed into the bark at room temperature, the chocolate will likely bloom. I don't mind this (I actually like the visual appearance), but if you want to prevent this, warm them a bit before stirring into the bark. 

2 cups Glutino pretzels
12 oz bittersweet (or darker) baking chocolate
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cp white sugar
2 tbs water
1 tbs butter
2 tbs cream

1- Measure out ingredients and melt baking chocolate in the microwave. Set aside. Completely line a 13" x 21" baking pan with a single sheet of parchment paper. Grease lightly with butter or cooking spray.

2- Melt white sugar with 2 tbs water on high heat on the stove. Stir frequently. Use a pastry brush dipped in clean, warm water to rise sugar crystals off of the side of the pan. (Note: sugar crystals dropping off of the sides into the liquid sugar will cause it to entirely crystalize). 

3- Once the sugar has melted, stir less frequently, to allow the liquid to brown. Safety Note: the liquid sugar is much hotter than liquid water- it is 370 F, rather than 220 F

4- Once the sugar is as brown as you like, turn the heat down to medium and add the butter and cream quickly. The liquid will form a caramel-colored ball in the center of the pan or around your spoon. Melt this back down to liquid. Once it is completely melted, transfer to a liquid measuring cup with a spout.

5- Pour a thin layer of melted chocolate on the parchment paper- use a spatula to spread out evenly. Cover in a later of pretzels. Cover lightly but entirely with caramel. Drizzle on chocolate, add a few more pretzels, if desired, as well as chocolate chips. Finish the top of the back with the remaining chocolate, pretzels, chips, and caramel.

6- Allow to set at room temperature for 3 hours. Transfer to fridge (watch for the chocolate blooming, and remove from the fridge if necessary). Once the bark is completely cooled, break into irregular pieces and serve.