Half candy and half cookie, these bars have a bottom layer of Kona coffee shortbread, a middle layer of chopped hazelnuts coated in caramel, and a top layer of milk chocolate ganache. When all the layers are combined, they have the flavor of a hazelnut mocha caramel frappe, and would be the perfect addition to a holiday cookie assortment.
Notes on Ingredients
Instant Coffee – I used Mulvadi Kona freeze dried granules because I prefer its flavor to most other instant coffees. You can substitute espresso powder, but I wouldn’t recommend using brewed coffee – too much liquid will make the shortbread too cakey.
Water – I added a teaspoon to ensure my coffee was dissolved. You may need to add a little more depending on how easily your coffee dissolves. If you are using espresso powder, you can substitute cream instead.
Caramel – I used Kraft caramels found in a bag on the candy aisle of the supermarket. You could also use caramel ice cream topping, but if you do, you’ll want to use much less cream.
Chocolate – I used milk chocolate, but these would be delicious with dark or white chocolate as well.
Notes on Technique
- Make sure to grease and flour the pan well. After allowing the shortbread to cool, use a table knife to separate the edges from the pan, then turn it upside down and try to pop out the shortbread in one solid piece. You’ll want to put it back into the pan in order to assemble the bars, but this step will make it much easier to cut and separate them later.
- Dissolve the instant coffee in the water before adding it to the shortbread dough. This will ensure that all of the shortbread is coffee-flavored, instead of being studded with hard coffee granules.
- I used a double boiler to heat the caramels, but you can use a saucepan or even the microwave, provided you keep a close eye on it.
- You can use the same method to heat the chocolate, but if using the microwave, make sure to heat only the cream and pour it over the room temperature chocolate. If the chocolate still won’t dissolve, you can heat the mixture in the microwave for a few seconds at a time. If the chocolate seizes at any point before layering, you can fix it by heating cream in the microwave and stirring it into the chocolate one tablespoon at a time.
For a raspberry coffee variation, you could try a dark chocolate ganache and a layer of raspberry jam in between the shortbread and caramel. For a Hawaiian version, try a white chocolate ganache and macadamia nuts, and add shredded coconut to the shortbread. For pumpkin spice, try adding cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice, and substitute pecans or walnuts for the hazelnuts.
Variations can be made by adding extracts or liqueurs to the ganache, swapping out the hazelnuts for macadamia nuts or almonds, or adding a layer of jam or nut butter. This recipe has the potential for dozens of different flavor combinations.
Hazelnut Coffee Turtle Bars
For the Coffee Shortbread
- 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
- 1 tsp water
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (120 g)
- 1/2 cup butter (113 g)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
For the Hazelnut Caramel Layer
- 1 cup hazelnuts, raw
- 11 oz caramels (311 g)
- 1/2 cup cream
For the Ganache
- 1/3 cup cream
- 6 oz milk chocolate (1 cup)
- Preheat the oven to 325° F (160° C.) Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch (20 cm) baking pan.
- Dissolve the coffee granules in the teaspoon of water, stirring until there are no more solid pieces.
- Add the flour, butter, salt, sugar and dissolved coffee to a large mixing bowl and mix with a spoon or by hand until all the ingredients are well combined and the color is homogenous.
- Press the shortbread into the pan and bake at 325° F for around 50 minutes. Afterward, allow it to cool for 30-60 minutes. Loosen the edges of the shortbread from the pan with a table knife, then flip the pan upside down onto a plate. The shortbread should come out in one piece. Place it back into the pan before assembling the other layers.
Hazelnut Caramel Layer
- Chop the hazelnuts and toast them at 350° F (180° C) for 10 minutes.
- Add the caramels and the 1/2 cup cream to a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl placed over a pot of simmering water. Cook, stirring often, until the caramels are completely melted and the mixture is fully combined and smooth.
- Remove the caramel from the heat and stir in the hazelnuts immediately. Spread the caramel mixture over the shortbread and allow to cool. To speed up the cooling time, you can put the pan in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- If you are using a chocolate bar, chop it first and place it in a medium bowl. Heat the 1/3 cup of cream until it is right on the edge of boiling, then immediately pour it over the chocolate in the bowl. Let it sit for 30-60 seconds to melt, then stir until the mixture is smooth.
- Spread the ganache over the caramel and allow to cool for 3-4 hours in the refrigerator before serving.