A couple of years ago, my cousin Emily and I went to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Gilbert, Arizona. They had a yummy looking treat in their case, with layers of caramel and chocolate. We split one bar for our dessert, and while eating it, tried to determine the ingredients. We came home, and spent the next few hours trying to find similar recipes. Using a few recipes for inspiration, (and after a run to the market at 10pm) we came up with a recipe inspired by the restaurant dessert. A couple of batches later, we had a winner.
The restaurant named their dessert bar after the local Salt River, but we think the bars deserve a grander name, so we took a liberty and named them “Grand Canyon Bars.” The layers of caramel and crackers look like the rock layers of the Grand Canyon.
When you cook these bars, you put down a layer of crackers, pour half the caramel on, add another layer of crackers, and pour the other half of the caramel on. If your saucepan retains heat really well, the second half of the caramel will keep cooking while you’re adding the layer of crackers, so you may want to choose a thin-bottomed pan that will cool quickly, and not overcook the caramel while you’re working on the dessert.
Additionally, since speed is important in assembling the dessert bars, you should have all the ingredients out, measured, and prepped to go.
Grand Canyon Bars
54 single club crackers (or more, if you break a lot. 54 crackers is about 3 “Snack Stacks”.)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 7 full crackers)
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1/8 tsp coarse sea salt, or to taste
Make sure all your ingredients are ready to go.
Line an 8-inch square pan with silicone-coated parchment paper (like the Kirkland brand parchment), or butter some normal parchment paper. You may want to fold and cut the corners to fit the parchment in the pan really well.
Place a layer of club crackers in the pan, and set aside. You may have to trim some crackers in halves or thirds using a serrated knife.
Melt together the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter. To microwave, add all ingredients to a glass bowl. Microwave 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat microwaving and stirring until the mixture is smooth, about 3 or 4 times in the microwave. Set aside.
In a saucepan, on medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sugars and milk. Bring to a boil, set timer for 2 minutes, and add the graham cracker crumbs. Continue to stir the caramel for the 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and immediately pour half the caramel carefully over the crackers. Spread the caramel layer somewhat evenly over the crackers, and then add a second layer of crackers, trimming to fit if needed.
Pour the second half of the caramel mixture onto the crackers, and spread it as evenly as you can. Add the third layer of crackers on top of the caramel.
Pour on the chocolate mixture, and then spread it evenly over the crackers.
Sprinkle on some coarse salt as a garnish.
Refrigerate for about 8 hours, or overnight. When ready to cut, remove from the fridge and allow it to warm up for about 15-30 minutes. Use the parchment to remove the bars from the pan, and put on a cutting board. Use a large, sharp knife to cut the bars into squares. The bars are rich, so smaller bars might be a good idea. Once cut, the bars do not have to be refrigerated, unless you prefer to eat them cold. Store the Grand Canyon Bars in an airtight container.