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If the mere thought of bringing a mysterious potion to the hard-ball stage (or of even owning a candy thermometer) stops you in your tracks, we offer here a short-cut solution. A meltingly buttery yet crisp base, slathered with a just-thick-enough layer of chocolate and dusted with finely chopped nuts, make these "faux candy" bars a pressed-for-time baker's newfound friend.
4 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2/3 cup (about 3 ounces) chopped nuts
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly grease a 15 x 10-inch pan.
Combine the oats, sugar, butter, corn syrup, vanilla and salt and mix well. Press the mixture into the pan, using your lightly greased hands to help the process along.
Bake the squares for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they're a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
In a medium saucepan set over very low heat, melt the chocolate and shortening together, stirring constantly until smooth. Spread the mixture evenly over the oat base and sprinkle on the chopped nuts. Cover very loosely and chill the squares in the refrigerator until the chocolate is firm. Remove from the refrigerator and cut into squares. The easiest way to do this is to use a chef's knife to cut the bars into long strips while they're still in the pan and then transfer each long strip to a cutting board to cut into bite-sized pieces. Yield: 96 small pieces (but feel free to cut them into whatever size works best for you).
Nutrition information per serving (2 pieces using walnuts, 33g): 147 cal, 6.8g fat, 2g protein, 6g complex carbohydrates, 14g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 9mg cholesterol, 31mg sodium, 77mg potassium, 27mg vitamin A, 1mg iron, 14mg calcium, 52mg phosphorus, 2mg caffeine.