Sunday, December 18, 2011

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

I made these at the beginning of the semester for my college/forever roomie, Kelly, to celebrate her birthday! I also took some leftovers to friends at school, which is always appreciated by over-caffeinated law students. I thought these would be great to post around the holidays, because they would be a lovely addition to a gift basket.

Salted caramel is such a traditional and delicious treat. I love how the salt picks up interesting notes of the caramel, and then, in this recipe, the addition of the shortbread and chocolate layers brings even more flavor to the party. You could also just make the caramel recipe (double the caramel layer below in a 8X8 pan), and then just top with fleur de sel for just a traditional salted caramel.

Shortbread Layer
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 tsp. baking powder
* 1/8 tsp. salt
* 1/2 cup (aka 1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 1/4 cup sugar

Caramel Layer
* 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
* 1 can sweetened condensed milk

Chocolate Layer
* 4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
* 1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
* 1/2 stick unsalted butter (1/4 cup), cut into pieces

* Fleur de sel (or any sea salt) for sprinkling
-- I absolutely love fleur de sel. It's a little pricey (for salt), but if you use it sparingly to top desserts like this one, or my favorite -- on steaks, it is a beautiful addition. You can probably find it at most grocery stores nowadays, but I know for sure that they carry it at Central Market.

Shortbread Layer
* Preheat the oven to 325 F.
* Line a 8X8 pan with parchment paper (very important or the caramel will stick to the sides of the pan, and cutting will be a disaster).
* With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium until blended (about 2 minutes -- and make sure the butter is room temp!).
* In small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt (give it a stir or whisk to make sure the ingredients are well combined).
* Then, put your mixer on low speed, and gradually add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients.
* Turn off your mixer just as all your ingredients are combined (very important not to over-beat).
* Transfer the dough to the lined pan, and press dough evenly into the pan, kinda like this:

* Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden-brown.
* When done baking, place your pan on a cooling rack, and let it cool completely (before adding additional layers).

Caramel Layer
* Combine all caramel ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
* Stir occasionally until the butter is melted.
* Increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil. (Keeping a watchful eye on it, and stirring -- so no burning!)
* Once to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue stirring as it simmers. It will start developing into an amber color like so:
* When the mixture has thickened, and is this lovely color, take it off the heat. Pour it on top of the cooled shortbread layer. I just learned about this tool that can help you get really nice even layers, it's called on offset spatula, and this is the best for smoothing the top of your layers.
* Then, put it in the freezer, so the caramel gets hard before you add the chocolate layer.

Chocolate Layer
* Combine all chocolate ingredients in a heat proof bowl, and set over a medium saucepan with simmering water (this is called a "bain marie", and it's a great technique for melting chocolate, and other delicate ingredients, so that they don't burn when you heat them).
* Stir the mixture until it is completely melted, and nice & smooth.
* Pour over the cooled caramel, and use an offset spatula to smooth the top.
* Wait about two minutes, for the cholocate to set up, but not completely harden, and then sprinkle the top with the fleur de sel.

* Chill the mixture until the chocolate hardens a bit, and when ready to serve, slice it up -- and enjoy! (Note: you don't want it to be too cold when you slice it, so if it's been in the fridge a bit, let it sit out before slicing for a little while.)

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats.

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