Today, bloggers everywhere will be posting roundups of 65235 healthy recipes, resolutions, low calorie dinners, and less-guilt snack options. But me? I’m posting these incredibly rich chocolate caramel bars. Because, you know, you don’t want to shock your system *too* much after all the holiday eating…
These bars start with a layer of shortbread and are then topped with chewy caramel, chocolate, and a sprinkling of salt. In other words, they are ridiculously delicious. And also ridiculously rich. You’ll probably want to cut them in small pieces, which will make for about a million pieces. But, they’re great for giving away or freezing, and they should last a while as-is, too. Unless you keep sneaking a piece from the fridge because they’re just so small that it’s okay to take a few in a day. (I wouldn’t know anything about that.)
This was my first time making caramel with condensed milk (well, let’s be real. This is my first time making caramel that actually worked and didn’t burn or do something else). I’d actually taken the day off to do some baking and finish up my Christmas shopping, but then Ian woke up with a fever, which meant he had to stay home. Making these with a sick, mobile baby who is in the throes of separation anxiety was perhaps not my best idea. An empty box, a ladle, and whatever else I could toss to him while I was stirring helped for a little bit. Thankfully, making the caramel is the most time consuming part and everything else comes together pretty quickly and easily.
I might increase the shortbread layer by just a bit the next time around. I think it would also be good with a splash of vanilla but then, I add vanilla to everything, so that’s not surprising. :)
I wish you all an incredible new year, and I hope 2014 brings you much happiness and joy. And good food. Lots and lots of good food.
Caramel Shortbread Bars
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 (14 oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk
8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used 4 oz. of each)
1 tsp. light corn syrup
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling
To make the shortbread: Preheat the oven to 325 and line a 9×13″ baking dish with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and blend in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until just golden. If it puffs up a bit while baking, press it down gently as it cools. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the caramel: Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue simmering and stirring until the mixture turns an amber color and thickens slightly (this took about 30 minutes for me). Pour the mixture over the shortbread layer, smooth the top, and allow to cool completely and set. (You can place the bars in the fridge at this point to make sure they are chilled enough to handle the warm chocolate that will be added.)
To make the chocolate layer: Place the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or use a double boiler, if you have one). Heat, stirring often, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour evenly over the set caramel layer and smooth the top. Allow to cool for a minute or two and then sprinkle with fleur de sel. Chill, covered, until ready to slice and serve.