First off, I must start by introducing a guest baker! This evening I had the pleasure of baking with Jen, I think she likes baking and baking blogs almost as much as me! The next three posts were recipes she chose (and wow were they wonderful!). One was for a baking exchange she was going to (that group is extremely lucky to be getting the Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bar), the other two recipes, chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk Cookies and Puppy chow, well… they were just to make and enjoy!
The first recipe of the day was the Salted Caramel Shortbread Bar, (another wonderful item from Annie’s Eats) the name is pretty self explanatory but does not do any justice to the dessert. After tasting it, I think it deserves a much more exciting name! I love the taste of salt and sweet together, they complement each other so well. I have had chocolate covered pretzels, trail mixes with nuts and chocolate but I had never made a dessert where salt was the star ingredient. To be honest I was a little leary of trying them, not really sure why as I love the flavour combination. When I heard of what Jen picked for her exchange I was quite intrigued and when she sent the recipe entitled “deliciousness” I nearly drowned in drool. It looked amazing!
Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars
For the shortbread layer:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
2. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. We would recommend bringing the parchment paper right up the sides of your dish, as it was a bit of a challenge getting the first section out)
3. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir with a fork to blend, and set aside.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.
5. With the mixer on low-speed blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.
6. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press in an even layer over the bottom of the pan.
Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden. (If the crust puffs up a bit while baking, just gently press it down while it is cooling.) Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.
For the caramel layer:
This layer seems to be quite time-consuming and labor intensive (Even with taking turns stirring, I got 2, yes 2 blisters from stirring it for so long!) So, start this as soon as the shortbread is out of the oven.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1. Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
2. 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.
3. Pour the mixture over the shortbread layer, smooth the top, and allow to cool completely and set. (I chilled at this stage to ensure that the caramel layer would not melt when the warm chocolate was added.)
For the chocolate layer:
8 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp. light corn syrup
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling
1. Combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. (Somehow I missed getting photos of this step)
2. Pour evenly over the caramel layer and use an offset spatula to smooth the top.
3. Allow to cool for a minute or two and then sprinkle with fleur de sel.
4. Chill, covered, until ready to slice and serve.
Just look at that! It is a thing of beauty! But not only does it look amazing it tastes even better! The combination of the sweet and the salt on top is delicious. The shortbread had a lovely texture, strong enough to hold the square but was mild enough not to over power the treat. The caramel layer was so smooth and creamy yet firm enough to hold up. The chocolate layer with salt was the finishing touch. There was just the right amount of sweet and salt. Upon taking a bite my mouth just came alive! The salt and sweet made my taste buds jump, even after eating it you could still taste the salt finish. WOW!!
We figured that one tray would not be enough for 5 dozen so we ended up making two trays of this, which meant I got to keep some This is a definite keeper, I can see making this many more times. I hope the baking exchange group enjoys!
I had such a great time baking, especially with someone who shares my passion. Hopefully there will be more additions to the”Guest Baker”. Thanks Jen!