Monday, May 2, 2011

Caramel Shortbread Bars

How many times have we been told that it's not outward beauty that counts, but inner beauty?  I am a firm believer that this saying not only applies to people, but to food.  I've made a few beauties in the last few months.

Like this pull-apart bread.

And this Strawberry Mirror Cake.

But you know what?  For all the prep and all the showy appearance, they just didn't taste great.  The same thing happened the first time I made "Millionaire's Shortbread".  I was super excited about those bars.  I mean, what's not to love about shortbread, homemade caramel, and chocolate??  Especially to a short-bread lover as myself.  I made them.  I cut them.  They looked beautiful with a nice, tall, white shortbread, then the creamy brown of the caramel, and the dark chocolate (apparently I didn't take a picture of them).  Then I tasted them.  The shortbread was all wrong!  It was crumbly and dry.  I wanted it to be crisp.  More like a Twix candybar.  So as excited as I was to share the recipe with all of you, I knew I needed to make some changes first.  (Don't worry, changed-up versions of the above pictures are coming as well!)

So these are the next version I tried.  They're not beautiful on the outside.  But they are so SO beautiful on the inside.  I got the crisp texture I wanted from the cookie base, and the caramel and chocolate needed no changing.  I am planning to eat one with my coffee here in just a minute.  They're that good.

Caramel Shortbread Bars

For the shortbread:
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

For the Caramel:
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbs light corn syrup
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

For the Chocolate:
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 Tbs butter or shortening

Prepare the Shortbread.  Preheat the oven to 375*F.  Line a 9x11 pan with aluminum foil, with edges of foil coming over sides of pan.
Combine butter and sugars in bowl of electric mixer.  Blend on high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes.  While mixing, combine flour and salt in a small bowl.  Add vanilla to butter mixture.  Blend.  With mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture until completely combined.  

Press dough into prepared pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned.  It will be bubbly.  Let cool while you prepare the caramel.
In a 2 quart saucepan, combine all ingredients for caramel.  Heat to boiling, while stirring, and boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and continue stirring for 30 seconds, until it stops boiling.  Pour over shortbread and smooth evenly.  Let cool for 30 minutes.

When caramel has cooled, combine ingredients for chocolate topping in a microwave-safe bowl (you could use any combination of chocolate, but this is what sounded good to me!).  Microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Stir.  Continue cooking for 30 seconds, then stirring, until it is completely melted.  Pour over caramel and smooth.  Let cool, then place in the refrigerator.  

When ready to serve, remove bars from pan by lifting out the foil.  Pull foil off of the bars, and cut into squares on a cutting board.

Yield:  approx. 24 bars
Source: caramel from Blue-Eyed Bakers

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