Monday, October 14, 2013

Salted Caramel Shortbread

I have to admit...this recipe is right up my alley. It's made of mostly butter, which is one of my favorite foods (yes, when people ask me what my favorite food is I have been known to say "butter") and it's pretty easy to whip up yet looks amazingly difficult and fancy. I like to look fancy. Don't we all??

Did I also mention that salted caramel is trendy? Yup...like quinoa and gorgonzola, salted caramel is a trendy flavor. But really, the salty sweet idea has been around forever! Chocolate covered pretzels!! Kettle popcorn! All yummy because of the sweet and salty flavors. Whatever the reason, I'm not complaining. These are to die for. I mean, seriously, I made another batch because I was craving them so bad!!

I wish I craved healthy food, but I don't.

Anyway, I came across this recipe on Pinterest (the original recipe is found here at Erica's Sweet Tooth). It's funny, because I have a bajillion recipes on Pinterest, but only the special ones actually get made. These are special. Times a lot.

Oh, and I find it ironic that I pinned these to my "Gift Ideas" board, and I've made them twice and eaten them all myself. Maybe third times a charm??

Don't let the caramel part scare you. You really just dump the ingredients in the pot, stir and watch your candy thermometer until it gets to 230. You can get a candy thermometer anywhere for a few bucks and I've used mine several times over the past couple of years. But really, if you only use it for this recipe it's worth it.
You can see here the parchment paper hanging over the edge just a bit. It allows me to pull the entire batch out and cut it easier.
 

I cut mine into 1 inch squares. You know, bite size. For me.

Salted Caramel Shortbread

for the shortbread layer:

10 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1-2/3 cups flour

for the caramel:
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp heavy cream
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Line an 8×8″ pan with parchment paper (not wax paper!!). Leave some hanging over the sides so you can remove the shortbread caramel goodness later. Oh, and as a precaution, don't let too much hang over and then let that too much touch the heating element of your oven. It may cause a small fire (um...I know this from experience, but that's another story for later...)

In a large bowl combine the butter, sugar, and salt with a fork or pastry cutter and then add the egg yolk and continue mixing.  Add the flour and use your hands to combine the dough until it has formed coarse crumbs. Transfer the dough into the prepared pan and press it down into one even layer. I try to made the sides a teensy bit higher for the caramel, but that's just me. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. This let's the butter cool a bit so it cooks better, so don't skip this step!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25 minutes, until slightly golden brown. Set aside to cool. 

For the caramel, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, sugar, and heavy cream. Bring to a boil and stir for about 5-10 minutes until caramel reaches the “soft ball stage” at around 230 degrees. I actually let mine go a minute or so longer after it has reached the 230 degrees. I find it makes the caramel a tad stiffer later.

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and carefully pour caramel over the shortbread.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, then sprinkle with sea salt and cut into squares. Store caramels in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them. Don't leave them out to room temperature. The caramel will turn soft and then it's not pretty anymore. Seriously, leave them in the fridge when not eating them!

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