These Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars are an indulgent, decadent treat, perfect for this month’s Creative Cookie Exchange theme of Caramel. Keep reading to check out all of the wonderful caramel cookies we have this month! Affiliate links have been used in this post to link to items I am discussing.
Guys I am just a bundle of nerves right now, writing this. As I write, we leave the next day–although as you read, there is a decent chance I am on a plane…. maybe even over the Atlantic! When I picked up the kids today from their last day of school, Sammy was visibly sad. I think leaving school early, just as it turns into the big party that the last 2 weeks are, was hard on both of my kids. Alex at least plans to text (over the internet) most of her friends. All of us fret about leaving the dogs for so long. There will be a house/pet sitter staying with them most nights, and the regular pet sitters coming on the days she cannot. They will be ok I know but a control freak hates leaving behind stuff out of her control! And I am nothing if not a control freak.
I know, cry me a river. Truly I am mostly excited, but a worrier’s gotta worry!
Anyway! About these bars. I made the majority of them for Staff Appreciation Day at the kids’ school, although as rich as they are I probably sent in too many. Which is not to say that they are not good–my kids in particular loved them. I thought we might peter out on eating them, because of that richness, but Alex and Sammy made sure every last crumb was devoured.
The recipe for these bars comes from Carole Bloom’s Caramel, a treasure trove of recipes for those of you inclined toward anything caramelized. My only real change was to add Maldon Sea Salt Flakes to the finished bars, which I think keeps the bars from being too cloyingly sweet. I hope you keep reading to check out all of the other caramelized cookie goodness from Creative Cookie Exchange this month!
- For the shortbread:
- 9 T (4.5 oz, 1 stick plus 1 T) unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1½ cups (6.75 oz) AP flour
- ¼ t fine sea salt
- For the chocolate caramel topping:
- 10 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used about 3 oz 62% cacao and 7 oz of 72% cacao)
- 1½ cups sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 6 T (3 oz, ¾ stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ t fine sea salt
- 1-2 t (to taste) flaky sea salt for sprinkling
- First make the shortbread base: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line an 8X8 baking pan (with a minimum of 2 inches high sides) with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Beat the butter until creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy on medium speed, about 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
- Whisk together the salt and flour. Then slowly mix the flour into the butter mixture--the result will be crumbly, which is ok. Once the moisture in the dough is evenly distributed, dump the dough into the prepared pan. Using damp fingertips, press the dough evenly into the pan.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is evenly golden brown.
- Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
- Make the caramel while the shortbread is baking: Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof medium-large bowl and set aside.
- Gently stir the sugar and water in a 3 quart heavy bottomed sauce pan (mix BEFORE placing on heat). Then place the pan over medium high heat. Place a small bowl of water with a heat-proof pastry brush beside your cooktop.
- When the sugar begins to boil, brush the pan along the edges of sugar/water mixture to dissolve crystals. Turn the heat up to high and repeat the brushing to prevent crystals.
- Let the sugar boil, without stirring, until it turns amber colored (about 6-8 minutes, 340-345 F).
- When it turns amber colored, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter, cream and salt--be careful as the mixture may bubble up. Immediately begin stirring with a long-handled heat-proof spatula; stir constantly for about 2 minutes, until the caramel is smooth.
- When the caramel is smooth, pour it over the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, and then stir the mixture smooth. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to get all over it combined.
- Let the chocolate caramel mixture cool for 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Pour the chocolate caramel mixture over the baked shortbread.
- Let stand for 20 minutes.
- Then cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
- When the caramel is firm, remove the entire "bar" from the pan by the edges of the parchment. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
- Use a large chef's knife to slice into bars--use an up/down motion, not a sawing motion, to slice the bars. Store in the fridge.
The theme this month is Caramel–any kind of caramel in any kind of cookie! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links. Please be patient though, as this month I am off to Italy and will not be checking email quite as often!
You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes–be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:
- Basement Brownies from Sidewalk Shoes
- Camel Milk Caramel Basbousa from Food Lust People Love
- Caramel Cashew Cookies from Our Good Life
- Caramel Coconut Cookies from Basic N Delicious
- Caramel Shortbread Cookie Strips from Magnolia Days
- Caramel Thumbprint Cookies from Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt
- Caramelized White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies from Baking Yummies
- Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars from The Spiced Life
- Chocolate Caramel Rocks from Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Chocolate Walnut Caramel Stuffed Cookies from Noshing with the Nolands
- Eggless Vanilla-Caramel Biscotti from What Smells So Good?
- Millionaire Shortbread Bars from Spiceroots
- Salted Caramel Butter Cookies from SimplyVeggies
- Salted Caramel Macarons from A Baker’s House
- Take 5 Caramel Oatmeal Cookies from 2 Cookin’ Mamas