Thank you, Carole Bloom. These Chocolate-Caramel Shortbread Bars are one of my all-time favorite bar cookies. The recipe is from Bloom’s book, “Caramels” (Gibbs Smith, $24.99).
These delicate, very full-flavored bars bring together all my favorites. The dark brown sugar used to make the shortbread provides a richer taste than traditional shortbread that is made with white sugar.
But it is the dark chocolate and caramel mixture that is poured over the baked shortbread that takes these over the top. When you cut into the shortbread to make bars, cut cleanly all the way to the bottom of the pan so the bars separate squarely.
CHOCOLATE-CARAMEL SHORTBREAD BARS
Yield: 16 (4-by-1-inch) bars
Nonstick baking spray
9 tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces, 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (6 3?4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1?4 teaspoon kosher or fine-grained sea salt
10 ounces bittersweet (64 to 70% cacao content) chocolate, finely chopped, see cook’s notes
1 1/2 cups (10 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine-grained sea salt
Cook’s notes: It is important to use a chocolate that is high in cacao; Bloom recommends 64 to 70 percent. I used the Belgian chocolate from Trader Joe’s that is labeled “72 percent dark chocolate.” It was delicious.
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, letting it curl over the edges. Spray the foil with nonstick baking spray.
2. Prepare shortbread: Beat butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer using the flat beater attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand-held mixer, until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat mixture together until smooth and completely mixed.
3. In a medium bowl, sift the flour. Add the salt and toss to blend. Add this mixture to the butter mixture, in 3 stages, blending completely. Turn the dough out into the prepared pan. Dust your fingertips with flour and press the shortbread evenly into the pan. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
4. Prepare chocolate caramel: Place the chocolate in a large heat-resistant bowl; set aside. Combine the sugar and water in a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to boil around the edges, then brush around the inside of the pan with a damp pastry brush at the point where the sugar syrup meets the sides of the pan. Do this twice during the cooking process to prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Cook the mixture over high heat, without stirring, until it turns amber colored, 6 to 8 minutes. When the mixture is amber colored, remove pan from heat and immediately add the butter, cream, and salt. Be very careful because the mixture will bubble, foam and steam. Stir constantly with a long handled heat-resistant spatula until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour this mixture over the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute then stir together until completely combined. Let the chocolate caramel stand for 8 minutes to cool, stirring frequently.
5. Pour the chocolate caramel over the shortbread in the pan. Cover the top of the pan tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until the chocolate caramel is firm.
Use the edges of the aluminum foil to lift the shortbread from the pan then carefully peel the foil away from the shortbread. Use a large chef’s knife dipped in warm water and dried to trim the edges of the shortbread. Cut the shortbread in half; then cut each half into 8 equal bars, dipping the knife in warm water and drying between each cut. Serve the bars at room temperature.
Make ahead: Store bars tightly covered with aluminum foil at room temperature up to three days. Or freeze well sealed and defrost overnight in refrigerator; bring to room temperature before serving.
Nutrition information (per serving): 222 calories, 59 percent of calories from fat, 11 g fat, 4.1 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 22 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 64 mg sodium, 0.5 g fiber
Source: adapted from “Caramels” by Carole Bloom (Gibbs Smith, $24.99)