Doesn’t the thought of caramel make your taste buds perk up?
The taste and texture are so luscious, so luxurious.
My favorite? Chocolate-Caramel Shortbread Bars – shortbread on the bottom and caramel-amped chocolate on top. DELICIOUS.
Caramel flavor is hard to pin down in words. Carole Bloom, author of “Caramel” (Gibbs Smith, $24.99) said that is because the word caramel itself is often used to describe the flavor of wine or foods.
“It’s a rich, pleasurable flavor that everyone loves,” Bloom said. “The sugar is caramelized to a dark color creating depth of flavor.”
“Caramel” by Carole Bloom (Gibbs Smith, $24.99)
For me, the flavor offers a just-right amount of sweetness, a taste made even more irresistible by an alluring aroma. Caramel enlivens everything from versatile sauces to candies to bar cookies; custards, tarts and ice creams.
TIP: Cookbook author Carole Bloom advises that when you decide which caramel treat you want to make, read through the entire recipe before getting started to make sure you have all the necessary equipment, utensils and ingredients. She recommends that you layout everything you will need, including all the measured ingredients. If some preparation work is required, such as chopping or toasting nuts, do that before you start the recipe.
Chocolate-Caramel Shortbread Bars
Yield: 16 (4-by-1-inch) bars
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.
6. 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. (I like to cut the bars into small squares!)
Make ahead: Store bars tightly covered with aluminum foil at room temperature up to three days.
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)