Earlier this week, I said I wanted to do a baking challenge. The recipe I ended up choosing was not really very challenging but it has been calling my name for months on Pinterest.
There are some foods that if I see them offered on a menu, I will have trouble turning them down. Mushrooms, butternut squash, goat cheese, asparagus, salted caramel, the list goes on. Oh, but that last one there. Salted caramel. Oh god. Offer me some salted caramel and I’ll probably let you name my first born. I just can’t get over the creamy sweetness of the caramel and how it pairs so perfectly with the sea salt. I could eat it until I was sick. Which is why I’ll be giving most of this away.
So, I’ll get on with the recipe.
Salted Caramel Shortbread
Adapted from Erica’s Sweet Tooth
For the shortbread:
10 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1 egg yolk
1 2/3 c all purpose flour
For the caramel:
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 c packed light brown sugar
3/4 c light corn syrup
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c heavy cream
2 t sea salt
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
Flaked sea salt for sprinkling on top
In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar, and salt with a fork until well mixed. Add the egg yolk and continue stirring until incorporated. Add the flour and mix with your hands until it has all been absorbed and you have a crumbly dough. Press this evenly into the bottom of a parchment-lined (for easy removal later) 8×8 (or 9×9) pan. Put this into the refrigerator for a half hour.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the dough is chilled, bake it for 25 minutes or until the shortbread is slightly golden. Set it aside to cool.
While the shortbread is cooling, put the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, sugar, heavy cream, and salt into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat this mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, to boiling. Using a candy thermometer, continue stirring until it reaches the soft ball stage (240-245 degrees). At this point, remove it from the heat and add the vanilla extract (carefully – it might spatter). Stir it all together and then pour it over the shortbread. Resist the urge to lick the spoon you were using to stir it with. It is so hot it will burn your tongue right off. Put the whole thing in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours. After it’s slightly cooled, sprinkle some flaked sea salt on top.
After it has chilled sufficiently (the caramel has a little give but will not move if you tilt the pan), remove it with the parchment paper and cut it up into small squares.
Store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them. Or eat as many as you can without feeling sick.
I’ve done my share of candy-making. I’ve had problems with caramel in the past. My first attempt turned out super hard. There have been other times when it was all grainy after it set up. I’m telling you though, this time, it was PERFECT. It’s smooth and creamy and it doesn’t make you feel like your teeth are all going to get yanked out. Awesome.
Here are some tips that will make this easy for you:
1. Do all of your cleaning the day before so that you do not end up hate-cleaning before you get to the point.
2. Do NOT lick the stirring apparatus you used with the caramel.
3. When you go to cut them up, BE CAREFUL. The top of the caramel will be slippery. Use a large, sharp knife. My knife was kind of dull and crappy and it made it really hard to cut and a lot of the shortbread crumbled off because of it.
4. Cut them into pretty small pieces. I cut mine up into 64 pieces. They’re really rich and all you really need is a bite at a time.
5. Try not to eat nothing but these squares for dinner. Your stomach will hurt if you do.