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Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

  I always feel sort of stupid when I start talking about how good something I made is.  I mean, I've made recipes that didn't taste so great, why on earth would I pass them on?  So it might appear as if I rave on here, but I just love how all these things taste!
  And yet, I feel like I'm trying to self-promote.  Dumb.  I recommend making the things I post, why else would I post them?  I'm promoting the recipe, not my abilities.  Does this site look like a business?  Nope, I sell nothing.  I give away and pass on awesome ideas, that's where the promotion goes.  I'm just the humble soul behind all of it.  I want happiness to enter kitchens.  It's why I take 53 pictures of bar cookies and spend an hour working on a post.  It's for a good cause, and I love it.
  Just a little reminder, mostly for myself.

  Now really, if the oozing caramel doesn't already speak for itself, I don't know what to tell you.  I just don't.  Some say this is reminiscent of a Twix bar, and it's likely as close to a homemade one as you'll ever get, but I don't see too much of a likeness.  I guess they could be the adult version or something.
  And about that caramel...if you go to the links I put under "Sources," you'll see an obvious difference between mine and theirs.  I keep telling myself it's probably just the lighting...but I think the sad truth is I didn't cook it long enough.  Frankly, I was scared.  My caramel affair hasn't abated, but it's certainly gotten complicated (unintentional rhyme, I promise).  But hey, if you like it gooey, cook it to this color!
  The first time through, I followed the directions exactly.  When the boiling point came, I stirred vigorously and some extremely perceptible brown (burned) chunks came floating up.  Oh boy...was I frustrated.  My only theories are that it was too hot, the saucepan was dumb, I didn't stir well enough, or maybe my butter separated a lot and some started to brown on its own.
  All I know for sure is that I morosely shoveled some dinner in my face while my sainted mother ran to the store and got me some more cans of milk, along with a bag of gummies.  Yeah, they also got shoveled.

  The second time around, once the butter melted I just kept whisking.  I whisked it for a whole hour.  I really can't say if this made a difference or not, because I also kept the heat much lower (which is why it took an hour...).  But this is how it turned out.  Maybe it's undercooked, and maybe not.  You know what, though?  They taste splendid, just a little buffering.  The photos still speak for themselves.

  I'm just desperately wishing for a caramel mentor other than the internet.

  Few last notes: the cut bars are absolutely freezable.  As they make a generous amount and are very sticky even when chilled, I recommend eating them from the freezer.  And...you might want to cut them better than I did.  And thinner, much thinner.  Think skinny Twix and less..square-y.  I was thinking greedy.
  Remember friends, this was only my take on the recipe.  Every kitchen and cook/baker is different.  And hey, I did eventually get it, just be patient!  Don't listen to your inner perfectionist (it's usually lying anyway).  And if anyone happens to know any awesome caramel advice, I'm all ears.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars
Yield: about 5 dozen small (but long) bars

Ingredients for the Shortbread:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar

Ingredients for the Caramel:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk 

Ingredients for the Chocolate:
  • 8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. light corn syrup
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • Fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling 

To make the shortbread layer, preheat the oven to 325° F.  Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.  In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir with a fork to blend, and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press in an even layer over the bottom of the pan.  Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden.  (If the crust puffs up a bit while baking, just gently press it down while it is cooling.)  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. 

To make the caramel layer, place butter, sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Allow butter to melt, and stir to combine (use a heat-proof spatula, and scrape along the sides and bottom regularly).  Raise heat to medium and bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly along the bottom and sides, reduce heat to medium-low again to maintain a simmer (still stirring constantly).  After a few minutes, you may want to switch to a whisk if the butter seems to be separating.  For this step, the time could vary a lot depending on the heat of your burner, so watch carefully (it can take upwards of half an hour).  The mixture should become a light amber, caramel color, and it should thicken a bit (you can drop a small amount onto a white plate to check the color and consistency while it's cooking).  When it reaches the desired color and thickness, pour mixture over shortbread and spread evenly with a heat-proof spatula.  Allow to cool and set completely (you can chill it in the fridge at this stage, to ensure no melting when the warm chocolate is later added).

To make the chocolate glaze, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.  Pour evenly over the caramel layer and use an offset spatula to smooth the top.  Allow to cool for a minute or two and then sprinkle with fleur de sel.  Chill, covered, until ready to slice and serve. 

Sources: via Annie's Eats, originally from Lisa is Cooking-who adapted her recipes from Baked and The Golden Book of Baking.