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Author Notes: This recipe is from my book Sweet and Simple: Dessert for Two (Countryman Press 2017).
Buttery rich shortbread sandwiched by salted caramel. It doesn’t get much better than this.
I’m going to give you my recipe for salted caramel sauce, but a jarred version is totally fine here. My recipe makes 1 cup of caramel sauce, and you’ll only need 1/4 cup, plus a little extra for drizzling, to make these bars. While I’m normally averse to leftover dessert, I make an exception for salted caramel sauce. Put it in a jar in the fridge, and you’ll find plenty of things to use it in throughout the week.
Makes 2 generous servings
For the bars:
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup salted caramel sauce (recipe follows, or use store bought), plus extra for drizzling
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a bread loaf pan with parchment paper, making sure to leave enough excess to make handles to help you move it out of the pan.
- In a small bowl, combine the butter, confectioners' sugar, flour, and salt. Using a pastry blender, two knives, or simply your fingers, blend the butter into the flour mixture until a soft, crumbly dough forms. Press three-quarters of the dough onto the bottom of the loaf pan and press it flat.
- Spread 1/4 cup of caramel sauce on top.
- Dot the remaining dough over the top of the caramel sauce, focusing on the edges.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Let the bars cool slightly, then lift them out of the pan to cool completely. Before serving, drizzle extra caramel sauce on top, if desired (it’s very desirable.)
For the salted caramel sauce:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half (or cream)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
- In a deep saucepan (at least 2 quarts—no smaller, because the mixture bubbles up!), add the sugar and water. Whisk to combine.
- Turn the heat to medium-high and let the sugar melt and dissolve without stirring. If you see sugar crystals on the sides of the pan, use a pastry brush dipped in water to gently push them back in the pan. Do not stir.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, crank the heat to high and watch it turn an amber color. Watch closely, it happens quickly! You can swirl the pan gently to evenly brown the caramel.
- Meanwhile, heat the half-and-half (or cream) until it’s steaming and small bubbles are forming around the edges.
- Turn off the heat to the sugar mixture and add the half-and-half all at once. Be careful—it bubbles up triple the size! It is very hot!
- Next, whisk in the butter, salt, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture into a jar to cool and use as you like.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!