Caramel is a tough dessert. I've messed it up as many times as I've gotten it right. It's worth the extra butter and sugar and cream that I waste from the botched batches because when it's right, it's divine. Two things I need to remember: WATCH that sugar as it's melting. The times I've looked away for one second to wash a dish or use the restroom, I burnt the caramel and made it too hard. The other thing I need to remember is not to stir the sugar except where necessary (to get even melting). Stirring causes crystals to hook back up with one another. I know, that sugar is naughty.
There are a ton of other key techniques to employ when making caramel but I really think practice makes perfect. You start to know what all these blogs mean by "dark amber color" or "just past the point of smoking" by messing up. I have come to love this recipe the more I get to know it (having made bars 4 times, 2 of which failed) and I can tell you that I cook the caramel towards the 5 minutes (not the 10 minutes) side of things. It's been wonderful when I get it right. It's so rich and so satisfying...no other dessert gives as much pleasure.
Salted Caramel Bars
§ 10 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
§ 1/2 cup sugar
§ 1/2 tsp salt
§ 1 egg yolk, whisked
§ 1 2/3 cups flour
§ 1 cup unsalted butter
§ 1 cup light brown sugar
§ 12 Tbsp light corn syrup
§ 2 tsp sea salt
§ 4 Tbsp sugar
§ 4 Tbsp heavy cream
§ 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
§ Sea salt flakes
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper with the edges of the parchment hanging over the sides (this will make it much easier to remove).
2. In a large bowl combine the butter, sugar and salt with a fork. Add the yolk and combine with the fork. Add the flour and using your hands, combine the dough until crumbly, like sand. Transfer the dough into the parchment lined pan and press down with your hands or the bottom of a measuring cup. Refrigerate this for 30 minutes and bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned. Once baked, remove and set aside to cool.
3. In a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan (I use my 14” nonstick), combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, and sugar at medium to medium high heat. In a separate small pot, warm up the cream. Wait until all the sugar is dissolved and has turned a dark golden amber color, stirring as little as possible and only to even out the melting. As soon as the sugar starts smoking, remove from heat and add warmed cream. Stir to combine and add in vanilla extract and pour on top of the shortbread.
4. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours. Then sprinkle with the sea salt flakes and serve! I freeze leftovers because it makes a big batch and the bars are so gosh darn rich.
Recipe adapted from: http://whatsgabycooking.com/salted-caramel-bars/
Good caramel tips from David Leibovitz: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/01/salted-butter-caramels/
I find that the 9x9" dish makes super thick bars. I prefer thinner ones and using a 9x13" baking dish.
I hope you enjoyed all the fabulous sweets I shared this week! This one is definitely my favorite :) Would love to know what desserts get you giddy every time (so I can bookmark it and make it for your birthday!).