Say it with me: salted chocolate caramel bars. With a chocolate shortbread crust. What is not to like about these?
You guys know I am not a very confident baker, so why on earth did I decide to attempt to make chocolate shortbread and salted chocolate caramel? Especially with a 13 month-old running around like a loon while I was trying to make these and then take pictures of them?
Well, it was actually for a good cause.
As part of OXO’s blogger outreach program, I was given the chance to participate in their Cookies for Kids’ Cancer campaign this month.
Basically, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer was founded by two OXO employees who were inspired by their son’s battle with pediatric cancer, a disease which claims the lives of more children in the US than any other disease. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer provides inspiration and support to allow anyone to easily get involved in fundraising to find a cure for pediatric cancer. As they do every year, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to support Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.
This year, in support of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer during Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, we had the chance to try out recipes from Dorie Greenspan’s newest cookbook, Dorie’s Cookies, which showcases over 200 recipes from classics to brownies to savory cookies. I love Dorie Greenspan’s cookbooks and was excited to try one of her new recipes out. Plus did I mention it was for a good cause?
When given the list of recipes to choose from, I was immediately drawn to the Salted Chocolate Caramel Bars, because hello, salted chocolate caramel. Never mind that I’ve never made shortbread or caramel, greedy me WANTED these bars.
In order to help make our recipes, we also received baking sets that complemented our selection. I received a glass 3 qt. baking dish with lid, a glass 2 qt. baking dish with lid, a brownie spatula, AND an illuminating digital hand mixer! I know, I’m spoiled. Some quick facts:
- Made from BPA-free borosilicate glass, OXO Good Grips Glass Bakeware can withstand extreme temperature changes.
- Generous handles and sloshproof lids make moving full dishes easier, and the clean, elegant design means you can take them from the oven directly to the family table.
- With a light to guide you, OXO On Illuminating Digital Hand Mixer includes intuitive digital controls to steadily increase or decrease speed.
- When you’re finished, the on-board beater clip, wrap-and-secure cord, and flat, stable base allow for compact, upright storage.
My takeaway from this? I like how the baking dishes are sturdy but not horribly heavy either. The wide handles are a definite plus. I LOVED the light on the hand mixer. Not that I plan to use it in the middle of the night or anything, but it is nice to be able to see into your bowl.
And these salted chocolate caramel bars? These are freaking amazing. I can’t write what I actually said because I try to keep it sweet and clean here, but once you try one, you’ll know how I felt. SO. GOOD. You have the rich, deep, chocolate shortbread crust, then the ooey gooey salted caramel topping with a hint of chocolate. I thought I messed up the shortbread when I was mixing it, prompting a panic-filled Facebook post to my friends, but it turned out fine. I do think I might have goofed a bit on the caramel since it never did seem to set like I thought it was supposed to, making it really hard to cut and take pictures since I was basically getting caramel glopping all over my fingers. Who cares though, it tasted great.
*Disclosure: OXO provided me with the 3-quart and 2-quart glass baking dish with lids set, as well as a brownie spatula, an illuminated digital hand mixer, and a signed copy of Dorie Greenspan’s upcoming book as part of their Blogger Outreach program. All opinions are my own.
Salted Chocolate-Caramel Bars
Recipe from Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan, used with permission
“This is the kind of cookie that makes you think you should stop everything, throw over your regular life and open a fancy pastry shop just so you can have a legit excuse to bake — and eat — these every day. The base is a simple chocolate shortbread, one with just enough sugar and salt to make it delicious but not obtrusive. It’s a cookie that knows that its place is to give the voluptuous star, the caramel, a foundation on which to flaunt its assets, among them its characteristic smooth, slow-melting texture; its deep flavor, which blends burnt sugar, dark chocolate and a hint of salt; and its looks, all sleek sophistication even while it’s enticing you to grab it like a greedy kid. The bars are topped with toasted pecans, there for flavor and to add a bit of crunch to the lithesome caramel.”
Makes 21 bars
For the Shortbread Base
1 cup (136 grams) all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup (21 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces; 113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1⁄3 cup (67 grams) sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the Caramel Topping
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1⁄2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream, at room temperature (or slightly warmed in a microwave)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce; 28 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces and very soft
1⁄4 teaspoon fleur de sel or a good-size pinch of fine sea salt
2 ounces (57 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
About 1⁄2 cup (60 grams) pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (I omitted these)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Generously butter (or spray) an 8-inch square pan.
To make the shortbread base: Whisk together the flour and cocoa powder.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and salt together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredients all at once and beat on low until the dough comes together. This will take a little longer than you might expect, so don’t get discouraged. Give the dough a few last turns with a flexible spatula and scrape it out into the pan. Using your fingertips, pat the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan; press down and make sure to get the dough into the corners.
Bake the shortbread for 21 to 23 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes, or until it is slightly darker around the edges and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan; it will not feel completely firm if poked gently. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the shortbread to cool completely.
To make the caramel topping: Put a heatproof bowl close to the stovetop, along with a small bowl of cold water and a pastry brush (preferably silicone).
Put the sugar, water and corn syrup in a small saucepan or skillet and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Allow the ingredients to bubble away, brushing down the sides of the pan with cold water if there are spatters and swirling the pan a couple of times once you start seeing some color, until the caramel turns a pale to medium amber. (Don’t let it get as dark as mahogany.) Lower the heat, stand away from the pan and add the cream, followed by the butter and salt — ingredients that might cause the caramel to roil. Remove the pan from the heat, drop in the chocolate and, using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir to blend.
Pour the hot caramel over the shortbread and sprinkle with the nuts. Allow to set at room temperature.
When the caramel is firm, run a table knife around the sides of the pan, care- fully unmold the cookie onto a rack and turn it over onto a cutting board. Using a long thin knife, cut 21 bars (cut into 3 strips and then cut each strip into 7 bars). Alternatively, leave the cookie whole and cut individual bars as needed.
When the caramel is fully set, the cookies (cut or intact) can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 5 days. Remove them from the refrigerator about 10 minutes before serving.