In Which I Make a Melty Mess

I agreed to make a dessert for my Mom’s (my parents’, but really it’s my Mom’s) Academy Awards party, and after consultation with the Boy, decided on delicious looking Salted Caramel Bars, courtesy of What’s Gaby Cooking. Now, even here on this blog post, they look delicious. And, if imperfect, at least presentable. That, my friends , is because I took one very selective photo of the tray of caramel bars immediately after plating them and repairing them.

Yes, repairing. I’ll explain. Everything seemed to go well at first, with a crumbly shortbread crust, though I think I got too gung-ho about pressing all of it into the pan as my crust was a bit thick for my liking (a half inch thick instead of a quarter inch, which I think would have been better).

The dough in progress.

Once the dough was prepped and baked, I made the caramel. It wasn’t as thick as it perhaps should have been, I thought, but I didn’t want to overcook it as I’d burned caramel before. So, I removed it from the heat – a fatal mistake, perhaps, though we don’t have any really conclusive evidence for what happened next.

The caramel in all its delicious golden goodness.

Next, you see, I chilled as directed and the next day, cut the bars. This seemed to go well at first, but within minutes they were melting. I put them in the fridge, and they continued to melt, one tiny delicious Wicked Witch of the West after another.

I didn’t know what to do – the caramel was sliding right off the short bread and creating on giant gooey caramel puddle in which the shortbread sat like little rafts. As we were about to head off to my parents’ house, I packed them up as best they could, kept them in the fridge, and when dessert time came, pulled them out and scooped what caramel I could back atop them.

So, for a brief period, they looked like this:

The caramel bars.

Before melting back into puddles of goo. The taste, however, was still there, so I think with some adjusting these might be fantabulous. Either way, Mom said “they’d go great with tea.” Which for her, means she wants to eat a bunch of them. With tea. And probably a good book. Either way, takeaway message is that I have not yet mastered caramel.

Salted Caramel Bars
From What’s Gaby Cooking.

Look at how Gaby’s bars show bite marks. BITE MARKS. Clearly she has mastered caramel in a way I have not. They were tasty, however, so maybe give this recipe a try and see if you can do better. My only guess at advice is make sure you make the caramel real thick and gooey when cooking it. And just in case, cut right before serving. I refrigerated overnight, but I don’t think that would have made them more melty. Oh, and I just used regular salt instead of sea salt. But be fancy if you so choose!

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 40 mins

Yield: 8-12 Servings

10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk, whisked
1 2/3 cups AP 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.Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9-by-9-inch pan with parchment paper with the edges of the parchment hanging over the sides. This will make removing the bars easier.

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 its flaky. 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. Once chilled, bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned.

3. Once baked, remove and set aside to cool.

4. Meanwhile, in a pot combine the topping ingredients; butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, sugar and cream. Bring to a boil and make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Stir for about 5-10 minutes until its thick and bubbly. If you have a candy thermometer – the caramel should be about 230 degrees. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla extract and pour on top of the shortbread.

5. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours. Then sprinkle with the sea salt flakes and serve!


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