Saturday, October 12, 2013

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars - Baking GALS Round 24

Back in the spring I went on a trip out to San Francisco and wine country with some friends.  We stayed both in the city and out in Sonoma.  In almost every grocery store, corner shop and coffee house we went into I kept running into these bars, taunting me at every turn, until finally I gave in.  I am so glad I did.  They were just as good as I’d imagined.  I love shortbread and I love caramel even more.  Chocolate – eh – I could go either way, but when mixed with other things, I’m down…

A few months ago I came across this recipe – score!!  Not that I wouldn’t take a trip back out west and hunt these things down, but even better if I can make them on any old rainy day when I’ve got some time to kill.  I’ll admit, I didn’t love this shortbread recipe – where’s the flavor??  I added some vanilla extract.  I think it helped, but I have a tried-and-true shortbread recipe I think I may try with this next time.  I also added a little vanilla to the caramel portion as I think it adds that extra oomph that takes the toasty sweetness of caramel over the edge to amazingness (is that a word?  you know what I mean).

Not that you’d think it from the name, but these are definitely not for the diet conscious, so you may want to wait until you’re having a “skinny day” then just allow yourself to indulge, I promise it will be worth the extra mile you need to run after.

For the shortbread layer: 
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1 tsp vanilla extract (my addition)

For the caramel layer: 
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 (14 oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (my addition)

For the chocolate layer: 
8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
fleur de sel, for sprinkling 

To make the shortbread layer, preheat oven to 325F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment.  With a fork, in a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Beat together the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until blended, 1-2 minutes.  Blend in the dry ingredients on low speed until just combined.  Evenly press the dough into the prepared pan and bake 13-18 minutes, until golden. If the crust puffs up while in the oven, just gently press it back down again after it bakes.  Allow to cool completely. 

To make the caramel layer, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk.  Heat, stirring every now and then, until the butter has melted. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixtures becomes amber and thickens slightly (may take about 20 min).  Pour the caramel over the cooled shortbread layer, smooth, and allow to set and cool completely. 

To make the chocolate layer, combine the chocolate, corn syrup and butter in a double boiler.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and the mixture is smooth.  Pour the mixture evenly over the set caramel layer and smooth the top.  Allow to cool.  Sprinkle the fleur de sel on top.  Slice, serve and keep chilled (may be easier to slice when chilled). 

**Couple notes** 
You can use whatever type of chocolate you like here.  Out in CA they were being sold with milk chocolate and dark chocolate.  Obviously this recipe calls for bittersweet – use your favorite!

As you can see, I added the fleur de sel a little early on these and it melted into the chocolate a bit.  It doesn’t affect the flavor, but it just doesn’t look as pretty.  Just wait a little longer for your chocolate to cool before you sprinkle on the salt.

From:  Four and Twenty Blackberries

Saturday, October 5, 2013

King Arthur Flour - Live!

Thanks to a friend bringing this tour to my attention, I took off work and attended a baking demo with King Arthur Flour yesterday - the people I consider the holy grail of baking.  Ok, with the exception of those famous French baguette & croissant bakers…  KAF does two tours across the States each year, once in the fall and once in the winter.  The demos are totally free, and you just have to show up.  It was two hours of watching one of the bakers, Bonnie, from their Baking Education Center, make an apple pie and a savory bacon & cheddar scone.  (They had another demo later in the day on whole grains and yeast breads, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it to that.)  Bonnie was great, she was funny and knowledgeable, and I picked up lots of great tips/got confirmation on some tricks of the trade I already knew.  So much fun – for the baking obsessed at least.

If you’re not familiar with this company and/or their flours, get familiar.  Not only do they produce great quality flours and tons of other baking products, but they also have a test kitchen where they develop recipes, an education center where they teach classes, a free Nationwide school program teaching kids to make fresh bread, a large retail store and even a cafĂ© so you can sit and enjoy breads and pastries that were baked just that morning.  Sounds like a perfect day trip to me!  Granted they are located in Norwich, Vermont and I’m in DC, but thankfully with my parents living in MA, I think I’ll find myself there sometime in the near future.  However I do fear that I might just apply for a job on the spot and suddenly be moving north… 

Check them out: