Recipe: Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites

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This has become one of my favorite "bar cookie" recipes. I found it on Pinterest last winter and made it immediately, and a couple of times since then. Most people love chocolate, I happen to have a "thing" for caramel. Okay, fine, let's be honest, I also have a "thing" for pretty much anything that's sweet... or starchy. But my number one (for this moment, today) is caramel, specifically, these shortbread bites. I love the combination of salty and sweet!


Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites

Yield: Approximately 64 one inch squares


Shortbread Layer:

  • 10 tbsp. Unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg yolk, whisked
  • 1 2/3 cups All Purpose flour

Caramel Layer: ( you need a candy thermometer for this)

  • 16 tablespoons (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup  light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt (plus some for topping)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
*Note: there are no photos of the boiling sugar or the thermometer reading 230 degrees.  That's because I have a strong desire not to go to the emergency room from 3rd degree burns caused by hot sugar. I'm sure that they're real nice people over there at the hospital  but  I'm not dressed to go out in public and I wouldn't have any caramel bites to share with them. Heck, if I burned myself, I wouldn't have any for me and we all know that's not going to happen! Therefore,  I didn't take photos of the boiling sugar. You'll just have to trust me that the sugar boiled and the thermometer read 230 degrees.



Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper.  Allow  the edges of the parchment to hang over two of  the sides I tried having it hang over on all four sides and it was a big mess, I wouldn't lie to you. I could, I suppose, take the time to cut two pieces and overlap them going both ways but this seems like overkill so I just use the one. Do whatever you feel like, I'll never know and either will the caramels..  

This enables you to easily (well, how about "more easily"? That's probably closer to the truth. Especially if you don't have the patience to wait the 3 hours and try to take them out after an hour and a half. Not that I'd know anything about that.) remove the bars from the pan once they are cooled. I thought that I should emphasize that. Wait the three hours, you'll thank me.
In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar and salt with a fork. Add the yolk. Stir. Add the flour and stir with a heavy spoon (or your hands but wash them first...this little helpful hint brought to you by your friends at the FDA and me. FYI: I also try to avoid going to the emergency room for food poisoning).  Mix the dough until it is well combined. Place the dough in the prepared pan and press down until the bottom of the pan is evenly covered. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or an hour if you decide to do another craft project, throw in a load of laundry or read and forget all about it).  Remove the dough  from the refrigerator and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 28 minutes, until very lightly browned. Allow to cool.
While the shortbread is cooling, in a heavy pot, combine all caramel topping ingredients except the extract.

This is the scary part. there's something about boiling hot sugar that makes me have goosebumps and no, it's not the good kind. Be careful here.
Bring the mixture to a boil and stir constantly until the sugars are dissolved and the mixture is well combined. Using a candy thermometer, heat the mixture to "soft ball" stage; 230 degrees (5 to 10 minutes depending upon your cook top). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes then pour over the shortbread base. Refrigerate for at least three hours. This is a good time to complete the craft project that you started while the dough was chilling or read the remainder of the book that you started. It will help you to ignore the caramel that will be calling your name from inside the fridge. Once chilled, run a knife around the edge and remove from the pan using the parchment as "handles" . Sprinkle with sea salt and cut into one inch squares.

Store covered in the refrigerator way in the back where your children can't see them until you decide to share them or  until  you finish the entire batch by yourself serving.

Also note: If you make them on the first day of summer, where the temperature is nearing 100 degrees, they will start to soften and slant to the side as you are trying desperately to take a nice photo.  But the still taste really good. Just an FYI, in case you wanted to know.


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