Ever since the first time I tried kettle corn at a street fair, I have been smitten with absolutely any sweet thing that finds balance in just a pinch of savory salt. Yep, I’m one of those people who dips Wendy’s French fries into my Frosty to achieve this equilibrium of all things sweet and salty. But you don’t have to go through a drive-thru to get the perfect balance between the two.
As I was browsing Pinterest looking for an idea for this week’s tutorial, I kept seeing the same photo of salted caramel shortbread pinned again and again. The original pin was from the food blog Erica’s Sweet Tooth, who had amended the recipe from the salted caramel bars on the blog What’s Gaby Cooking.
So, yesterday, with my in-laws in town as the perfect tasting audience, I gathered the supplies and set to work making these delectable little shortbread bites. In the end, I think I could have let the caramel boil just a tiny bit longer, as mine began to melt a bit when out of the fridge for too long, but other than that, these were just right. Here’s how you can make your own:
For the shortbread:
5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1-2/3 cups flour
For the caramel:
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp heavy cream
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Step 1: Line an 8×8″ pan with parchment paper or greased tin foil, letting the edges hang over to make it easier to remove the shortbread in the end.
Step 2: Mix butter, sugar and salt in a large bowl with a fork. Then, add the egg yolk and mix well.
Step 3: Stir in the flour and them combine the dough with your hands until it’s coarse and crumbly. Transfer the dough into the pan you prepared, and use your hands to press it into one layer. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
Step 4: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake the shortbread layer for 25 minutes, or until the top begins to look golden brown. Set the pan aside to cool as you prepare the caramel.
Step 5: For the caramel, mix the butter, brown sugar, salt, sugar, heavy cream and corn syrup. Bring to a boil and stir until the caramel reaches the “soft ball” stage on a candy thermometer (about 230 degrees).
Step 6: Remove pan from heat, stir in the vanilla and pour the caramel evenly over the shortbread layer. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and then sprinkle with sea salt and cut into squares. Since these can get a little melty, it’s best to store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them.