My grandma used to say, “A lady’s not dressed unless she has her earrings on.” It was one of her more ironic stances on appropriate ladies dress wear. Especially when you consider she applied the principle to all clothing: dresses, pants, exercise gear, there was no discrimination. Naked ears meant nakedness.
To really understand Gavey, you need to know two things. First, she was raised in the old school, high-class society of afternoon tea, stockings, and ankle leg crossing. Combine this with the second fact that she liked nothing better than sliding head first into home and you’ll begin to understand the amazing character who was my grandma.
Walking the line of tomboy aggressiveness and ladylike behavior was an even more delicate thing in her day. But she did so gracefully, most of the time. I’d like to think I do too. I’d also like to think she knew it was a line I would walk.
When I was five or six, she gave me a strand of pearls. For years they lived in a small satin bag in my mother’s bathroom. Now, I wear them almost every day with a matching set of earrings.
And even though they are my most prized possession, they are nothing compared to the time Gavey spent with me. From slumber parties and ice cream feasts to crazy city excursions and the loudest cheerleader a girl could ask for – Gavey was one of my best friends. Time definitely beats a strand of pearls.
Gavey wouldn’t have had the patience to make Salted Caramel Chocolate Bars. Though I imagine she would have sat by the stove and kept me company. Regardless, I know she would have helped me “get rid” of them.
They’re the kind of treat which requires saying no to calorie counting. They’re the caution-to-the-wind – slightly messy – extremely sticky – rich excuse for slipping your earrings off. They’re a bite of time, shared in a sweet square.
If you too don’t have the patience, let me know. Next time I make a batch I’ll share some time.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Bars
Making caramel anything can be a little intimidating. But it’s not that difficult. It just requires your time and attention. Here are a few pointers to help make following the recipe easier:
- Use room temperature butter, even if you have to put off making this recipe. If you don’t, your shortbread will be tough.
- Even though it might be warm, long sleeves are highly recommended. Splattering caramel can cause serious burns.
- Put on your patience cap. Turning sugar into caramel is a long process.
- When it says not to scrape the bottom of the pan – DON’T SCRAPE THE BOTTOM OF THE PAN.
- Store bars in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Layer 1 – Shortbread
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1½ cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 17×12-inch baking dish with parchment paper, ensuring the parchment paper comes up the sides of the dish.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients until just incorporated.
Transfer dough to prepared baking dish and press in an even layer. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely.
Note – If the shortbread puffs a considerable amount while baking, gently press it down with a flat spatula while it’s cooling.
Layer 2 – Caramel
2 cups whipping cream
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
2 cups light corn syrup
½ cup water
2¼ cups sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick)
Combine cream and condensed milk in a 1-quart saucepan over extremely low heat. Whisk well to blend and DO NOT allow the mixture to boil. Keep stirring occasionally until it’s time to use.
In a large pot (I like to use a stock pot), combine the corn syrup, water, and sugar. Stir constantly to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, continuing to stir constantly.
Keep simmering the sugar, while stirring, until it becomes the color of a copper penny (roughly 30 minutes).
Note – This is the most difficult step. You really need to take your time to bring out the full flavor of the caramel while not letting it scorch. It will seem like a long time. Your shoulders might become sore. Just keep stirring.
p.s. Are you still stirring your milk mixture?
Once the caramel has become copper colored, remove from heat and carefully pour in the cream-condensed milk mixture and butter. Stir immediately and swiftly to blend.
Note – The steam and splattering from this can be intense and dangerous. Long sleeves and caution are highly recommended.
Once butter and liquid are fully incorporated, pour caramel onto shortbread layer.
Note – DO NOT scrape the bottom of the pan. Even though the stuff looks yummy, it’s tougher than the rest of the caramel and the scraping will cause hard spots to form in your batch.
Allow caramel to come to room temperature. Cover dish with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 24 hours.
Layer 3 – Chocolate
6-ounces semisweet chocolate
6-ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp. light corn syrup
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling
Combine chocolate, corn syrup and butter in a medium bowl. Heat in microwave for 20 second intervals, stirring thoroughly until chocolate is melted and sauce is combined.
Pour over caramel in an even layer. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Cover dish and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting.
Cut into desired sizes and distribute.
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