Salted Caramel Bars
Pot of delicious caramel
So last week I saw a box of homemade salted caramel butter bars at a charity fundraiser. They looked gooey, tempting, and tasty. I was unable to obtain them, but my curiosity was piqued. A bit of googling led me quickly to here where I became convinced this could indeed be done by mere mortals. I did go unto the store and acquire the various ingredients sans the caramel cubes.
Why not use caramel cubes? Because I found this.
So now I have a recipe for caramel bars, and for caramel. Got all the parts, nothing left but to do the deed. And on this Thanksgiving Day, in the year of our Lord 2013, the deed was done.
If you look at the http://dessert.food.com/recipe/gooey-caramel-sauce-99795 recipe, it says it can be doubled, and that is just what I did. The only modification from the recipe itself is that I used five of those little "Mini Moos" half-and-half containers instead of cream. If you look at the "Pot of caramel" photo, that is the result. Let me tell you what, it was the first time I ever made caramel. The directions mentioned it thickens as it cools, and this is exactly the case. The result was a dark concoction of sugary pleasure. It would have been better if I had stopped for the day here, for what comes next was not as pleasant.
So on to the http://cookiesandcups.com/dont-hate-me-because-im-butter-ful/ recipe. Now since I have a fabulously gooey homemade caramel, I need not bother with the 50 cubes of caramel and what-not. I proceed to produce the butter bar recipe, and indeed, if you look at the photo of what I did produce, they do make for a nice photo. Except they turned out way underdone, but no amount of additional time ever got the shortbread to set up. In the end, it is the caramel itself which is holding the bar together. The problem? I believe the problem is an excess of butter, because the shortbread alone uses an entire four-stick box of it! Can you imagine anything firming up with four sticks of butter in it spread amongst a thin layer in a 9x13 baking pan? Well, now I don't. Next time, if ever it gets three sticks, not four. Or perhaps another cup of flour.
So, how did it taste? It was an unfortunate waste of really good caramel on what was to me, an unappealingly undercooked shortbread-ish doughy blob. While it did taste fine, it could have been, should have been, so much more. I think I'll learn how to make a proper shortbread, and then apply the caramel on it.
There was one great discovery in all of this; how to produce a crumble topping. The recipe in short is: bake a shortbread base, pour caramel, sprinkle chilled dough on top as a crumble top. Well, that dough just did not want to crumble at all, which I in part believe is because it had too much butter in it. Well, I was using a cooling rack to cool the pan after baking the bottom, and this cooling rack has about a 1/4" spacing to it, basically making for a fantastic 1/4" grate. I used that cooling rack as a grate and grated the cold dough through it, producing a fine crumble over the caramel. So that bit of cooking worked out well. Shame the entire cookie didn't.
I did try re-baking the cookie for another 30 minutes, but this just produced an oily over-buttered blob. Not good. So indeed, this is a cautionary tale. The lesson learned? Learn how to make shortbread first.