Caramels have become my new obsession.
I was buying cookie-making materials recently and happened to see one last jug of Martinelli’s Apple Cider hidden on the juice shelf. Normally just available in the colder months, I snatched it right up to make another batch of those apple cider caramels from smitten kitchen. They are to die for. And shouldn’t be limited to certain times of the year by such a thing as seasonal fruits…
But then, after I forced Brad to take bags of the addicting wrapped candies to work so I would stop eating them by the handful, I started brainstorming different ways I could eat caramels no matter the season. Things I could put in caramels when apple cider is unavailable. Things I could put caramel on. Things I could put caramel in.
Endless possibilities. Expect a lot of variations on caramel coming up. Like these. Salted caramel on shortbread. It sounded delicious.
Gooey caramel on top of a flaky, sweet, buttery cookie? Yes. Sign me up.
So I gave it a try. I found myself two tart’s recipe that didn’t use cornstarch (because – really? is that necessary??) and got to work.
I only changed the recipe a tiny bit, using unsalted butter because I like to have more control over the amount of salt in my candies. I think I’d rather sprinkle the salt on top than have it all mixed in. I also got really excited and forgot to let the shortbread chill for 30 minutes before baking. It still turned out wonderful… but I recommend using patience if possible.
Also! I have found for my kitchen, which is less than 300 feet above sea level, cooking to 254°F gives me the perfect caramel consistency. I will tell you that it took a lot of frustrating experimenting and candy thermometer testing to reach that conclusion, so don’t get discouraged. If your candies come out too hard, I’ve learned that you can slowly (medium low or lower) melt the candies again with an additional 2-3 tablespoons of cream before letting it set up again. Too soft? Try slowly heating them up again to a higher temperature, or just scrap it and use the caramel as a sauce on ice cream. It’s amazing.
Salted Caramel Shortbread Cookies
slightly adapted from the two tart’s recipe
10 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk, whisked
1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
Line the bottom of a square 8 inch baking pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper criss-crossing. Combine the melted butter, sugar, and salt with a fork in a large bowl. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the flour and stir with a heavy spoon until it is thoroughly mixed. Press the dough into the prepared pan so it is evenly spread. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour. Bake at 350°F for 25-28 minutes, until very lightly browned. While the shortbread is cooling, prepare the caramel.
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into squares
course sea salt for sprinkling
Combine sugar, honey and vanilla in a large, non-reactive pot. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture reaches a deep brown color. (this took me about 15 minutes, but watch your sugar carefully! it will burn!) When caramelized, whisk in the butter. Once the butter is fully incorporated, whisk in the cream until smooth. With a candy thermometer attached to your pot, cook until the temperature reaches 254°F, or until a small amount dropped into cold water forms the consistency you’d like. At 254, pour the hot caramel over your cooled shortbread. Allow to cool at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, then sprinkle with sea salt. Once the caramels are cooled, cut them into small squares and enjoy!