Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars

19 Jul

When asked what my favorite animal was, I always used to say a cheetah. They have bright, spotted coats of fur and can run as fast as cars can drive. Also, have you ever seen pictures of a baby cheetah cub? Cutest. Thing. Ever. I guess I imagined cheetahs to be like big house cats—just more adept at leaping and hunting.

This time next month I will be in South Africa. That’s right everybody, SOUTH AFRICA. It’s a little bit crazy, considering the only time I left the United States was to go to Jamaica, and at that time I was living in Florida (so it wasn’t really that far away). One-way travel to our first destination is a mere staggering 26 hours.

I’m excited to go (understatement of the year). Things I will be doing include going on a wildlife safari, visiting Cape Town, touching the Indian Ocean, and tasting some new-to-me African dishes. My mind is boggled. It is actually a possibility that I might see a real cheetah. My life might be complete after that.

In retrospect, my life might have been complete after making and eating these chocolate caramel shortbread bars. I’ve always had a thing for caramel, and what better way to eat caramel than sandwiched between a layer of smooth chocolate and buttery shortbread?

Yes, the bars happen to contain 4 whole sticks of butter. Yes, the recipe makes a large 9 x 13-sized batch. Yes, I ate the majority of these by myself in under a week’s time. Any more questions?

Start by making your shortbread. At first it will be very crumbly. Keep mixing.

Keep mixing.

Before you know it, the dough will come together and feel more like cookie dough.

Press the dough into a parchment-lined cake pan. Even out the dough with your fingers or the bottom of a flat glass, then bake it.

To make the caramel, melt the butter with the sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk. Stir constantly!

Keep stirring constantly even once it starts to boil.

Keep stirring constantly as it starts to thicken.

Keep stirring constantly until it turns a light caramel color. Remove from heat.

Spread the caramel over your shortbread, then put the pan in the refrigerator until you’ve made your chocolate.

Combine your butter, corn syrup, and chocolate.

Heat over simmering water just until melted.

Spread chocolate over caramel and shortbread layers.

Refrigerate until firmed up. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Cut into bars and serve. Refrigerate leftovers for up to a week or freeze indefinitely.

Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars

Makes about 24 bars


For Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into chunks

For Caramel:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

For Chocolate:
8 oz chocolate, chopped (I used bittersweet) 
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
coarse sea salt for sprinkling(optional)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 cake pan with a large piece of parchment paper.

To make the shortbread, stir together the flour, baking powder,  and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter for 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low-medium speed until the dough comes together. At first the dough will be very crumbly. That is OK. Just keep mixing until it comes together and feels like cookie dough. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the cake pan using your fingers or the bottom of a flat glass. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the crust is light golden brown. Set aside to cool completely.

To make the caramel, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat and stir constantly until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high, and continue stirring constantly until the mixture boils. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and turns a light caramel color, about 10 minutes. Pour the caramel over the cooled shortbread and spread evenly. Let the mixture cool completely, then refrigerate until the caramel is firmer (at least a few hours).

To make the chocolate, combine the butter chunks, corn syrup, and chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and heat, stirring often, until the chocolate melts and is completely smooth. Remove from heat and pour over the cooled caramel/shortbread layers. Spread evenly, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until ready to cut and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to a week or freeze indefinitely.

Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures (originally from Baked and The Golden Book of Baking)

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