Looking for a sweet treat to make your Valentine's Day sweetheart? May I recommend salted chocolate caramel bars?
Adapted from a recipe on Lisa is Cooking, the bars are like grown-up Twix, with a surprising sprinkle of sea salt. The creamy chocolate ganache, the chewy caramel and the crunchy shortbread layer are an interesting mixture of textures and tastes. I think you'll dig them. And so will your Valentine.
One note: My shortbread fell short of my expectations. Maybe I baked it too long or didn't add quite enough butter. In any case, when I was cutting the bars, the crust crumbled and fell away in quite a few spots. My mom (a genius) called just as I was cutting the bars to take to a party — she suggested I cut them into small squares and serve them in mini-muffin papers to disguise the disfigured underside. It worked. Dessert saved.
Another note: The caramel takes forever to make. I recommend stirring with one hand and holding a good book with the other.
Salted Chocolate Caramel Bars
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 t. baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces
- 3/4 c. light brown sugar
- 4 T. light corn syrup
- 2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
- 8 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
- 4 T. butter, cut into pieces
- Sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
For the shortbread, combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar, then add in flour mixture. Press dough into an even layer in the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely.
For the caramel, combine butter, sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring constantly, until caramel reaches soft-ball stage (about 245 degrees). Remove from heat and pour over cooled shortbread crust. Spread evenly and allow to cool completely.
For the chocolate ganache, combine the butter and chocolate in a large, heat-proof bowl or double boiler. Heat mixture over simmering water until smooth. Pour over cooled caramel and spread evenly. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Once the ganache cools, cut into bars or squares. Sprinkle again with salt, if desired.
The food: Salted chocolate caramel bars
The verdict: Guaranteed to make your Valentine swoon, whatever that means