Salted Caramel Shortbread Bars


 
Salted Caramel Shortbread bars - buttery shortbread is topped with a creamy salted caramel, then finished off with a dark chocolate layer and flaky sea salt. The perfect sweet treat. #caramelslice #caramelshortbread
Salted Caramel Shortbread bars - buttery shortbread is topped with a creamy salted caramel, then finished off with a dark chocolate layer and flaky sea salt. The perfect sweet treat. #caramelslice #caramelshortbread
Salted Caramel Shortbread bars - buttery shortbread is topped with a creamy salted caramel, then finished off with a dark chocolate layer and flaky sea salt. The perfect sweet treat. #caramelslice #caramelshortbread
Salted Caramel Shortbread bars - buttery shortbread is topped with a creamy salted caramel, then finished off with a dark chocolate layer and flaky sea salt. The perfect sweet treat. #caramelslice #caramelshortbread
Salted Caramel Shortbread bars - buttery shortbread is topped with a creamy salted caramel, then finished off with a dark chocolate layer and flaky sea salt. The perfect sweet treat. #caramelslice #caramelshortbread
Salted Caramel Shortbread bars - buttery shortbread is topped with a creamy salted caramel, then finished off with a dark chocolate layer and flaky sea salt. The perfect sweet treat. #caramelslice #caramelshortbread
https://www.phaidon.com/store/food-cook/simple-and-classic-9780714878119/
Salted Caramel Shortbread bars - buttery shortbread is topped with a creamy salted caramel, then finished off with a dark chocolate layer and flaky sea salt. The perfect sweet treat. #caramelslice #caramelshortbread

Hi hi! I’ve been wanting to share a caramel slice recipe on here for the longest time! Caramel slice was a classic bakery treat I grew up eating (we call a ‘bar’ a slice in New Zealand), and they are an absolute favourite of mine. They are essentially a baked shortbread base, which then has a salted caramel mixture poured over it, followed by a dark chocolate ganache topping, and, if you like, a heavy sprinkling of salt. I love to get them out when I am at a bakery, but they are also super easy to make at home, and make the perfect sweet treat. From a quick google, it seems as if this is called a bunch of things - salted caramel shortbread, millionaire’s shortbread, caramel slice, etc. They all seem to be iterations of the same recipe, but all super delicious.

This version comes from a beautiful new book I was sent by the lovely folks at Phaidon - it is the newest from Jane Hornby, called ‘Simple and Classic - 123 Step by Step recipes’. The idea behind it is super clever - it is jam packed with recipes, ranging from sweet to savoury, all with step by step photos accompanying each recipe. So often in cook books there will only be one hero image of each recipe, so it is amazing to see not only step by step photos of each part of the recipe, but also broken down ingredient shots. This book would be perfect for a visual learner, or for someone who is beginning to cook and needs a little more guidance in terms of breaking down the recipe steps. I have my eye on a bunch more recipes, and have already sent one to a friend as a gift!

This recipe is super simple, but tastes anything but. It starts with a baked shortbread dough, which is baked until golden brown in the oven. Once it is slightly cooled, a thick layer of salted caramel is poured on, and left to set. The whole thing is then finished off with a layer of dark chocolate, and loaded up with flaky sea salt. A little goes a long way with this, but once you start snacking on it, you somehow find it disappearing much faster than you thought it would. The best.

A few wee tips:

  • This looks a little complicated, but I promise that it is not - each component is super simple.

  • I left my caramel to cool overnight, but you can probably just leave it for a few hours if you need - it does hold onto heat for longer than you think!

  • I wanted the top of my slice to have some texture in the chocolate, so I poured the chocolate on, then popped it in the fridge for about 10 minutes, then used an offset spatula to swirl up the chocolate, then left it to set completely.

  • According to Jane, to make this traditional Millionaire’s shortbread, you can add only a pinch of salt in the filling, and leave it out from the top, and then use semisweet chocolate on the top (about 30% milk solids)

 

 

Salted Caramel Shortbread Bars

- Makes about 12 large pieces, or 24 smaller pieces -

Recipe reprinted with permission from ‘Simple and Classic’ by Jane Hornby

Crust
110g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
50g superfine (caster) sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
140g all-purpose flour

Salted Caramel
110g unsalted butter
200g dark brown sugar
80g golden syrup or corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1 400g (14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk

Chocolate topping
200g bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 Tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
1/2 tsp salt

Flaky sea salt, for topping

 

- PROCESS -

SHORTBREAD BASE

Lightly grease an 8” (20cm) shallow square baking pan, then line with parchment paper. Put the butter into a large bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until creamy and pale. Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat again until even paler.

Sift the flour over the creamed butter and sugar. Using a spatula, gently work the flour into the mixture to make an even dough that starts to clump together.

Press the dough into the prepared pan, then level and smooth it with the back of a spoon. Prick it all over with a fork, then chill for 10 minutes, or longer if you like, until firm. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°f /160°c.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden all over. Let cool completely.

CARAMEL

Melt the butter, sugar, syrup, and salt together gently in a saucepan, then stir in the condensed milk.

Bring the caramel to a simmer, stirring constantly with a spatula, and let it bubble for 4 minutes, or until it thickens and smells like creamy toffee. It should be thick enough for the spatula to leave a trail in the caramel for a few seconds. Don’t leave the pan or stop stirring during this step, because it can easily burn on the bottom.

Pour the caramel over the shortbread, then let it cool completely.

CHOCOLATE TOPPING

Melt the chocolate either over a saucepan of water or in the microwave. Stir in the oil, then pour this over the caramel. Sprinkle with the salt and let set at room temperature, or in the fridge if it is a hot day. The oil helps stop the chocolate setting too hard, which can make it difficult to cut.

When the chocolate is just set, mark it into squares, then chill until completely firm.

Cut into cubes to serve. For a really clean finish, wipe the blade of your knife with a slightly damp cloth between each slice. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Salted Caramel Shortbread bars - buttery shortbread is topped with a creamy salted caramel, then finished off with a dark chocolate layer and flaky sea salt. The perfect sweet treat. #caramelslice #caramelshortbread

Simple and Classic is copyright Phaidon Press Limited, and was written by Jane Hornby and published in 2019

Black Cocoa Brownie with Oreo German Buttercream


 
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.

Every now and then I come across an ingredient that is a total game changer. Flaky sea salt, caramelised white chocolate, bergamot extract to name a few. And black cocoa. I first baked with black cocoa a couple of years ago, and was instantly hooked. If you haven’t heard of black cocoa, or used it before, it is essentially cocoa powder that has been super dutched - or super alkalised (the process of making dutch cocoa). It’s what is used in Oreos, and has somewhat taken off as a popular ingredient within the baking world. Something super interesting about cocoa is that regular cocoa powder is acidic, so will react with baking soda to provide lift in baked goods, whereas dutch cocoa or black cocoa has been made basic, so will need to have baking powder in the recipe to give the rise - baking powder is heat activated whereas baking soda needs to react with an acid to create carbon dioxide to rise baked goods. Science!

The most recent thing I made with black cocoa was this black cocoa brownie, which I loaded up with an Oreo German buttercream. The Brownie is ever so slightly adapted from Sarah Kieffer’s book, which is one of my absolute favourites to use for base recipes. Sarah makes her brownies in a 9” x 13” (which I sometimes do too, and it makes the most beautiful crackly top and fudgy brownie), but I made this one in a 9” pan to make it a teeny bit thicker, and subbed the cocoa for black cocoa to give it an oreo taste. I highly suggest making this, but I also highly suggest getting Sarah’s book and making the original - they are some of the best brownies I’ve ever had, and the other recipes in the book are also crazy amazing.

I topped the brownie with an Oreo German buttercream. German buttercream is one of my absolute favourites, and the one I turn to the most - it is silky and not too sweet, and the taste of the butter is mellowed out by the pastry cream base. You can infuse the pastry cream with whatever you like (eggnog buttercream coming at you tomorrow!!), so it is extremely versatile. I made a regular vanilla buttercream, then whipped in some ground Oreo cookies. I loaded it up onto the brownie, and then topped it with some flaky sea salt (the best sprinkles IMO), and some more chopped Oreos. While it takes a teeny bit more work than the standard brownie, I love that it is a wee twist on traditional chocolate brownie. If you aren’t down for making the buttercream, the brownie is also perfect just as it is, or even more perfect with a giant scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Enjoy! x

A few wee tips:

  • If you cannot find black cocoa, extra dark dutch cocoa or dutch cocoa will work well, it just will not be as dark as black cocoa.

  • I like to make the pastry cream ahead of time, preferably the night before, but if you are in a pinch, you can spread it in a shallow plate or bowl, then pop it in the freezer to chill, stirring often (greater surface area = faster cooling). If you make the pastry cream before you bake the brownies, it should be cool enough by the time they are cool for you to proceed with making the buttercream.

  • During winter sometimes it is hard to get butter to ‘room’ temperature, which may cause your buttercream to split slightly or not totally come together. If this happens (it looks like there are still chunks of butter in it), you can simply microwave a few tablespoons of the buttercream until melted, and then beat into the mixture. The temperature of the melted buttercream should be enough to warm up the mixture enough for it to come together. Don’t freak out! It happens to me all the time when the weather is cold or your butter isn’t quite warm enough.

 

 

Black Cocoa Brownie with Oreo German Buttercream

- Makes about 16 -

Brownie recipe slightly adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book

Black Cocoa Brownie
113g cold unsalted butter
225g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
50g Black cocoa, or extra dutched cocoa
140g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
120g neutral oil
300g sugar
100g brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Oreo German Buttercream
110g sugar
12g (1 1/2 Tbsp) Corn Starch
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
190g whole milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
340g unsalted butter, at room temperature
15 Oreo cookies, cream filling removed, ground finely in food processor or blender
Extra Oreo cookies for garnish, optional
Flaky Sea Salt to garnish, optional

 

- PROCESS -

BLACK COCOA BROWNIE

Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Grease a 9” square baking tin and line with a parchment paper sling.

Melt together the butter and chocolate in a medium pan over low heat, stirring well until smooth. Add the cocoa powder and mix well to combine, then set aside to cool.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Add the chocolate mixture and mix until combined. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking tin. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top of the brownie is set and a skewer inserted comes out with still a few crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

OREO GERMAN BUTTERCREAM

In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, corn starch, egg, egg yolk and salt. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla to just shy of a simmer.  Remove from the heat.

Using one hand to whisk constantly, pour half of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. This helps to temper the eggs and stop them from scrambling. Whisk until incorporated, and then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan.

Heat the milk and egg mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble. It will thicken quickly. Once it has thickened, cook for one minute, then remove from the heat. Pour into a shallow container or bowl of a stand mixer and press some plastic wrap over the surface to avoid a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold - at least four hours, preferably overnight. If you need to speed this process up, you can place the pastry cream in a bowl, then place the bowl in an ice bath. Stir frequently.

Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment, and place the pastry cream in the bowl. Whip the mixture on medium until creamy and lump-free. Begin adding the butter, a few cubes at a time, until fully incorporated. It may look curdled at some point but just keep whipping - it will come together! If you are having issues with it coming together, see notes. Add the Oreo crumbs and mix until combined.

ASSEMBLY

Using an offset spatula, spread the Oreo buttercream over the surface of the brownie, adding swoops as desired. Top with flaky sea salt and extra Oreo pieces. Slice using a sharp knife, wiping the blade between each cut.

Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.

Hazelnut Brownie Bites with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Frosting


 
Hazelnut Brownie Bites with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut frosting. A dozen roses AND chocolate all in one go - you win valentines.
Hazelnut Brownie Bites with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut frosting. A dozen roses AND chocolate all in one go - you win valentines.
Hazelnut Brownie Bites with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut frosting. A dozen roses AND chocolate all in one go - you win valentines.
Hazelnut Brownie Bites with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut frosting. A dozen roses AND chocolate all in one go - you win valentines.
Hazelnut Brownie Bites with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut frosting. A dozen roses AND chocolate all in one go - you win valentines.
Hazelnut Brownie Bites with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut frosting. A dozen roses AND chocolate all in one go - you win valentines.
Hazelnut Brownie Bites with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut frosting. A dozen roses AND chocolate all in one go - you win valentines.
Hazelnut Brownie Bites with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut frosting. A dozen roses AND chocolate all in one go - you win valentines.

What are your feelings on Valentines day? Do you love? Do you hate? Do you think its kinda a load of shite but jump at any opportunity to use heart shaped stuff and make everything pink? The last one is me. I often use it as an excuse to go somewhere yum for dinner (except we go the day before and call it ualentines day) but on the actual day my preferred activity is staying inside. 

I am all about the pink food and heart shaped sprinkles though, and figured it would be rude not to share this recipe for hazelnut brownie bites with you too, because they are perfect for loading up with all the sprinkles. Granted, they are probably a few bites each, but still so good.

These came about after Jill gave me the Dandelion Chocolate book for Christmas. In there is a recipe for homemade chocolate hazelnut spread. I've already made it twice, it's SO GOOD. The first time I made it I totally burnt out my food processor, but these things happen when you consistently use a 9 cup food processor like it's a commercial size. Don't do it. Or get a new food processor. I did. Anyway, because I doubled the recipe, even after I had spooned a lot of it into my mouth, I decided I should probably find something to put it in. 

The brownie part of this recipe is based on my very fave brownie recipe, which is from Sarah Kieffer's book. I dialed back the proportions a little to make it fit into my mini cheesecake pan, and then in place of some of the melted chocolate, I added the hazelnut spread. It makes them a touch fudgier, and the hazelnut flavour elevates the chocolate a little more. I then decided that I might as well double up on the chocolate hazelnut situation I already had, so swapped the chocolate out for more hazelnut spread in Thalia's Chocolate frosting. Then I loaded them up with some heart sprinkles. Because, Valentines day. Make these for someone you kinda like. It's roses and chocolate all in one go.

A few wee tips:

  • I have included a double batch quantity of the chocolate hazelnut spread, because if you're making the effort, you're going to want to have extra. Trust me on that one. It's great to spread on things, add to things, put in your mouth, etc. We made a version of my swedish cinnamon rolls with it the other day and OH GOODNESS I can't wait to share the recipe for those with you either.

  • I made these in a mini cheesecake pan, which is super fun because each individual brownie pops out. You could make it in a greased and lined 8" or 9" square pan, or it would work with mini cupcake or regular cupcake pans too - just make sure to adjust bake time accordingly.

 

 

Hazelnut Brownie Bites with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Frosting

- Makes 12 -

Chocolate Hazelnut spread from Dandelion Chocolate, Brownies adapted from Sarah Kieffer, Chocolate frosting from Butter and Brioche via The Brick Kitchen

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
280g (2 cups) raw hazelnuts
424g (1 1/2 cups) melted dark chocolate (at least 70%)
200g (1 cup) sugar
1 tsp kosher salt

Hazelnut Brownie Bites
60g (4 Tbsp) Unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, chopped
180g Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
2 Tbsp Cocoa
80g all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60ml) neutral oil
135g (2/3 cup) sugar
38g (3 Tbsp) brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Frosting
260g unsalted butter, at room temp
200g powdered sugar / icing sugar, sifted
60g dutch cocoa, sifted
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
250g chocolate hazelnut spread
1-2 Tbsp cream, only if needed to thin the frosting (I didn't need)

Sprinkles to decorate, if desired 

- PROCESS -

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT SPREAD

Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven, shaking occasionally, for 8-10 mins, checking often, until the are golden brown. Allow to cool completely, then rub between your hands to remove the skins. Do not worry about any stubborn skins. Transfer to the work bowl of a food processor, and pulse briefly to chop. 

Add the melted dark chocolate, sugar, and salt. Pulse to combine, then mix on high speed for at least five minutes. Check, and give more time mixing if needed. Transfer to a container and store at room temperature until you are ready to use. 

 

HAZELNUT BROWNIE BITES

Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Grease a 12 hole mini cheesecake pan or pan of choice with butter and set aside. 

In a small pan over low heat, combine the butter, chocolate, and hazelnut spread, and warm, stirring often, until everything is melted and combined. Set aside to cool slightly, then sift in the cocoa and mix to combine. 

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to combine. 

In a medium to large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla bean paste. Whisk to combine. Add the cooled chocolate mixture, and stir well to mix. Add the flour mixture, and mix until combined and homogenous. 

Divide the mixture evenly, using a spoon or cookie scoop, between the 12 cavities in the pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet, and bake for 25-30 minutes, checking for doneness after 25, until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 min before transferring to a baking rack to cool completely. 

DARK CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT FROSTING

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until creamy, 3-4 minutes. Add the powdered sugar, cocoa, vanilla bean paste, and chocolate hazelnut spread, and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice. If needed, add cream 1 tsp at a time to get the frosting to piping consistency. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with an open star tip (I used an ateco 826 tip). 

Pipe rosettes, swirls or blobs on top of each cooled brownie, and decorate with sprinkles if desired. 

Store in an airtight container. 

Hazelnut Brownie Bites with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut frosting. A dozen roses AND chocolate all in one go - you win valentines.