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

Oaty Ginger Crunch


 
Ginger crunch - a classic 'slice' or bar recipe from New Zealand. A crumbly oaty base is topped with a sweet, spicy ginger icing. The perfect treat.
Ginger crunch - a classic 'slice' or bar recipe from New Zealand. A crumbly oaty base is topped with a sweet, spicy ginger icing. The perfect treat.
Ginger crunch - a classic 'slice' or bar recipe from New Zealand. A crumbly oaty base is topped with a sweet, spicy ginger icing. The perfect treat.
Ginger crunch - a classic 'slice' or bar recipe from New Zealand. A crumbly oaty base is topped with a sweet, spicy ginger icing. The perfect treat.
Ginger crunch - a classic 'slice' or bar recipe from New Zealand. A crumbly oaty base is topped with a sweet, spicy ginger icing. The perfect treat.
Ginger crunch - a classic 'slice' or bar recipe from New Zealand. A crumbly oaty base is topped with a sweet, spicy ginger icing. The perfect treat.
Ginger crunch - a classic 'slice' or bar recipe from New Zealand. A crumbly oaty base is topped with a sweet, spicy ginger icing. The perfect treat.
Ginger crunch - a classic 'slice' or bar recipe from New Zealand. A crumbly oaty base is topped with a sweet, spicy ginger icing. The perfect treat.
Ginger crunch - a classic 'slice' or bar recipe from New Zealand. A crumbly oaty base is topped with a sweet, spicy ginger icing. The perfect treat.

Seems as if we are deep in this 'holiday baking' thing. Yesterday I was the judge of a holiday cookie contest at Kitchen Arts and Letters, which is an insanely cute cook book shop on the Upper East Side. It's like a tiny heaven in there - and I couldn't stop thinking about Black Books all the time and how much fun it would be to live in there ;) .  There were some insanely good holiday cookies, including some from blogger friends who I recognised immediately, and I woke up with a crazy sugar induced headache this morning. Totes worth it. 

We are right in the middle of getting our butts severely kicked by the holiday season. There are a zillion orders at the studio, and somehow I just can't keep on top of my to-do list. I feel as if this is a fairly standard situation for anyone with a small business - and I know that come January we will all be complaining of the quiet! Hiding away at home for the afternoon and baking something familiar always seems to do the trick and help with the stress levels.

I thought I would share with you another option for this crazy holiday baking situation that the internet seems to be lost in - a classic New Zealand recipe. I have yet to see this outside of little old NZ, and I can promise you that it is a total crowd pleaser. It's a classic "Baking tin" recipe - something that used to be made to 'fill up the baking tins'. We call it ginger crunch, although I have seen it called ginger slice too. It's essentially a shortbread like dough, made with melted butter, golden syrup, flour, all the regulars. I added in some rolled oats to add a little chewiness. The base is mixed up, and pressed into a tin, and baked off. Just as it comes out of the oven it is loaded up with a super sweet, super gingery icing, and left to set. And that's it! Its very simple, but insanely delicious. 

This recipe makes loads - I used a 9" square cake tin to make this in. I cut it into 16 squares for the photos, but then ended up cutting each piece in half again, because a whole piece all at once low key makes you feel like you're getting diabetes on the spot. It's meant to taste like that though - the chewy base is complimented by the sweet icing. It's the perfect holiday, or any time treat, and keeps extremely well. 

A few wee tips:

  • I use Golden Syrup in this recipe. It lends a certain flavour to the slice, and i haven't tried substituting it. It's in the base and the topping, so I would recommend getting some if you can! I get mine on amazon

  • This is super sweet. It's meant to be that way. Just a word of warning. It's also super addictive.

  • I use a fair amount of ginger in the topping, so if you don't want it to be super 'spicy', you can dial back on this a little.

  • Make sure to add the ingredients for the topping in the order specified, so that the sugar doesn't get all stuck to the bottom of the pot. It makes for lumpy icing. If you do end up with lumps, the immersion blender fixes everything. Trust me on that one.

  • I have put the measurements for butter, golden syrup etc in grams. It's considerably easier to measure the golden syrup in grams - if you use a measuring spoon, lots of it gets left behind because it's so stick. Get yourself a scale if you don't already have one! Best $10 you will spend.

  • This makes loads. It makes great gifts, but the recipe can most definitely be halved and made in a smaller tin (a loaf tin would likely work well), but ensure you adjust cooking times.

 

 

Oaty Ginger Crunch

- Makes 16 large squares, or 32 smaller bars -

Base
2 cups (300g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 cups (300g) brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (135g) rolled oats (old fashioned oats)
225g (8oz) unsalted butter
90g (3.2oz) golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract. 

Topping
135g (4.8oz) unsalted butter
125g (4.4oz) golden syrup
2 Tbsp ground ginger (dial back to 1 1/2 Tbsp if you don't want a super intense ginger flavour)
2 2/3 cups (325g) icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
 

 

- PROCESS -

Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Grease a 9" x 9" (23cm square) tin, and line with two pieces of parchment paper, so that there is paper sticking out of the tin on all sides, forming a 'sling'. 

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger. Add the brown sugar and rolled oats, and mix well to combine. 

In a small pot, melt together the butter, golden syrup and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients, and mix well. Press the mixture into the tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly golden on the edges. Five minutes before the base is done, prepare the topping.

For the topping, add all of the ingredients to a medium pot in the order listed. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Pour over the hot base, and leave to set at room temperature until set. Slice into pieces with a hot knife. Store in an airtight container. Can be kept in the fridge, but bring to room temperature before eating. 

 

Ginger crunch - a classic 'slice' or bar recipe from New Zealand. A crumbly oaty base is topped with a sweet, spicy ginger icing. The perfect treat.

Tan Square


 

One of my most treasured possessions is my Grandmother's recipe book. I'm sure I've said this before. Each member of my family has a printed copy of her recipes. But I am lucky enough to own the REAL DEAL. It is filled with pages and pages of her writing, which started to deteriorate as she lost her eyesight. There are little notes such as "good", or "tried and tested" noted alongside recipes. You can always tell whether it is her recipe or not, as she was the queen of credit where credit was due. There are a few in there written in by Mum, and a few more on loose pages written by my cousins. There are also some super weird ones - I came across a recipe today for 'fruit salad base' which contained 4kg of gherkins. But my favourites are the ones that we used to bake together - me standing on a chair pulled up to the bench, and her rushing round the kitchen and loosely following the recipe, always turning a blind eye to me licking the bowl or eating the mixture. Damn, I miss her SO MUCH. 

I've made it a wee goal of mine to bake my way through it - adding my own wee adaptations, or decoding the recipe a little. It is an incredible feeling pulling something out of the oven and having it taste just as you remembered it. 

And this one is no different. Tan square (or tan fingers, or tan slice) is super simple - a basic shortbread base, a condensed milk caramel, and then a little more of the base sprinkled over the top of the caramel. I tweaked the recipe a little from the one in Grandma's book (It was actually a recipe of her friend's so I'm not altering the family history or anything here), by changing the makeup of the filling. The original called for 3 Tbsp of condensed milk, but nothing is more annoying than half cans of things that are a pain to measure, so I wiggled the recipe a little to include the whole can. I also finished it with a little flaky sea salt to help cut through the sweetness. 

The recipe calls for golden syrup - which I find that I have to order online here in the States. It is totally worth it if you haven't tried it before - it has a different depth of flavour / sweetness to corn syrup or honey. You could sub liquid honey in a pinch. Either way this slice is perfect for a morning tea, with a cup of coffee, or for taking to a picnic or friend's house. This one's for you Grandma. 

 

 

Tan Square
- Makes a 9" x 13" pan (approx 12 large squares, or 24 smaller fingers)

Base / crumble
225g (2 sticks + 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g (2/3 cup) sugar
425g (3 cups) flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract

Filling
One 400g (14oz) can condensed milk
75g (5 Tbsp) unsalted butter
3 Tbsp (68g) golden syrup

Flaky Sea salt, such as Maldon, for finishing
 

- PROCESS -

Preheat the oven to 350˚f/180˚c. Line a 9"x13" (23cm x 33cm) tin with parchment paper, leaving some overhang to help with removal of the slice once cool. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until thick and pale, approximately 5 minutes. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla, and mix on low until combined. Place 1 cup of the base mixture into a small bowl and set aside. (This will form the crumb later). 

Press the remaining base mixture into the baking tin, using a spoon or bottom of a glass to compact and smooth down. Place in the fridge to chill while you prepare the caramel. 

In a medium pot over low heat, combine the condensed milk, butter and golden syrup. Stirring continuously, bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture has thickened and is light golden brown in colour. (It will colour up more in the oven). Remove from the heat, and pour over the base. Spread evenly with an offset spatula. 

Using your fingers, press some of the base mixture together in the bowl to form lumps - you want a range of sizes of 'crumb'. Sprinkle the base mixture evenly over the caramel. 

Bake the slice for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is a deep golden brown and the crumb is lightly golden. Remove from the oven and finish with a flaky sea salt. Cool completely before removing from the tin and slicing.