These bars are a perfect finger food holiday dessert. Cut the bars into whatever size or shape you prefer. I made several versions of this recipe trying to develop a caramel layer that would hold its shape when cut and not squish out of the layers. I finally settled on Dulce De Leche, a thick canned Mexican caramel. Mixed with butter and dark brown sugar, this caramel is velvety smooth with rich caramel flavor.
Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cups powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon iodized salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line bottom and sides of a 9 X 13-inch metal pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang to use as handles to remove bars from pan. Add flour, powdered sugar and salt to bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal S blade. Pulse several times to combine. Add cold butter pieces and process until mixture looks like sand. Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Compress crust by pressing with the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake 15 minutes. Crust will have some light brown spots on top. Remove from oven and make caramel layer while crust is cooling on counter.
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 (14 ½ ounce) can Dulce De Leche (I use Nestle La LeChera)
Place butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. (Use a medium pan because the mixture boils up.) Cook and stir until mixture bubbles in the middle. Add Dulce De Leche. Stir until smooth. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (where you cannot stop the mixture from boiling in the middle of the pan even while stirring.) over medium heat. After mixture comes to a full rolling boil, cook and stir 1 minute. Pour caramel over crust and smooth to edges of pan. Refrigerate 1 hour or until hard. Make chocolate layer right before you pour it on or it will set up.
8 ounces semisweet chocolate bars (I use Ghirardelli)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Melt chocolate and oil in a small bowl according to package directions. Stir until smooth. Pour over cold caramel layer. Spread quickly to edges with a spatula. Before chocolate sets, cut parallel lines in chocolate with a table knife. Refrigerate until chocolate is set. To slice: Remove bars from pan using parchment paper handles. Set on cutting board. Cut long slices using a bread knife that has been warmed with hot water and shaken dry. Clean and rewarm knife between cuts (so the chocolate layer will melt when cut instead of cracking).
Published in The News and Neighbor on November 15, 2017