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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Salted Caramel Bars

My sister made some amazing caramel bars one day. I remember so vividly how I could not stop eating them, especially because they played on my love for sweet and salty. 

When I asked my sister for the recipe and I looked it over, I noticed that it used those wrapped caramel candies we used to eat as kids. This made the wannabe chef in me think "Forget those caramel candies! I am going to make my own caramel!" Okay, while this may sound like a good idea, let me just give you a few hints to start....
DO NOT think that you can multitask while you are making your caramel. DO NOT take your eyes off your caramel. Even for a second. If you do, your upstairs neighbors will see the smoke coming out of your windows and will run downstairs to make sure you are okay. Seriously. It happened. I scorched my caramel to black ash... and it happened so fast. And yes, I am super lucky to have upstairs neighbors who care, however embarrassing that experience was.

DO NOT look at the caramel as it's cooking and think to yourself.... hmmm... not sure if it's dark enough... let me wait another minute. That is how I burnt my caramel the second time. The color changes so so fast. The moment it looks just the slightest bit amber, stir in the cream and remove it from the heat. Just the time it took you to pour the cream will be enough for the caramel to darken a few shades.

That leads to my third tip, which is... have the whipping cream measured and ready to go. I always seem to think that while something is working on the stove, I can prepare other things, measure other ingredients etc. Nope, not this time. When you need that cream, you will need it fast. Be ready.

Now, don't be intimidated by the caramel. Once you get it, it is super easy and I think far superior than melting the pre-packaged candies. Plus, you can double the caramel recipe and use the rest as a topping for ice cream, lattes, to flavour pastry cream... the possibilities are endless.

Oh, I forgot... you can also use the extra caramel to make a second batch of these caramel bars because they will be so delicious and addictive, you will want to make more.

Salted Caramel Butter Bars
Recipe modified from
Makes one 8" square pan (12 bars)

For the Crust:
1/2 cup Salted Butter, room temperature
1/2 cup White Sugar
3/4 cup Icing Sugar
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
2 cups Flour

For the Caramel (makes about 1/2 cup of caramel)
1/2 cup White Sugar
2 tbsp Water
Pinch of Salt
1/2 cup Whipping Cream
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

2 tsp Course Sea Salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8" by 8" baking dish and set aside.

 In a large bowl, cream together the butter, both sugars and vanilla. Slowly mix in the flour until the mixture comes together. Press half of the dough into the baking dish and bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes. When it finished baking, let it cool for about 20 minutes. Place the remaining dough in the fridge.

In the meantime, make the caramel sauce by place the sugar, salt and water into a heavy bottomed sauce pan (at least 6 cup capacity). Use a wooden spoon to stir over medium-high heat until the mixture just starts to boil and the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring and let boil until it is a medium amber color. (Do not stir once it starts boiling or the mixture will start to crystallize!). Do not take your eyes off the pot as it turns from clear to amber very very quickly. When it does turn amber, add the whipping cream. Be careful as the mixture will boil and steam very rapidly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool slightly.

When the crust has cooled, pour the caramel over the crust. Sprinkle with sea salt. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and crumble over top of the caramel. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until caramel is bubbly and topping is slightly golden. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.