Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Salted Chocolate Caramel Squares -- #giveaway

LESLIE:  Tomorrow is National Cookie Day, and I'm starting the celebration early! My mother was proudly People of the Pie and a terrific Christmas cookie maker, who literally made a dozen or more varieties each December. Her cookie platters, freely given, were legendary. But she made one cake, a dense yellow butter torte, that my parents called “Million Dollar Cake,” because it was so rich with eggs and butter.

So when I saw a reference to “Millionaire's Shortbread,” I had to track it down. Too good. Rich, with a terrific combo of flavors and textures.

Turns out there are oodles of recipes, and I tweaked the one I used with elements of the others, and adding flake salt because why not gild that proverbial lily? The base isn’t a true shortbread—it’s got an egg yolk, which America’s Test Kitchen says helps keep the shortbread from crumbling. And you don’t want that, not with all the yummy stuff on top.

Don’t be daunted by the idea of making three layers. Set out all your ingredients and kitchenalia ahead of time, then you can easily make one layer, move to the next, and the next, with no rushing or waiting.

One version of the recipe called for Lyle's Golden Syrup, a British import made with cane sugar rather than corn syrup. I’ve never tried it, but after hearing about it three times in less than a week, I’m going to have to hunt it down!

My trick for the water is to pour half a cup or so in a glass measuring cup and add ice; when I’m ready for it, I can just measure out what I need and pour the rest into my water glass.

No question these are yummy. But are they a Christmas cookie? My girl Erin, star of AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES and the rest of the Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, says a Christmas cookie needs to be special, something you only make this time of year. It could be the ingredients, color and flavor with a seasonal link (think Candy Cane cookies), or family or cultural traditions that make it a holiday treat. These are definite contenders. You decide!

Leave a comment below for a chance to win an e-book of DEATH AL DENTE, the first Food Lovers' Village mystery, or ASSAULT & PEPPER, the first Spice Shop mystery! 

And remember to pop over to my Facebook Author page for my "Cozy Up to Christmas" party, running through Sunday, December 15, with guests, giveaways, hometown videos, and more!

Salted Chocolate Caramel Squares

For the crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar (dark, if you have it)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon cold water
1 large egg yolk

For the caramel layer:

1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup brown sugar (dark, if you have it)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Generous pinch salt

For the chocolate layer:


6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
3 tablespoons heavy cream

flake salt, such as Maldon, for topping

For the crust: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil. (The pre-cut pieces are perfect for this.) Butter the foil or coat lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

In your food processor bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt until well-mixed, with no sugar lumps. Add the butter and pulse until a coarse meal forms. Add the cold water and egg yolk; blend until the dough begins to clump or gather. Drop the dough into the prepared pan. Flour your fingers and press the dough—it will be sticky—evenly over the bottom of the pan. Pierce dough all over with a fork and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the caramel layer: While the crust is baking, stir the sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, butter, syrup, vanilla, and salt together in a medium saucepan over medium heat, with a candy thermometer attached. Cook until the sugar dissolves, the butter melts, and the mixture comes to a boil, then lower heat and continue stirring, to avoid scorching, until the caramel is thick and the thermometer reaches 225 degrees, about 6-8 minutes. Pour the caramel over the warm crust; cool for about 15 minutes, or until caramel is lightly set (not hard).

For the chocolate layer: While the caramel-topped crust is cooling, melt the chocolate and cream, stirring well to blend. (I prefer to use a small sauce pan on the stove; you can also microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring in between.)

After caramel and crust have cooled about 15 minutes, top with the chocolate, using the back of your spoon to ease it into the corners and cover the crust evenly. Cool at least 30 minutes, up to an hour, and sprinkle with flake salt. (Too warm and the salt will melt; too cool and it won’t stick.)

Let the pan cool at least an hour. Use the foil overhang to lift the bars out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into small squares for serving. Store cookies in the refrigerator, in a tightly sealed bag or container.










Makes 36 squares.

(One of my inspiration recipes says these can frozen up to 3 months, but I haven’t tried this yet. After completely cool, double-wrap with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap. Thaw overnight at room temperature before serving.)




Let's talk COOKIES! Or crumbles, holiday, baking, or whatever this post sparks for you. TWO lucky readers will win their choice of an e-book of DEATH AL DENTE, the first Food Lovers' Village mystery, or ASSAULT & PEPPER, the first Spice Shop mystery. (Winners to be chosen Thursday, December 5.)






Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries, and the winner of Agatha Awards in three categories. Death al Dente, the first Food Lovers' Village Mystery, won Best First Novel in 2013, following her 2011 win in Best Nonfiction. Her first historical short story, "All God's Sparrows," won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story, and is now nominated for a Macavity award; read it on her website. A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.






39 comments:

  1. Wow! I've never heard of Lyle's. I will have to look for it as I am allergic to corn, so that would be a good substitute. Would agave work, do you think? Also, do you think arrow root would be a good sub here for the cornstarch? This recipe sounds so good - would love to try it! Renee - rwilson@ws4r.com

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    1. Renee, I do think arrowroot would work nicely as a thickener. The only agave I've had had a distinct flavor that might interfere with the caramel, so I wouldn't use it. If you can't find Lyle's, you could try making your own -- there are recipes online; it's really just a thick sugar-water syrup with a lemon slice to give it the acid that creates the color and deepens the flavor. I first saw it recommended for pecan pie, but didn't get a chance to try it. Good luck!

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  2. My mouth is definitely watering as I love salted caramel anything! Thanks for coming up with such a great recipe to share. Happy Holidays! bobandcelia@sbcglobal.net

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    1. Mr. Right's only comment was "more salt!" So you can salt to your own taste. I like how the flakes look like snow!

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  3. I've had these bars before, delicious. My favorite cookie is my mother's molasses sugar cookies. Would love to win a book. schmokercarol(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Love those little classics! Did you see the Garam Masala Molasses Cookies from the owner of Red Stick Spice Company here on Nov 24? Worth scrolling back!

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  4. That sounds sooo good!! I like my chocolate and caramel, and if they are together, even better!!

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  5. These sound so good...I'm a caramel freak so I can't wait to try them. I'll be able to snack on them while I read your book. ~ Karen knmracing2(at)gmail(dot)com

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  6. Looks scrumptious, Leslie! I'm stealing the term "kitchenalia". :)

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    1. I stole it from the Two Fat Ladies, and used it as the name of the kitchen shop in my Food Lovers' Village books!

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  7. I just peeked at your FB video of Santa reading - pretty cute! These sound yummy. My mom always made so many varieties of cookies. I pared down the number when raising my family but it was always such a treat to have so much to choose from. One of my granddaughters has inherited that love for baking so I share these recipes with her and we decide which ones to try. Of course every few recipes she has to throw in a batch of sugar cookies for my husband! Thanks for the recipe and giveaway.
    sallycootie(at)gmail(dot)com.

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    1. Isn't it fun? That's Mr. Right in the borrowed Santa suit. The cookie tradition is a fine one -- like you, I scaled way back from what my mother did. How fun that your g-d has picked up the spatula!

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  8. I love salted caramel especially ice cream. These look good, I might have to try this recipe some time. Thank you so much for this chance. pgenest57(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. Oh, gosh, another fun taste treat! And you're welcome!

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  9. This is yummy looking and I love anything like this during the Holidays...Chocolate is my favorite...
    Marilyn ewatvess@yahoo.com

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  10. OMG those squares look delicious! My go to bar during this time of year is a copy cat recipe of Starbuck's Cranberry Bliss bar.
    journeybound2010(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. I wish I'd cut them bigger for the pictures, but got carried away with the knife! I bet that Cranberry Bliss is tart and tasty!

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  11. Oh. My. Goodness.
    Wonderful taste decadence.
    libbydodd @ comcast dot net

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    1. Right? Add a cup of coffee and you won't need a rocket ship to get to the moon!

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  12. I love salted caramel, these carmel bars look amazing. Will have to give them a try.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

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  13. This looks so good! I want to try them now!! Thanks for a chance to win. ljbonkoski@yahoo.com

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    1. I think I need to go downstairs and get one myself!

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  14. I've always been a cookie person but this recipe calls to m!
    cjreynolds52(at)comcast(dot)net

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    1. I can hear it from here. CONN-eee, CONN-eee....