Thursday, December 2, 2010

Salted Caramel Butter Bars

What is it about Fluer de sel that makes me so happy? Well, first of all...if you're not a foodie, you may not even know what that is...right?
Fleur de sel: ("Flower of salt" in French) is a hand-harvested sea salt collected by workers who scrape only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of large salt pans. Traditional French fleur de sel is collected off the coast of Brittany (most notably in the towns of Guérande - Fleur de Sel de Guérande, hand harvested from salt marsh water being the most revered), Noirmoutier, and also Camargue. It is an artisanal food product. Due to its relative scarcity, Fleur de sel is one of the more expensive salts. (via wikipedia)
I happen to hoard this stuff and save it for very special occasions. I'm not one of those fancy rich chefs. Full time mom here...and so it may come as a small surprise when I say that I hoard salt. It sounds actually kind of odd...but there it is. The truth. I hoard fleur de sel.
Last night on Face book I was chatting with a few of the elite ETT (Evil Think Tank) sugar heads who stay up late and chat food with me sometimes. We got on the subject of cookies and bars, as I have a cooking class next week specifically focusing on homemade holiday cookie mixes. I wanted some new genius ideas. subject, my food bloggin' buddy Ron Merlin, (author of The Merlin Menu ) suggested four words..."salted caramel butter bars." Um...whoa. Hold the phone right? Did I read butter and bars caramel and salt? What's not to love? Especially since I adore the salty sweet combination of salted caramels anyway. Ironically one of the first ETT's I ever embarked on was making Apple Cider Caramels lightly salted with fleur de sel. So there it is...I haven't come very far in the last two years, but then again, I have! It's my humble yet accurate opinion on food that keeps my friends near to my heart, right?
So...look at these bars and tell they deserve to be lovingly adorned with a dusting of my very special salt? I dare say...yes.
Especially if that caramel salt layer is nestled between two lightly crisp smooth layers of butter shortbread that melts in your mouth and rolls down your throat like a dream come true. Oh my heart! Be still!

Salted Caramel Butter Bars
from Ron Merlin (Ron got the recipe here )

For the Crust:
1 lb. salted butter room temp
1 cup sugar
1½ cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs vanilla
4 cups AP flour

For the Filling:
1 bag (14 oz.) caramel candies (about 50 individual caramels), unwrapped ( I used Peter's caramel)
⅓ cup milk or cream (I used cream)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 T. coarse sea salt (optional--but heavens why not?!)

To make the crust:In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using mixer on medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms.

Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust.

Preheat to 325F.

Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown approx 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes.
While the bottom crust is baking and the remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling. Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the cream. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth.

Pour the caramel filling over the crust. If you are going to salt the caramel sprinkle it on caramel layer now. Take a moment to gaze lovingly on the pot of happiness. Okay...that may be over the top. Maybe...

Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel.
Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 25 - 30 minutes. At this point, in Chef Tess land, I did something really mature. I started going in-freakin'-sane with the smell! I pressed my cute little face up to the door of the oven and with crazed-eyes open wide started whispering, "" like a shop-a-ho...lic on Black Friday at the door of Dillard's at 2AM...
When the merciful relief of the timer going off and the bars being cooked is finally upon you,
resist the desire to just take a scoop of the molten caramel love bars and down it while it's hot...if you can.

Let cool before cutting into squares. You may have to lock yourself in the closet to keep from losing your nerve and just eating it hot. I'm serious.

There you go. Make something Evil for the holidays. Thank Ron Merlin. He did this to you...I only shared the insanity...


Mama Peck said...

Wow. This one sounds positively decadent! LOL I suspect I might have gained 5 pounds just reading the recipe but, oh, my..'too die for' good!

mlebagley said...

Oh good gracious. Just scrolling through the pictures has me salivating like a fool! Thanks so much :)

Angie said...

Just made these to take to our ballgame tonight and they are going to be a huge hit! Amazing!