Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Can we talk about candy for a minute? Apologies if you overdosed on chocolate yesterday for Easter – Shane and I didn’t do Easter baskets, and in an extremely rare display of willpower, I avoided the massive candy display at Target every time I was there in the past few weeks. When I do indulge, I definitely have a few favorites, and they tend to rotate depending on my mood. I’ve never been big on fruity or gummy candy like Skittles, Starburst, jelly beans or anything sweet and sour. Instead, you’ll find me making a beeline directly for the chocolate :) Top choices? Reese’s, Twix or Kit Kat bars. Very rarely will I go with something other than one of those three things, though I do have a soft spot for Whatchamacallit bars but sadly they’re pretty hard to come by these days. What’s your go-to?

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

I’ve known for a few years now that one of my neighbor’s favorite candy bars was also Twix, and every year for his birthday, I intend to make him a homemade variation. For a variety of reasons, I’ve failed to get it done until this year, and of course now I’m kicking myself for having put it off. I assumed with three components this recipe would be time consuming, but it came together surprisingly quickly. At the base of the bars is a crumbly shortbread layer, which is topped with a sweet and gooey caramel and then finally a glossy chocolate glaze. These are also sprinkled with a bit of fleur de sel so they have that salty-sweet combo going on. Yum! They’re like the fancy cousin of the Twix :) And luckily the recipe makes a ton, so even after sharing a bunch with my neighbor, there are a few left leftovers for me!

I halved the caramel in mine and thought the ratio of one layer to the next was perfect, but if you like a thicker caramel layer (like Annie’s), go for it! I stored my bars in the refrigerator and liked them best directly from there, but they were good at room temperature too. The caramel is a little more gooey at room temperature, but not overly messy.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars
adapted from Annie’s Eats (originally from Baked and The Golden Book of Baking)

Shortbread
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar

Caramel
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

Chocolate
8 oz chocolate, finely chopped (I used bittersweet)
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
Fleur de sel for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

To make the shortbread layer: Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat just until combined. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press into an even layer over the bottom (it’ll be a fairly thin layer). Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the caramel layer: Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan. Set the pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the butter is melted. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and turns a light caramel color. This may take 10 minutes or more, so be patient. Pour the caramel mixture over the cooled shortbread and spread in an even layer. Allow to cool completely, then chill briefly (I stuck mine in the fridge overnight, but you just want to chill enough that it won’t melt when you add the warm chocolate in the next step).

To make the chocolate layer: Add the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter to a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Pour the chocolate over the chilled caramel and spread into an even layer with an offset spatula. Let cool for a few minutes, then sprinkle the top with the fleur de sel (if using). Let the chocolate set completely before slicing and serving.