Alright. I had some issues with this recipe. Shortbread crust? Fine. But the caramel - we were not friends. Caramel is such a delicate thing to make. Too cold and it doesn't caramelize, too hot and it solidifies. I followed the instructions so carefully and then BAM all of a sudden my caramel had gone right past softball stage and straight into being rock candy. I panicked, added some extra water, and tried desperately to dissolve the sugar. Then I added the rest of the ingredients - a terrible idea because it just solidified everything more. But I just kept on stirring and stirring and stirring, until finally it was smooth again. Not caramely, but at least not chunky. So I poured that over the chocolate and continued.
In the end, it turned out to be fudge bars that taste like caramel. I got to use my favorite fleur de sel on top and that was fun even though not everyone likes salt on their caramel. These are seriously rich though from all the butter. I really liked it but couldn't eat a whole thing myself. I brought a piece for a coworker for lunch today and he said it was very good albeit not caramel-y at all. That's pretty much the consensus. It was a mess to try and even though it yielded something tasty in the end (though totally different from how it was intended), I'm definitely tossing this recipe. Sorry, Martha.
Chocolate-Caramel Cookie Bars
Martha Stewart Living, November 2009
FOR THE CRUST
4 1/2 ounces unsalted butter -- (9 tablespoons) room temperature, plus more for parchment
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
FOR THE CHOCOLATE CARAMEL
10 1/2 ounces milk chocolate -- chopped (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3 ounces unsalted butter -- (6 tablespoons)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sea salt -- preferably fleur de sel
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the crust: Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides; butter parchment, excluding overhang. Beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour and table salt, and beat until just combined.
2. Press dough evenly into pan, and bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
3. Make the chocolate caramel: Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, washing sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming, until amber, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter, cream, and table salt. Bring to a boil, stirring until smooth. Pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Stir to combine, and let stand until cool, about 10 minutes.
4. Pour mixture over crust. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight. Run a knife around edges; lift parchment to remove whole bar from pan. Sprinkle with sea salt. Trim edges, and cut into 16 bars. Bars can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.