Thursday, July 1, 2010

Paved with Good Intentions- Salted Caramel Squares

You know the expression "the road to hell is paved with good intentions"- that is a good description of what it is like writing a baking blog when you are trying to eat a healthy diet and manage your weight.  You cannot bake without tasting- and I bake what is appealing to me so I want to taste it.  As I have probably mentioned before, I love caramel, and these cookies are no exception.  They are, in essence, a buttery shortbread cookie with caramel on top.  The salt is a nice counterpart to the sweetness of the caramel.  For the first time, I had a little problem making the caramel. My first batch of sugar did not caramelize so I added a pinch of cream of tartar, and that seemed to work for the second batch.
Hard to eat just one so i guess I am just on the road.

Salted Caramel Squares
from Zoe Nathan, Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe, LA (as seen in Food and Wine, July, 2010)

Pastry Shell
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg white, beaten

2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2  1/4 cups sugar
pinch of cream of tartar (my addition)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2 inch overhang on the short sides.  In a large bowl, cream the butter.  Beat in the confectioners' sugar.  Add the whole eggs and beat until incorporated. Beat in the flour and salt.  Press the pastry into the prepared pan in an even layer, 1/4 inch thick. Freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.  Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Carefully remove the pie weights and parchment.  Brush the shell with the egg white and bake for 20 minutes longer, until golden and cooked through. Let cool.
Make the Caramel: In a saucepan, bring the cream, vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer. Cover and keep warm.  In a large, heavy saucepan, stir the sugar into 1/4 cup of water.  Add pinch of cream of tartar. Simmer over moderate heat without stirring until a deep amber caramel forms, about 7 minutes.
Remove the caramel from the heat and carefully add the cream.  When the bubbling subsides, stir in the butter.  Insert a candy thermometer and cook over moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the caramel reaches 240 degrees F,, about 10 minutes.  Discard the vanilla bean and stir in the salt.  Pour the caramel over the shell.  Refrigerate until firm, 4 hours or overnight.  Bring to room temperature. Remove the bar from the pan using the parchment overhang.  Cut into squares.  ((post by Susan))

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