Cheat Day [cheet dey] – noun: The one day of the week where diet minded fitness freaks throw caution to the wind and indulge only on the most tantalizing, ridiculously calorie dense foods known to man. Often associated with the term, “carb hangover,” which occurs the morning after a particularly fruitful cheat day. Synonyms: Free Day, Fun Day, Fat Day

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Caramel Shortbread Bars

So Monday marks my two year wedding anniversary with the sweetest, most patient, most tolerant man I've ever met.  For serious.  He brings a lot to our relationship:

- Adorableness
- Cooks me dinner so I don't end up eating egg beaters and oatmeal every night from here until infinity
- Ability to smile and nod when I'm on a tirade about something that is not important
- Allows me to go to the gym for hours on end when there are much more practical things I should be doing
- Brings me coffee when I'm cranky
- Brings me a pug when I'm REALLY cranky
- Brings me cinnamon rolls and fruit juice when I'm SUPER cranky/sick
- Fixes things when they are broken
- Pays bills that I forget about
- Loves my crazy family
- Does dishes
- Drives me places

And here is an inclusive list of what I bring to the relationship
- I bake

So- in order to keep my man happy, I set out to bake him up something delicious for our anniversary.  So of course, I ask him to think up any sort of amazing, delicious, complicated dessert his little mind can fathom.  If I were presented with a scenario like this, my dreams would be filled with visions of dancing scones and cupcakes in a river of ganache with lined with truffles and rainbows.

His first answer?  "I want you to not have to bake!"

Does this man not know me at ALL?  No baking for a cheat day is like summer without sunshine!  It's like Starbucks without caffeine!   It's like Christmas without presents Jesus. 

So I nixed that.

His second answer?  "I don't know- chocolate chip cookies?"

Really?  I mean- I like chocolate chip cookies like the rest of America.  But if I could have any dessert known to man, I most certainly would set my sights a little higher.  So it looks like this one was going to be up to me.

I started brainstorming things my husband really likes:
- S'mores
- Smoked meats
- Cereal
- Lasagna

He always comments when I make my awesome shortbread that he wishes I could turn it into a homemade twix bar.  I had it- not the most inspired, amazing dessert known to man... But fun, a step up from chocolate chip cookies and most importantly: delicious.

Step One: The Shortbread
I've made my fair share of shortbread in my day, and I've come to learn that there are two key ingredients to make one kick butt shortbread.  Rice flour, and butter.

 Mmmm... butter.  

My husband wanted regular butter, but I've used Irish butter in the past which was freaking phenomenal. 

First, preheat your oven to 350 and then cream your softened butter with one cup of sugar until it's nice and fluffy. 

Slowly add in your flour (one cup of rice flour, 3 and a half of regular all purpose flour) in slowly until combined.

Turn your batter out onto a well floured surface and kneed slightly until it forms into a ball.

You know what's the great thing about this cookie recipe?  No eggs.  Sample by the handful for all I care!

Ok- next is my patented, freaking awesome way to making some awfully perdy cookies.  
Pat your dough into a 10 x 15 inch pan that is lined with parchment paper.  

Next, grab a floured rolling pin, and roll over your cookie dough so they are nice and flat.  This is how you avoid bumpy, ugly cookies that are sad.  This is especially important if you are not going to be covering them in caramel and chocolate.... too bad that's exactly what we are going to do.

Ok, next you will want to score your cookies and pierce them with a fork before baking, like so.

Bake.... cool... inform your husband that no, they will not be done tonight even if he was "saving his carbs" so he could eat them.  

So when you are ready to make your caramel, make sure the sides of your pan are high enough to prevent any caramel spillage.  If not, transfer cookies over to pans (lined with parchment paper) that do have high enough sides.  This is what I did, because I ended up making two varieties of bars in two different pans.  I'll get into that later.

See- different pan.  Good times. 

Step Two: Caramel
Ok, next it's caramel time.  Otherwise known as happy time.  I love caramel.  So flipping much.  I also love shortbread a lot.  And they both remind me Christmas.  Caramel, shortbread and Christmas.  If somehow the making of this recipe also caused there to be a litter of puppies delivered to my front door, I would be the happiest woman alive.

Combine a cup of butter, a cup of light brown sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup and a cup of sweetened condensed milk in a pan.  Heat over medium heat until it boils.  Stirring constantly, boil for 5 min and then remove from heat, still stirring, for 3 minutes.  

I cannot stress how important the stirring part is. Put the damn camera down and stir.

Sorry- that wasn't meant for you. 

You'll end up with something like this:
Pour the caramel over your pan and let it cool.  I left mine in the fridge over night.  That seemed to work well.

Step Three: Chocolate Time
So if you are in a rush, you can take a shortcut here.  Melt 2.5 cups of chocolate (I used milk) in the microwave and pour over the top of your bars.

This way, your caramel can still be kind of hot and your don't have to go through the dipping process.
But, they aren't as pretty when you cut them and you get less chocolate per bar, which is why I suggest you do the following.

Since your bars are already cut on the bottom of your pan, you'll want to flip the whole thing out onto a cutting board.  (First, cutting along the sides of the caramel.)

Oh yum

Next, leaving them upside down, you can cut along the lines, through the caramel, getting nice little, happy cookie bars. 
Yay!  They are turning out so nice!

Once they are all cut, dust the suckers off and start melting your chocolate (about 2 lbs) over a double boiled.

The reason I scored the bars before baking, and then after baking, and then cut them again once they've been covered in caramel is that shortbread has a tendency to crumble.  This process takes care of that.  

Ok, so your bars are ready and your chocolate is melted.  Dipping these is pretty easy- just grab them one by one, dip the caramel side into your chocolate, and place the completed cookie bar on parchment paper to cool.

Look!  An action shot!

And then you are done!  Oh my gosh, these guys were fabulous.  I will never buy a regular twix again.  Why would you, when you can have something like this!  I suggest serving them at room temperature- the caramel will be soft and yummy that way.  

 For some reason, shortbread makes me think of tea parties.  So I whipped out the floral china for these guys.


So I bet you are wondering what happened to that other pan.  You know, the one that I just poured the chocolate on top of?
Yeah, I didn't forget about those.  It's bonus recipe time!

Bonus Recipe: Chocolate Dipped Caramel Shortbread Bars with Coconut!
Because seriously, doesnt adding coconut make everything better?

So make the shortbread and transfer it over to a pan with higher edges.  Before you do the caramel, add a layer of coconut.

For the coconut mixture, just add 10 ounces of sweetened condensed milk to 6 ounces of sweetened, shredded coconut. 

Then top with your caramel followed by the chocolate.  The coconut layer will make the entire bar an ooey, gooey delicious mess.  Fabulous.  Super sweet- but fabulous.

And there you have it!  Two recipes, for the price of one.  And just so you know, hubby loved his anniversary cookie bars.  And I loved making them for him.  Happy Anniversary, husband.  Best two years of my life.


Shortbread Cookies

Make cookies exactly as directed in a 10 by 15 pan lined with parchment paper.  If you do not have a pan this size with tall sides, transfer the cooked, cooled cookies over to several taller pans lined with parchment.

Optional Coconut Layer
10 ounces sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces sweetened coconut

Combine milk and coconut and spread over the shortbread before making your caramel.  If you do this, you shouldn't attempt to dip the cookies.  They will be too moist and it would be messy.

Caramel and Chocolate Layers
Recipe from:

1 cup (salted) butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sweetned condensed milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup
 2 lbs of chocolate chips (2.5 cups if you aren't dipping)

In a large saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk. Bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes.  Pour over cookies.  

If you aren't dipping the cookies- melt 2.5 cups of chocolate in the microwave and pour over the top of your caramel.  Let cool completely and flip entire batch onto a cutting board to cut. 

If you are dipping the cookies, let caramel cool and flip recipe onto cutting board.  Cut into bars along score marks.  Melt 2 lbs of chocolate over a double boiler and dip cookies.  Place on parchment paper to cool.

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