Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites
- For the base
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) soft butter, plus extra for greasing
- 1/4 cup sugar
- a pinch of flaky sea salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- For the caramel
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
- 1 packed cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup golden syrup, such as Lyle's, or corn syrup
- 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
- 14-oz can full-fat condensed milk
- For the topping
- 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
- 1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
- 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan, then line with parchment paper. Make the base first. Put the butter in a large bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until creamy and very pale. Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat again until even paler.
Sift the flour over the creamed butter and sugar. Using a spatula, gently work the flour into the mixture to make an evenly blended dough that starts to clump together.
Press the dough into the prepared pan, then level and smooth it with the back of a spoon. Prick it all over with a fork, then chill for 10 minutes, or longer if you like, until firm. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden all over. Let cool completely.
Now for the caramel. Melt the butter, sugar, syrup, and salt together gently in a pan, then stir in the condensed milk.
Bring the caramel to a simmer, stirring constantly with a spatula, and let it bubble for 4 minutes, or until it thickens and smells like creamy toffee. It should be thick enough for the spatula to leave a trail in the caramel for a few seconds. Don't leave the pan or stop stirring during this step, as it can easily burn on the base.
Pour the caramel over the shortbread, then let cool completely.
Once the caramel has set and cooled, it's time to finish the layers. Melt the chocolate either over a pan of water or in the microwave, stir in the oil, then pour this over the caramel. Sprinkle with the salt and let set at room temperature, or in the fridge if it's a hot day. The oil helps stop the chocolate setting too hard, which can make it difficult to cut.
When the chocolate is just set, mark it into squares (I use a ruler to get the lines perfectly straight), then chill until completely firm.
Cut into cubes to serve. For a really clean finish, wipe the blade of your knife with a slightly damp cloth between each slicing. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Quick Shortcut: If you prefer, buy 14 oz ready-made, all-butter shortbread cookies. Crush them finely, then stir in 4 tablespoons melted butter until evenly blended. Press into the pan, bake for 15 minutes, or until golden, then continue with the recipe.