The other day, my 16-month-old locked me in my pantry. No, I’m not kidding.
I was standing in the doorway of my walk-in pantry, whose knob was set as locked to prevent my sneaky child from busting into my closed pantry behind my back and helping himself to whatever goodies he can reach. As I was combing the shelves looking for some caramel candies, the baby decided to sneak up behind me and start pushing the door into me. Now in all fairness, I didn’t try very hard to resist, thinking there was no way my little 16-month-old could possibly exert enough force to shove my body all the way into the pantry via the door. But lo and behold, I was wrong, ‘cause about eight seconds later, the child managed to push me all the way into the pantry, thus locking me in.
My husband, who was on hand for most of this scene, found it extraordinarily funny. Me, not so much. Actually, that’s not true. I laughed about it after the fact, but was also quite thankful that my husband was on hand to immediately bust me out.
Of course, this incident has caused me to rethink my strategy of keeping the child out of the pantry, and so going forward, I will not lock the door, but rather will use one of those annoying but necessary baby-proof knobs that makes opening things unbelievably difficult (for me) but will most likely do the job of keeping my junk food stash safe and out of my child’s mouth.
Anyway, once I recovered from my very brief moment of pantry incarceration, I got to work making these amazing shortbread cookie bars. I’ve done something similar in the past along the lines of classic Millionaires’ Shortbread, which is basically a shortbread base, caramel center, and chocolate glaze. But when I saw this recipe on Brown Eyed Baker, one of my absolute favorite baking blogs, I decided I had to go for it.
These bars are nothing short of amazing. I was actually worried that the cookie dough layer would make them a bit too sweet, but they turned out perfectly. The original recipe is enough for an 8×8 pan, but I wanted extra to bring in to work, so I made one and a half times the recipe to fill a 9×13. In hindsight, I could’ve stuck with the 8×8. These bars are wonderful, but they’re also incredibly rich, and believe it or not, you really only need a small piece to come away satisfied.
Although you do have the option of storing these beauties at room temperature, I decided to keep mine in the fridge and found that I enjoyed them cold—so much so, that my once-ample supply is now rapidly dwindling.
Caramel Cookie Dough Shortbread Bars
Original recipe from Brown Eyed Baker
For the shortbread base:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used a little more to bring out the vanilla flavor)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup AP flour
For the caramel layer:
7 ounces soft caramel candies (about 25 candies), unwrapped (I used Kraft caramels)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
For the cookie dough layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup AP flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
For the chocolate glaze:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
To make the shortbread:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on two sides.
2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the vanilla and salt, and beat until combined.
4. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated; the dough may appear slightly crumbly.
5. Firmly press the dough into your prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes (22 to 25 minutes if you’re making enough for a 9×13 pan), or until the edges are lightly golden.
6. Remove pan from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool slightly.
To make the caramel layer:
1. Place the caramel candies in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the heavy cream and stir until completely melted. (Disclaimer: I totally cheated and melted these together in the microwave. It turned out just fine, but I made sure to watch it carefully.)
2. Pour the caramel mixture over the shortbread crust and spread into an even layer.
3. Refrigerate until set, about one hour.
To make the cookie dough:
1. Combine the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and mix well.
3. Add the flour and salt, and mix on low until incorporated.
4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Spread the cookie dough on top of the set caramel layer, using a spatula to smooth the dough into an even layer.
6. Refrigerate the pan while you prepare your glaze.
To make the chocolate glaze:
1. Combine the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring well after each, until it’s completely melted and smooth.
2. Spread the glaze over the cookie dough layer and chill in the fridge until set, about one hour.
To remove the bars from the pan, grasp the edges of the parchment paper and lift out the entire block. Place on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut into squares.
The original recipe says that these can be stored at room temp in an airtight container for up to three days. As I said, I opted to keep mine in the fridge. Don’t struggle with the decision too much; they’re delicious either way.