I’ve got a bit of a thing with salted caramel. Some might describe it as ‘a problem’, but I prefer to say that I just really like it. Like happily sit there with a spoon until I am very unwell ‘really like it’.
A little while ago a friend of mine sent a group of us a link to a Buzzfeed article entitled something along the lines of ‘29 Salted Caramel Treats You Need in Your Life Right Now‘ and this clearly was music to my caramel-soaked ears. Having wiped the drool off my phone screen, I started plotting excuses to make these. And this brings us to my friend Sarah’s birthday and the most convoluted surprise bake ever.
Not going to lie, it was a bit of a drama. My partner in crime for this birthday surprise, Katie, and I were secretly going to make a cake that we could bring to birthday brunch, but how can you subtly tell someone who really wants to bake a chocolate cake that they can’t because two people they don’t know are in cahoots are planning to secretly make you a chocolate cake on Friday afternoon after work? Turns out you can’t. Time for Plan B.
We both had a whole day to come up with what we were going to make, however having actual jobs that require actual work (how inconsiderate, right?) the pair of us got to 4pm and my kitchen without a plan. Cue salted caramel goodness article.
It was inspired by an American blog, but they made their caramel by melting caramels and the shortbread layer came from a pack. This is clearly cheating. So we made the lot.
It was a car crash, to be polite about it.
We were fielding calls from our birthday friend (still oblivious to our baking and home unexpectedly early) asking when Katie was done with work so they could go for a drink, Katie’s work phone going as she tried to cover shifts and me flicking between the recipe and my emails trying to pacify clients and reach some deadlines. Oh, and a shortbread-making miss-step that ended up with all-butter shortbread sitting directly on a shelf in the oven then predictably melting through and turning into copious amounts of smoke. Basically I’m still somewhat surprised that we managed to make anything at all.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned me burning the first attempt at caramel, a (still almost full) wine bottle being covered in butter/flour, shortbread stuck to the work surface and running out of chocolate half way through.
But here’s the rub – it’s utterly decedent deliciousness. Shortbread, covered in caramel, covered in a layer of cookie dough, smothered in a layer of melted dark chocolate and peanut butter. It’s a sugar crash waiting to happen, but it’s also amazing.
Somehow – against literally all the odds – our baking remained a surprise until it was handed over. It somehow all came together as it was supposed to, drinks were had, shifts were all covered and clients were happy. The smoke alarm didn’t even go off.
Salted Caramel Billionaire’s Shortbread with Cookie Dough Layer
This recipe was inspired by one that was included in a Buzzfeed article a few months back. They got several of their component layers from packets though, so the shortbread is adapted from my GBBO cookbook and the caramel was made from memory. Ensure you have lots of time (ideally a whole evening) as you need to ensure each section is fully cooled before adding it on – it’s not time intensive, you can come and go from it, but beware that you can’t do it all in an hour.
for the shortbread:
200g plain flour
25g corn flour
75g caster sugar
1 pinch of salt
for the caramel:
60g caster sugar
1 knob butter
40ml double cream
2 tbsp water
for the cookie dough:
125g plain flour
85g golden caster sugar
125g dark chocolate chips
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp double cream
for the chocolate:
200g dark chocolate
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
Start by greasing the base of a disposable foil tray (which, obviously, you’re going to reuse/recycle after use) and turning the oven to 170ºC.
Quickly make the caramel. Measure the sugar into a saucepan and put it over a medium heat on the hob. Let it melt about 1/3 of the way, then start stirring and keep going as it all melts and turns a beautiful brown colour. Once it’s all melted take it off the heat and add the butter followed by the water. It will spit and cause a burst of steam (so be careful), but keep stirring. If it crystallises a bit, return to the heat and stir it out. Stir in the cream in two parts and once fully mixed set to one side.
Put the butter and sugar for the shortbread into a large mixing bowl and combine them together until they are silky smooth and fluffy. At this point, crack in the egg and sift in the flours. Mix together with your hands until it forms a light crumb texture, then bring it together. Chill for 25 of minutes then roll out so it fits the base of your tray. Fork liberally (although not all the way through), this will reduce any rising. Bake in the centre of the oven fro 20 minutes, or until just turning golden brown and firm to the touch.
The cookie dough is really simple. Mix the sugar and butter, creaming them together until smooth. Then add in the salt, cream, flour, and vanilla – mix until it’s all combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and then set to one site.
Once the shortbread is cooled fully, pour the caramel over the top and spread it thoroughly – right into the corners. Then let it set and cool, so the cookie dough can be spread over it. Put a pyrex bowl over a pan of simmering water and break the dark chocolate in to it. About two-thirds through the melting, add in the peanut butter and stir it all together. Once melted, take off the heat and set to once site. Using a wooden spoon, mix the cookie dough again, then spread over the caramel layer.
Drizzle the chocolate liberally over the top and level the chocolate by tilting the tray from side to side so it gets into all the corners, then use a spatula to make the top smooth.