This is my favorite post I will share this year. It’s not the prettiest or the wordiest or all that loveliness in between, but it’s worth $100. And that $100 funds pediatric cancer research.
OXO has been gracious enough to include me in their Cookies for Kids’ Cancer campaign — where they donate up to $100,000 to through efforts like this blog post — for the past few years now. I’m happy to bake in general, but if I can bake for a good cause, then all the better.
I’ve never mentioned why this campaign means so much to me, because it’s really not my story to tell. I’m not a parent who has had to care for a child with cancer, like the two OXO employees who founded Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, but I once worked with a child who fought cancer when I was a hospice social worker. Her battle was not my story, but it was a story I played a part in and that has stuck with me.
This year, we baked from genius baking goddess Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook Dorie’s Cookies. I made her salted chocolate-caramel bars, which she describes as “the kind of cookie that makes you think you should stop everything, throw over your regular life and open a fancy pastry shop just so you can have a legit excuse to bake — and eat — these every day.”
I agree with that assessment. A simple chocolate shortbread base is topped with a caramel spiked with dark chocolate and a hint of salt. Toasted pecans top the bars for a little extra flavor and crunch.
OXO improved my baking experience by providing a fantastic set of OXO Good Grips Glass Bakeware. The Glass 3 Qt Baking Dish with Lid and Glass 2 Qt Baking Dish with Lid (pictured) are made from BPA-free borosilicate glass and can withstand extreme temperature changes like those needed for baking delicious brownies. Generous handles and sloshproof lids make moving full dishes easier, and the clean, elegant design means you can take them from the oven directly to the family table.
Another great tool is OXO’s Illuminating Digital Hand Mixer. The mixer includes a light to guide you and intuitive digital controls to steadily increase or decrease speed. When finished, the on-board beater clip, wrap-and-secure cord, and flat, stable base allow for compact, upright storage. Last but not least, the Brownie Spatula (pictured) is perfect for serving up these brownies. Trust me, they won’t last long. Enjoy!
Salted Chocolate-Caramel Bars
- For the Shortbread Base
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- For the Caramel Topping
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature (or slightly warmed in a microwave)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces and very soft
- 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or a good-size pinch of fine sea salt
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- About 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Generously butter (or spray) an 8-inch square pan.
- Start the shortbread base by whisking together the flour and cocoa powder and then set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar and salt together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Add the dry ingredients that you set aside to the mixing bowl and beat on low until the dough comes together. This might take a little longer than you expect, so keep at it.
- Pour the dough out into a greased 8-inch square baking dish and, using your fingertips, pat the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Press down and make sure to get the dough into the corners.
- Bake the shortbread for 21 to 23 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes, until it is slightly darker around the edges and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan; it will not feel completely firm if poked gently. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the shortbread to cool completely.
- When the shortbread has cooled, make the caramel topping by putting the sugar, water and corn syrup in a small saucepan and bringing to a boil over medium-high heat. Allow the ingredients to boil, brushing down the sides of the pan with cold water and a pastry brush if there are spatters.
- Swirl the pan a couple of times once you start seeing some color, until the caramel turns a pale to medium amber. (Don’t let it get as dark as mahogany.)
- Lower the heat and stand away from the pan as you add the cream, followed by the butter and salt (these ingredients that might cause the caramel to boil up, hence the need to take a step back and avoid any splatters onto yourself).
- Remove the pan from the heat, drop in the chocolate, and stir to blend.
- Pour the hot caramel over the shortbread and sprinkle with the nuts. Allow to set at room temperature.
- When the caramel is firm, run a table knife around the sides of the pan, carefully unmold the cookie onto a rack and turn it over onto a cutting board. Using a long thin knife, cut into 3 strips and then cut each strip into 7 bars for 21 bars. Or just leave the cookie whole and cut individual bars as needed.