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I am a chocolate lover.  It is rare that I’d pick a dessert on a menu that doesn’t have chocolate (it would have to be an extremely appealing warm fruit dessert option with ice cream).  However, I have to acknowledge that there are some people out there who don’t feel the same way, especially when I entertain.  The husband and I are planning a dinner party and I have a long list of desserts to include.  That list has been edited down from an even longer list, but it will probably be slightly overboard:-)  That is just how I do it.  Anyway, since I will be baking more than enough desserts for our friends, I realize I need to make sure that each dessert should serve its purpose with a unique set of flavors, textures and appearance.  When I flipped to the Gooey Caramel Butter Bars in my Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey cookbook, I knew I had to make them.  Layers of shortbread cookie dough and creamy decadent caramel?  What else could a non-chocolate lover want?

cookbook

Luckily I found this recipe online so you can bake these at home.  It is always tough when I decide to bake from a cookbook because I know that I can’t reprint the recipe as is.  Luckily, someone else had it posted so you can refer there for measurement details.  I’ll point out the small changes I made to the original below.

These Gooey Caramel Butter Bars have several steps but are not difficult to make.  Just make sure you have a couple of hours because you need your crust to cool before layering on the caramel and topping.

For the shortbread you will need an entire pound of butter, granulated and confectioners’ sugars, vanilla, salt and all-purpose flour

shortbread ingred

You will need a sifter for your confectioners’ sugar

sift

I used my make-shift version from last time powdered sugar in sift sifted powdered sugar

Then you will beat together all of the butter, granulated sugar and sifted confectioners’ sugar

butter and sugars

Beat well until it is creamy and a little fluffy

mixture of butter and sugars

Beat in your vanilla and salt and then set aside

adding vanilla

Sift your flour as well

dry ingred

And then slowly add to the dough while mixer is on low

adding dry ingred 2

Combine just until a thick dough forms

dough 1

Now you will set aside 2/3 of your dough

dough on seran 1

Flatten it out on seran wrap

dough on seran 2

Wrap it up and refrigerate until you need it as a topping

dough on seran 3

Your other third of the shortbread dough will go into a 9×13 pan sprayed with cooking spray

dough in pan 1

Use your hands to flatten out the dough

dough in pan 2

Then bake at 325 for about 25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around the edges; allow to cool on a rack prior to adding additional layers

baked crust

While the crust cools, it is time to make your caramel; you will need 1 bag of caramel candies, heavy whipping cream, vanilla, salt and the optional kick of dark rum (I used just a tablespoon and didn’t notice much effect on flavor)

caramel ingred

Put all of the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl

making caramel 1

And microwave the mixture for a minute, then small 30 second increments

making caramel 2

Stir in-between microwave sessions

making caramel 3

Your caramel will start to look like this

making caramel 4

And then more like this

making caramel 5

and this

making caramel 6

then this

making caramel 7

And then finally it will be smooth and creamy like this

making caramel 8

When the shortbread crust is cooled to room temperature and the caramel is ready, spread it onto the crust

caramel on crust

If you keep the caramel away from the edges, clean-up will be a lot easier

caramel on crust 2

My “secret” ingredient

sea salt

Sprinkle the sea salt lightly over caramel (next time I’ll use a little more than in the picture below)

salt on caramel

Now get the rest of the dough out of the refrigerator to top your bars

dough for top

Break it up into small pieces and pile them evenly on top of the caramel

dough on top

Then bake again for about 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the caramel is bubbling

baked

Cut and serve!

done

Notice that you can see the grease marks on the cutting board, these really are buttery but as a result, they melt in your mouth in a very delicious way.

Are you a chocolate lover? What is your favorite non-chocolate dessert?

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