Monday, March 9, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Caramel Apple Shortbread Squares

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I always look forward to the second Monday of each month. That's when my group posts their reveals as part of Group B of Secret Recipe Club. I usually so look forward to my blog assignment each month that I bake from it within the first week… and then I have to wait three whole weeks to write about it!

This month, my assigned blog was Flavors by Four - an amazing blog by an awesome cook, baker and blogger duo - Susan and Nicole. This mother-daughter team takes turns blogging about the yummy recipes they find and cook! I love that they do this, and I hope that one day, my daughters will want to share my blog with me! My older one is already super interested and I can't get her out of the kitchen… :) Thanks for the yummy recipes, and inspiration, Susan and Nicole!

I had quite a few recipes shortlisted at first - my favourite being these awesome looking Buckeye Brownies! And since I love muffins so much, these Dark Chocolate Cherry Muffins were a close second. But after much pondering and browsing, I chose these delicious, buttery Caramel Apple Shortbread Bars
These are so flavourful and delicious, and were a hit in our home. The only change I made was that for some reason, my caramel was a little too runny and I wasn't sure I should pour such runny caramel over the shortbread base. So I used a tiny amount of cornstarch to thicken the caramel before using it. I think maybe it was the kind of apples I used. So if you have a thickish caramel, please feel free to omit the cornstarch I have used. 
Caramel Apple Shortbread Bars
Adapted from Flavors by Four
Shortbread crust & topping
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened

Caramel Apple Filling
3 large or 4 medium apples, peeled and sliced thin 
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
1-2 tbsp cornstarch (optional - only if required)

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Prepare a 9"x13" baking tin by lining the bottom and sides with parchment or non-stick baking paper. I used non-stick baking foil. 
2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Stir to combine.
3. Add the softened butter and using a mixer or a wooden spoon stir to bring the dough together. Mix until the dough is uniform but do not over-mix.
4. Press about 2/3 of the shortbread dough into the bottom of the prepared baking tin. Allow to parbake in the oven for about 20 minutes. This is sufficient time for you to get the filling ready. 
5. To make the filling, combine the sugar and water in a heavy bottom saucepan and stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved. Then allow the mixture to come to a boil. Keep an eye on the sugar and watch it while it caramelises. It will turn a beautiful amber colour. Once you've achieved this colour, it can go for caramelised to burnt in a matter of seconds - so work quickly. 
6. As soon as the sugar is caramelised, stir in the sliced apples. This can cause the sugar to seize up and harden a little, but keep stirring and the sugar will dissolve. Once you have apples in smooth caramel, add in the cream and butter, stirring constantly. This mixture may bubble but it will subside. 
7. At this stage if you feel the mixture is too thin and runny (like mine was), dissolved about 2 tbsp of cornstarch in the caramel sugar and stir it back into the saucepan. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is thick and luscious. 
8. Remove the par-baked base and pour the caramel filling over the top. Spread it out evenly using a spatula.
9. Crumble the reserved 1/3 of the shortbread dough over the top of the caramel apple filling.
10. Continue baking for a further 15-20 minutes until the shortbread on top is lightly golden and the caramel is bubbly but set. 
10. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. I let it sit overnight before cutting it into squares. 
These were absolutely delicious. Everyone's favourite part was the yummy shortbread crust. I can imagine using the same crust for tons of different fillings. So delicious! And the caramel apple filling was so addictive that you could eat it with a spoon. Thank you Susan and Nicole for a truly delicious recipe! Don't forget to check out the other awesome Group B recipes in the link-up below! 

Until next time… 

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