Salted Caramel Pecan Shortbread

September 10, 2010

Caramel, my warm and sometimes temperamental cold-weather-companion, has returned. And the reunion didn't require too much persuasion. A cool night, the slight chill carried on a breeze and the need to pull out my beloved grey cardigan.

These were all the neatly lined-up factors which led to a craving for the rich buttery sauce. It's a bittersweet time of year. I love autumn, but that love is tainted with the dark spot on the horizon known as Winter. And I never want to let go of summer. If summer were a person I would be clinging to it's legs, using all my strength to keep it from walking away.

This recipe reminds me of a naked candy bar. Please tell me that I'm not the only one who has eaten a Snickers bar in segments. Maybe because I was only allowed to have candy on Halloween, I learned how to savor each and every morsel. I would carefully bite the thin chocolate layer off the top of a Snickers (my least favourite part because it wasn't dark chocolate.) The caramel, nuts, and soft nugget were my targets. I loved the mix of salty, sweet, chewy, soft, and crunchy!

These shortbread bars are the grown-up versions of the 'naked' Snickers. A not-too-sweet buttery shortbread, creamy salted caramel, and crunchy toasted pecans. There is a heart-stopping 3 sticks of butter in the recipe so please be sure to share the gooey goodness with a lot of people and have plenty of napkins on hand, these are too fun to eat with a fork.

Salted Caramel Pecan Shortbread (adapted from Food & Wine magazine) Print

crust ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/4 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

caramel layer ingredients
1 1/2 sticks Salted butter *
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound pecan halves (toasted)
* I like my caramel on the salty side. If you prefer a sweeter caramel, you can use unsalted butter.*

Toast the pecans: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Scatter the pecan halves onto a cookie sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes or until they just begin to get aromatic. Keep a close watch on them because they can burn very fast once they become fragrant.

In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the cubed butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle on the ice water and vinegar and process until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Turn the crumbs out onto a sheet of wax paper and knead just until the dough comes together. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until slightly chilled, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of wax paper to an 11- by-15-inch rectangle (1/4 inch thick). Trim the dough to a 9-by-13-inch rectangle and place it in the baking pan. *Cut the remaining dough into 3/4-inch-wide strips and press them up the side of the pan to form a rim all around. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes. *Since the filling is not very thick, I found the edges to be on the dry side. I would have preferred to use all the dough for the bottom crust only.*

Line the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the dough is just set. Remove the parchment paper and weights and bake the crust for about 12 minutes longer, until lightly golden and set. Let cool.

In a large saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, honey and salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until foamy and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the cream and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer inserted in the caramel registers 240° (soft ball stage), about 10 minutes longer. Add the pecans and cook for 2 minutes longer. Pour the filling over the crust, spreading it evenly. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and the topping is bubbling. Let cool completely. Slide the parchment onto a cutting board. Cut into bars and serve.

Makes about 16 bars


  1. I have totally eaten a snicker bar in segments, Valerie! That's the way I used to eat them when I was little-Snickers was my Mom's favorite, so there was never a shortage;)
    This caramel shortbread does look like a naked candy, and that's just delicious. Where's the hot tea though (smile)?

  2. this looks so good, i dont want to have to wait and bake a batch allready!!!

    Pecan and caramel are my weaknesses :-D

  3. The tea is on the stove and the rum is on the table. :)

    It's good to know that I'm not the only one who takes their time with the Snickers!

  4. Dear! wish Ihad one right now, looks divine and just lovely. I like the look of your blog!

  5. You had me at "grey cashmere cardigan". I love summer, but there are many reasons to love the fall, too. I can't think of a better way to usher it in.

  6. Yummm...a tasty way to welcome the new season!

  7. Valerie you are really nasty showing naked temptation !!! I'm sure I'd love it but have to resist !!

  8. Love this! Looks incredibly tasty. :)

  9. Oh my. That caramel oozing down the sides is making my mouth water, Valerie. Salt just sets off so many sweet things, doesn't it? I love salted caramel.

  10. I share your feeling about the end of summer and eating the candy in parts. Yet another recipe I have to try. Sigh. :)

  11. Hey Valerie, you think I have photography skills? Score (smile)!
    You know, I always think of myself as a pretty poor photographer. So thanks for that, Valerie. You made my night;)

  12. Stella, your detailed, colorful photos make me want to push my own photography limits...and they make me slightly jealous :D

  13. Yummy! Peacan and caramel make such wonderful topping..

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  14. Pecan and caramel make such a delicious topping! Yummy!

    Sawadee from bangkok,

  15. I love these deconstructed candy recipes, I recently just made one too. It looks wonderful!

  16. are we twins separated at birth?? i agree about the segmented snickers and the feeling towards milk chocolate : ) not to mention, until i was in grade school, i thought a saltine cracker was a 'cookie' - oh that heavenly day when i realized my mom was pulling the wool over my eyes under the guise of 'nutrition.' thanks for the recipe and great blog. beautiful pix too. keep up the great work!!! cheers : ) kim

  17. That's awesome, Kim! I'm so glad that i'm not the only one with milk chocolate well as eating Snickers bars as though they're mini-meals.

    What your mom did with you and the saltines is hilarious! How clever. :~D

    Thanks so much for visiting!


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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