July 19, 2011

Do you know what SEO stands for?  Search Engine Optimization.  I’ve been to two food blogging conferences and both times there was a lot of talk about SEO.  I don’t make any money on this blog so truthfully, I kind of tune out when people start talking about metrics and how to drive more traffic.  I do remember talk of how to title your posts and write content so that search engines send eager clickers your way.

Obviously, the people who know a thing or two about SEO would be horrified by the title of this post.  But what else could I call it?  Salted Caramel Squares I guess would have been a good alternative but even typing that I get a little misty-eyed and spacey and just start thinking, “Um…..”

You see, I love chocolate.  You probably know that if you visit here even semi-frequently.  I also love caramel.  Maybe more than chocolate.  I don’t know.  Don’t make me choose! A while back, a friend gave me a box of salted caramels wrapped in pretty gold foil and I hid them from my family.  When I ran out of my secret stash, I panicked and bought Kraft caramels only to curse them and throw them away because they were not as good as I wanted them to be, and then I cursed myself for throwing them away and leaving my house caramel-free.  Oh wait.  I think I may have just over-shared.

Solution!  Make these unbelievable squares.  Yes, there are two parts and a candy thermometer is involved but do not let either of those facts deter you.  The two steps are easy, a candy thermometer is a good thing to have in your house anyway, this recipe makes a ton of bars (especially if you cut them bite-size which is what they should be), and they keep well.  The only thing I would do differently next time is to sprinkle just a bit of sea salt over top for a step into perfection.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Pavé and Romesco Filled Potatoes
Two Years Ago: Honeyed Goat Cheese Tart with Pistachio Crust and Blasted Broccoli
Three Years Ago: Orzo with Broccoli, Feta, and Olives

Salted Caramel Squares
Food & Wine
Makes 32 squares (more if you cut them smaller)

Note that this recipe calls for kosher salt in both the crust and the caramel.  Do not substitute table salt – they will be way too salty. I like Diamond Brand.

Pastry Shell
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg white, beaten

2¼ cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2¼ cups sugar
1¾ sticks unsalted butter
2½ tsp. kosher salt

Prepare the shell
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the short sides.  In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer at low speed, cream the butter.  Beat in the confectioners’ sugar.  Add the whole eggs and beat until incorporated, then beat in the flour and salt.  Press the pastry into the prepared pan in an even layer, ¼-inch thick.  Freeze until firm, 10 minutes.

Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 35 minutes, until just set.  Carefully remove the pie weights and parchment paper.  Brush shell with the egg white and bake for 20 minutes longer, until golden and cooked through.  Let cool.

Make the caramel
In a saucepan, bring the cream, vanilla bean, and seeds to a simmer.  Cover; keep warm.

In a large heavy saucepan, stir the sugar into  ¼ cup of water.  Simmer over moderate heat, without stirring, until a deep amber caramel forms, 7 minutes.

Remove the caramel from the heat and carefully add the cream.  (DT: It will bubble up vigorously so slow as you go.)  When the bubbling subsides, stir in the butter.  Insert a candy thermometer and cook over moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the caramel reaches 240º, 10 minutes.  Discard the vanilla bean and stir in the salt.  Pour the caramel over the shell.  Refrigerate until firm, 4 hours or overnight.  Remove the bar from the pan using the parchment overhang; cut into squares.  (DTIn my experience, these squares kept well for several days but I did not cut them all at once.  I cut off what I needed and wrapped the rest, carefully, in foilThey are equally good cold or at room temperature.)


  1. Love the title and I love these bars!

    Comment by Maria — July 19, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

  2. Haha- you’re funny:) Thanks for the laugh and the yum recipe!

    Comment by The Fromagette — July 19, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

  3. Oh this made me SMILE!
    I’ve got blogging friends that talk “SEO”…and I’m always looking like the BLONDE that never knows what the heck is going on!
    So these are the famous Salted Caramel Squares {Shortbread}!
    Oh me~oh my!
    Must print this recipe!
    Love me some CARAMEL!
    Happy Day Dana!
    I LOVE your PASSION for food and the way you SHARE it!

    Comment by teresa — July 19, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

  4. oh!
    And of course I can’t resist PINNING this recipe!

    Comment by teresa — July 19, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

  5. Wow, these look heavenly!

    Comment by melinda ke — July 19, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

  6. Hey Dana-
    How about a thin layer of chocolate poured over the top.?! Perhaps even dipping the whole square. Two obsessions at once. Yum!

    Comment by Ren — July 19, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

  7. I’ll take the whole combo- chocolate, caramel, and sea salt.

    Comment by Clara — July 19, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

  8. Do you think that you could freeze these? You know, in an effort to keep from eating them all at once.

    Comment by linda — July 19, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

  9. Oh, this recipe is just killing me… I cannot resist caramel. Cannot.

    Comment by SallyBR — July 19, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

  10. This comment made me laugh. I have never frozen caramel – I’m not sure how it would turn out but I bet if you wrap it well, plastic and then foil, they would be fine. Maybe thaw overnight in the fridge. Let us know Linda!

    Comment by dana — July 19, 2011 @ 8:38 pm

  11. SEO optimization is boring, boring stuff and don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise! I feel like if the food is good and the writing is good, then the readers will come whether you’ve optimized or not.

    And well, both look damn good to me here! I am definitely a caramel lover above a chocolate lover. Crazy caramelly things are gonna go down in my kitchen soon. Really soon.

    Comment by Joanne — July 19, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

  12. Um… Yum! I absolutely need, must, have to go get a candy thermometer! I’ve been meaning to for some time, thanks for the tasty reminder!

    Comment by Jacqui — July 19, 2011 @ 9:16 pm

  13. Ok, I absolutely cannot make these. I would devour every one of them without even considering sharing. However, on the off chance I work up some level of self-control, I can’t wait to try these!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — July 19, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

  14. wow. these look outstanding, dana….the title of this post is quite appropriate!

    Comment by Nina — July 19, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

  15. Holy cow! Those look insanely delicious. I would have titled this post “Leave me alone with my guilt”, because I think I could probably consume an entire tray of those. I love the combination of salt and caramel. I will be giving these a try. Thanks!

    Comment by Allison @TypeAKitchen — July 20, 2011 @ 12:15 am

  16. These look amazing, Dana. I will make these one day – though they look totally dangerous and I’ll be sure to make these when I have lots of company coming for a visit.

    Comment by kickpleat — July 20, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

  17. these look crazy delicious. um… i went a step worse once, and bought store brand caramels. ugh. pretty awful. i had to dump them too… sad, but true.

    Comment by elizabeth / sophisticated pie — July 21, 2011 @ 1:27 am

  18. Um, actually your title is what made me click on this post, so take that blogging conference!

    And these look incredible. I’m pretty sure I could devour the whole thing.

    Comment by Rachel — July 21, 2011 @ 2:06 am

  19. The non SEO enhanced blogs are always my favorite.
    I like the titile of this post, my reader lists 3 at a time, and I clicked this one first. I audibly said “Oh”! when I saw the photo. ;-)

    Comment by eM — July 21, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

  20. perfect. And these look divine. And you are too funny. And I too hate it when things don’t taste like you think they should?

    Comment by Charlotte — July 22, 2011 @ 5:18 am

  21. see now that’s a good title. “um” with a post like this it means you are speechless because of the goodness. right?

    Comment by vanillasugarblog — July 22, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

  22. I think a title would have distracted from the effect of the image. I couldn’t scroll down without drooling over the image filling most of the screen on my netbook. My friend is always telling her about SEO, but when I try it’s just depressing. After the anemic turnout for my apron giveaway (until the end of July) I’m just posting what and when I want without checking my stats! Isn’t that why most of us started blogging? I sure never expected to make money… goal achieved :-)

    Comment by Yosefa @nonrecipe — July 24, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

  23. What gorgeous bites of deliciousness these are!! I love that the layer of caramel is about equal to the layer of cookie underneath. I could see myself not wanting to share these..

    Comment by Ashley — August 21, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

  24. I love caramel more than any other sweet- these look like perfection!

    Comment by Nettie Moore — October 6, 2011 @ 11:54 pm

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