Salted Caramel Brownie Shortbread Bars


caramel brownies croppedLike most bakers, I enjoy baking from scratch.  You simply cannot compete with the flavor and taste of a baked treat that was homemade without any kind of start-with-a-box component.  But let’s face it:  I do not always have the time to bake without shortcuts.

caramel brownies horizontalSo, I have some things in my pantry that are my little helpers when I am ready for a “nearly” homemade treat.  And hey, some little helpers are better than others.  For example, I look for any excuse possible to use my boxed Ghirardelli brownie mix.  As far as boxed brownies go, these are pretty darn good.  Hey, even Christopher Kimball from America’s Test Kitchen, on an episode where he was taking a blind taste test to find the homemade brownies raved about how good the Ghirardelli boxed version was!  (If America’s Test Kitchen likes it, it CAN’T  be wrong!  ;) )

caramel brownies close So this quick treat comes together pretty easily.  The only thing you are making from scratch is the shortbread base.  And yet, with the shortbread base and the caramel drizzled on top, this start-with-a mix treat takes on quite an elegant presentation and tastes special enough to serve for dessert at a dinner party.  Or it can be your kids coming-home-from-school afternoon treat straight out of the pan.  Either way you serve it, these brownie shortbread bars are sure to please!

Salted Caramel Brownie Shortbread Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 c. flour
  • 1/3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks of cold butter cut into chunks
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 TBLS cold water
  • 1 box of Ghirardelli brownie mix (Triple chocolate or Double Chocolate work well)
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1/3 c. oil
  • 1 egg
  • Caramel Sauce (either a jar, 20 baking caramels + water, or homemade)
  • coarse sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, place flour, sugar, and butter and salt. Use a pastry blender to cut into it till coarse crumbs are formed.
  3. Using hands, form crumbs into a mound and make a "well" in the center. Beat egg yolk and water together in a small bowl and pour into the dough "well". Work with hands to mix dough and egg yolk mixture together until a dough is formed. Dough will be very sticky.
  4. In a 9x13 pan lined with parchment paper, place the dough and press it evenly into the bottom of the pan. Press the ends down with a fork and prick the dough all over the bottom. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 -25 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. (It will be baked longer when the brownie mix is added).
  5. Meanwhile, mix the brownies. Place brownie mix, water, oil and egg in a large mixing bowl and stir until fully incorporated. Pour the brownie mix over the top of the baked shortbread layer being careful to evenly spread it and keep it on top of the shortbread layer. Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly clean. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Slice into squares and pour warm caramel sauce over each individual serving and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately.
  7. For caramel sauce
  8. I used about twenty kraft caramels, unwrapped, placed them in a bowl with a few tablespoons of water and microwaved it, stirring until smooth. But you can certainly use jarred caramel or make your own! :)
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