Baseball season started this week. I love that I means the beginning of spring (I hope), but I’m not much of a baseball fan. I don’t really understand the game or why it’s entertaining. Sure, I love when the Tigers make it to the playoffs and I still remember cheering for the Yankees (yes, I’m kind of a Yankees fan) in the 2001 World Series. Mom and I would stay up way too late watching the games. It was riveting and our eyes were glued, positively glued, to the TV.
I’ve been to one game in person many moons ago. Dad got tickets from work for us and some of our friends. The seats were in the first two rows on one baseline or another. It also happened to be the fourth of July. So that means it was searing hot outside. My makeup was melted, my hair a mess, and I was generally uncomfortable. No, miserable might be a more accurate description.
I remember eating a few peanuts and McDonald’s. Why we didn’t get a hot dog, I don’t know, and while I don’t remember what I ordered, I do remember it was the best food I’d ever had from McDonald’s. I haven’t eaten from there in years, but my young self took comfort in some golden arches food that day. It actually kind of saved the day.
As if the weather wasn’t bad enough, at some point during the game, the sky opened up and it poured. Luckily our friend had an umbrella and rescued us from the downpour. I don’t think we stayed much longer. We had no idea there was so much as a chance of rain. I guess I didn’t obsessively check the weather back then like I do now (fifties and rainy next week? Really? That’s the best we can do?) In fact, I don’t remember who the Tigers played or if they even won. Dad and I both vowed to never go to a baseball game again.
So instead of heading to the ball park, I went to the kitchen and made Salted Caramel Squares. The shortbread crust is not my favorite, but that doesn’t matter. It’s only a vehicle for the home run caramel on top. Seriously, this caramel is deep, complex, rich, not too sweet, and totally amazing. I am in love with it. It’s made even better with a sprinkling of sea salt.
This recipe also serves a lot, as a small serving is enough even to satisfy my giant sweet tooth with the ooey, gooey, vanilla bean flecked caramel and the crumbly, crunchy shortbread. Oh, yeah, these are definitely better than sitting through another baseball game.
Don’t miss my Bob’s Red Mill Giveaway either! I know you’ll love their products as much as I do!
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ cups heavy cream
- ½ vanilla bean, split and scraped, seeds and pod reserved
- 2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 ¾ sticks unsalted butter
- Maldon Sea Salt, for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13 inch pan and line it with parchment leaving an overhang to pull the bars out later.
- Make the crust. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together using a hand mixer, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until once again light and fluffy, and then beat in the flour. Place the dough in the prepared pan and press it into an even layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary, until light golden brown.
- While the crust cools, make the caramel. In a small saucepan, bring the cream and vanilla bean pod and seeds to a simmer. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
- In a very large saucepan, stir together the sugar and water over medium heat. Stop stirring and allow the sugar to cook until deep amber. This part takes awhile, but is so worth it. As soon as the caramel is to the desired color, remove it from the heat and add the cream. It will bubble vigorously. Once the bubbling begins to subside stir in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. Using your spoon to scrape the caramel off the bottom of the pan – it will melt back into the caramel.
- Place the pan over medium-high heat and attach a candy thermometer. While stirring, allow the mixture to come to 240 degrees F on the thermometer. Once this happens, remove it from the heat, remove the vanilla bean pod and pour the caramel over the crust. Sprinkle with sea salt.
- Allow to cool at room temperature for about an hour until it is cool enough to handle. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving. Bars may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or at room temperature for 1 (after being chilled to set), or in the freezer in pieces, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for several hours.