photograph by Matt Hulsman

Yield: 16 bars.

1¼ cups flour
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup salted butter, cubed

Caramel filling:
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
½ cup heavy cream, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Chocolate topping:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Flaked sea salt

Preheat oven to 375°. Generously butter (or spray) an 8-inch square baking pan. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper, leaving 3 inches of overhang on all sides, and lightly spray.

For the crust: Combine flour, sugar, cornstarch, and butter in a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles sand. Press the dough into the baking pan, making sure to press evenly and into each corner. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

For the caramel filling: In a small saucepan or skillet, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Do not stir. When the sugar mixture turns a pale to medium amber color, reduce the heat and carefully add the cream. Whisk in butter and salt. Pour the hot caramel over the shortbread and set aside.

For the chocolate topping: In a saucepan, add 1 cup of water. Place a glass bowl over the saucepan to create a double boiler. Add the chocolate and the butter to the bowl and melt over low heat, stirring occasionally. Do not let the water boil. When the chocolate has melted completely, pour over the caramel layer and let sit for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with flaked sea salt.

Using the extra parchment paper, lift the dessert out of the pan and cut into bars, cleaning the knife between each slice. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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Lynn Wells is a personal chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry and a degree in Nutrition Management from UNCG.