Chocolate caramel shortbread bars are delicious holiday dessert bars that taste like homemade Twix bars! A buttery shortbread crust holds layers of soft caramel and creamy milk chocolate.
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Decadent Holiday Desserts
The holidays are coming quickly, and along with the many gatherings of family and friends comes much eating and entertaining. It’s always a good idea to arm yourself with some dependable and healthy holiday recipes like roasted vegetables, warm salads, easy appetizers, and even a low-fat dessert or two.
Because it’s the holidays and it’s a time for celebration, it’s also important to bring out those once-a-year recipes that are so deliciously decadent you save them for special occasions like Christmas. These Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars are exactly that: rich, buttery, deliciously sweet and perfectly decadent. Basically, they taste like homemade Twix candy bars.
I grew up enjoying these when my Grandma made them every Christmas and it’s become a family recipe that I’m glad I can share with you. I know you are going to love them as much as my family does!
To Make Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars, You’ll need:
- unsalted butter, at room temperature
- white sugar
- all purpose flour
- sea salt
- sweetened condensed milk
- corn syrup or brown rice syrup
- 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
How to Make Homemade Caramel
Making the caramel layer for the chocolate caramel shortbread bars isn’t difficult, but it does require your undivided attention.
- Add the butter to a medium pot over medium heat and let it melt. Once the butter is melted, add the sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and brown rice syrup (or corn syrup).
- Combine these ingredients over the heat using a wire whisk until the mixture is smooth. Continue whisking constantly as the mixture heats up and once it reaches a slow boil continue whisking for 7 minutes. The caramel will be ready when it darkens in color very slightly, and reaches a temperature of 236 degrees Fahrenheit
IMPORTANT: I would be remiss not to stress the importance of constant whisking at this point in the recipe. I have ruined more than a few batches of this caramel filling because I got a little lazy while I was whisking and let the caramel overcook on the bottom of the pot. If this happens, you’ll start to see brown flecks appearing in the mixture as it boils and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about this except throw the whole thing in the trash and start again (been there, done that!).
I don’t make recipes like this too often simply because unless my kids are asleep there’s no guarantee I won’t have to step away from the stove for even a short moment. And even if you stop whisking and take the pot off the heat, those brown flecks will still appear and your mixture will taste burnt because the bottom of the pot retains a high level of heat for several minutes even if it’s off the element. So don’t stop to answer the phone, don’t scratch your nose, don’t break up a fight between your kids, don’t do ANYTHING else except whisk the heck out of the caramel for a full 7 minutes and it will turn out beautifully!
If you enjoy the chocolate caramel shortbread, here are more ideas for delicious desserts with caramel:
Do you love shortbread recipes? Try my recipes for Earl Grey Cookies with Lemon Glaze (Shortbread Recipe) and Whipped Shortbread Holiday Cookies.
Kitchen Products I recommend:
Watch the video below to see exactly how I make this recipe. You can find more delicious recipe videos on my YouTube channel.
Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars (Homemade Twix Bars)
For the shortbread base:
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
For the Caramel filling:
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 4 tbsp corn syrup or brown rice syrup
For the chocolate topping:
- 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a 9x13 baking dish with completely square sides by greasing it with a teaspoon or two of butter and lining it with parchment paper. The parchment paper will help you remove the bars from the pan, so make sure to leave some parchment paper hanging over the edges for easy removal.
- Press the mixture as evenly as you can into the prepared baking dish and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 18-22 minutes, or just until the edges begin to turn a very pale brown.
- Let the shortbread base cool almost to room temperature while you prepare the caramel filling.
- Add the butter to a medium pot over medium heat and let it melt. Once the butter is melted, add the sugar, the sweetened condensed milk, and the brown rice syrup (or corn syrup). Combine these ingredients over the heat using a wire whisk until the mixture is smooth. Continue whisking constantly as the mixture heats up and once it reaches a slow boil continue whisking for 7 minutes. Important: Stir constantly to avoid sticking and over cooking. If this happens, you'll start to see brown flecks appearing in the mixture as it boils and there's absolutely nothing you can do about this except throw the whole thing in the trash and start again (been there, done that!).
- After you've whisked the boiling caramel for 7 minutes, you'll notice it has darkened slightly and thickened a bit. It should reach a temperature of 236 degrees Fahrenheit (or 113 degrees Celsius) to set properly. Pour it quickly and carefully over the shortbread base and smooth it out with a spatula, pushing it into the corners of the pan if you need to. It's okay if the shortbread base hasn't cooled completely at this point. If it's a touch warm that's fine, just make sure it's not straight from the oven when you add the caramel.
- Set the baking dish aside for 10 minutes before beginning to melt the chocolate to spread over the top. This will allow the caramel to set slightly so the chocolate will spread easily.
- Chop the chocolate and add it to a heat-proof glass bowl over a small pot of simmering water to melt it. Using a rubber spatula, stir the chocolate pieces around in the heat-proof bowl over the simmering water until the heat of the steam has melted the chocolate completely.
- Alternatively, you can microwave the chocolate pieces on 50% power for 45 seconds at a time, stirring after every 45 second increment until the chocolate is completely melted.
- Spread the melted chocolate over the caramel filling carefully using an offset spatula until the chocolate has covered the entire surface of the caramel.
- Set the baking dish in the fridge for 1-2 hours to allow the layers to set and remove it from the fridge 10 minutes before you plan to cut into it so the chocolate layer will slice easily. Use the parchment paper to lift everything out of the baking dish and onto a cutting board for easy slicing.
- Slice into 24 bars and serve! Grab one while you can...they won't last long!
- A great trick to slicing this dessert is to heat the knife before slicing so it moves through the layers smoothly. Just dip your knife in boiling water and wipe it with a clean kitchen towel after each time you dip it in the water. This will help you achieve clean edges that beautifully display each layer.