These caramel shortbread should come with a health warning.
Unless you have the world’s best self-restraint, these are exactly the type of thing you will find yourself over-consuming right up to the point at which you start to feel unwell… and possibly even past that.
I’m normally pretty good, especially when it comes to particularly sweet food. I get my few mouthfuls of sweet fix and I’m satisfied. Super-sweet treats don’t tend to excite me much and so normally, caramel shortbread is a bit too far on the sickly side for me to be much of a fan.
That’s what’s so incredible about these shortbread. Somehow, by being even more than the ‘bit much’ of your regular caramel shortbread, they are brought firmly back into the realms of amazing….it’s clever.
I’m not going to beat about the bush here though…these are still very sweet…pretty much as sweet as your caramel shortbread is ever going to be. But somehow, all the flavour and texture rolled up with that sweetness makes for incredibly moreish eating. Even after my mouth had taken on the fuzzy feeling that I get when I eat too much sugar, I still wanted more. I just couldn’t be done with them. Despite eating two pieces about an hour ago, I’m still not done with them. This is practically an unheard of occurrence in my whole entire history of sweet food consumption.
Crunchy, toasty pecans, crispy, chewy coconut chips, a mix of bitter and sweet chocolate, gooey caramel, a pinch of sea salt and an almond flavour biscuit turns out to be a truly impressive combination. It will drive you right on through that ‘oh god, I’ve eaten too much’ feeling and on to thinking, ‘oh, well, maybe just a teeny piece more…’
If I am going to place one ‘but’ in all this though, it’s going to have to go something like this…
‘these were amazing, but…I’m not sure if the base could have been better/should have been different.’
As soon as I cut into it and realised it was a little on the cakey side my heart sank…where was the crunchy, biscuity base I was hoping for? At least I thought crunchy biscuit was what I wanted, and I immediately figured I would have to re-work the recipe before I could post it. However, on eating the shortbreads and realising just how truly addictive they are, I began to think that, actually, maybe a crumbly, cakey base works pretty well. Especially as there’s plenty of crunch going on elsewhere.
AND THEN, I looked back over the photos….and all that oozy caramel, and chocolate and pecans made me instantly hungry for another piece. And I thought, you know what? I think these are good enough as they are.
Anything as impossible to stop eating as these have got to be good enough as they are!
Pecan and coconut caramel shortbread (adapted from the Honeybuns gluten-free baking cookbook) – Gluten-free and FODMAP friendly in small portions.
Shortbread base (as I mentioned, I’m not entirely sure this is the best base going. While it has a great flavour, it hasn’t got much biscuity bite, so you may want to swap it for your preferred / a regular wheat flour recipe if you’re not avoiding wheat.)
- 125g butter, softened and cut into small cubes, plus extra melted butter for brushing the tin
- 140g polenta
- 125g caster sugar
- 70g ground hazelnuts (I ground my own in a food processor)
- 100g ground almonds
- 40g almonds, toasted and chopped
- 1 egg
- 300g dulce de leche
- 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
- 150g pecan halves
- 30g coconut chips
- 75g each of milk and dark chocolate, cut into fairly small chunks (or just use 150g of whichever chocolate you prefer)
- Start off by making the base. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Cut out a rectangle of baking paper to line the base of a 30x23x4cm tin. Brush the tin and the baking paper generously with melted butter.
- Put all the ingredients for the shhortbread into a large bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk until the mixture comes together as a soft dough. It will be a little grainy in texture.
- Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and spread out with the back of a spoon until you have a smooth, even layer.
- Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until golden and fairly firm. Remove from the oven (leave the oven on) and allow to cool in the tin.
- While the shortbread is cooling, toast the pecans. Place them on a baking tray an bake in the oven for 5 minutes until slightly darkened and smelling toasty. Watch them extremely closely though as they can quickly catch and no amount of chocolate and caramel is going to mask that bitter taste of burnt nuts. Transfer the toasted nuts onto a plate to prevent them toasting further on the hot tray.
- Next toast the coconut chips. Place on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 3 minutes, again, watch closely. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool. (Leave the oven on)
- Once the shortbread is completely cold, spread over the caramel then sprinkle over the sea salt flakes.
- Next sprinkle the pecan nuts and coconut chips over the caramel, ensuring they are evenly spread. Then sprinkle over the chocolate chunks.
- Place the pan in the oven for 1-2 minutes until the chocolate just begins to soften and melt. Allow to cool to room temperature before putting in the fridge to chill. Cut into bars once cold.