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Have you tried those salted caramel squares at Starbucks yet? Whenever I get a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate or a Caramel Apple Cider, I always buy a salted caramel square, too. They’re tiny little pieces of joy. And I love them.

It’s quite often that I want one, but I’m not near a Starbucks. I do live in Utah, after all.

One Sunday afternoon last fall, my next door neighbor gave us a jar of caramel. I knew that was the day I would figure out how to make those caramel squares. Though I’m no stranger to eating homemade caramel out of a jar with a spoon, I restrained myself to use the caramel for the greater good. I remembered a tiny bag of pretzels was still swimming around in one of my kids’ Halloween bags, so I bartered him for it, and got to work.

I think it’s fun to make copy cat recipes every now and then, don’t you? The thing is, I may be doing quite a few copycat recipes for the next little bit, and I may even be posting more adaptations of other people’s recipes, instead of coming up with lots of original things. My creative brain needs a rest every now and then . . .

You see, there’s something you should know . . . I’m writing a cookbook. I can’t tell you all the details just yet, but just so you know, it is scheduled to be out in spring 2013. Which means, I’m going crazy trying to make deadlines! It feels like college again. The book will be filled with all original recipes, most (90% or so) of which you have never seen on sophistimom. It will be all about small parties to have with your family to celebrate the everyday.

That said, I’d love to hear what you’re interested in seeing in the book. Any recipes you’re dying to see in print? Anything you love about cookbooks/hate about cookbooks?

Until then, here is the recipe for salted caramel squares.

salted caramel squares

1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups flour
salted caramel (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups small pretzels broken into small pieces
ganache (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8 inch cake pan with parchment paper. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the flour, and mix until just combined. Press dough into prepared pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until cool. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

2. Reserve 1/4 cup of the caramel and set aside for drizzling later. Mix warm caramel (If caramel is cooled, warm it in the microwave for about 30 seconds) with pretzels and pour on top of cookie crust. Refrigerate until cooled somewhat, and the caramel is no longer runny. Pour warm ganache on top, and drizzle with reserved caramel.

salted caramel

Please read all these directions a couple times before starting, and get all your ingredients set out before hand. Kick all other family members out of the kitchen, and best of luck. Caramel is very simple, but it requires good timing. When I was learning to make caramel, I burned a couple batches, so you might want extra cream and sugar on hand in case that happens. Experience is the best teacher for this. Give yourself plenty of time, and don’t be discouraged if it isn’t perfect at first. Once I got the hang of it, I made an extra batch which came out as well as the one before it.

1/2 cup heavy cream (make sure it is heavy cream, or heavy whipping cream, not regular whipping cream)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup granulated pure cane sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon butter

1. Measure out cream into a liquid measuring cup. Stir in vanilla and salt, and set aside within an easy reach of the stove.

2. Stir sugar and water in a medium pot with tall sides. Set over medium-high heat. As the sugar dissolves and begins to boil, you may swirl the pot to mix the boiling sugar water. DO NOT STIR WITH A SPOON. This will make the sugar crystalize.

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3. As the sugar syrup boils, watch very carefully for the color to change. You are looking for a nice, warm amber color, about the shade of cinnamon sticks. Don’t let it get any darker. (Even if it doesn’t look burnt, it can taste burnt. If it starts to smoke, you’ve let it go too far.) On a side note, my candy thermometer did not reach far enough into the pot to get an accurate reading of the syrup, but with such a small amount of syrup, the temperature changes pretty quickly anyway. It’s best to watch it and wait for it to turn the right color.

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4. As soon as it turns the proper amber color, pull the pot off the heat. Whisk in the butter, and then pour in the vanilla-cream mixture. It will now bubble violently. Whisk carefully but briskly. The caramel will start to solidify a bit., but keep whisking. Put the pot of caramel over low heat and whisk carefully for a minute or two until smooth. Pour into a heat proof jar, and allow to cool.

ganache

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon honey
2 1/2 cups chocolate chips

In a microwave safe bowl, heat cream and honey until almost boiling, about 60 seconds. Pour in chocolate chips and let sit for about 2 minutes. Whisk until the cream and chocolate come together and become thick and glossy. If small bits of chocolate remain, microwave for 20-30 seconds, until smooth.

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