These crazy delicious Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites look fancy but come together quickly with a one-bowl shortbread dough and the easiest caramel ever!
Calling all shortbread lovers! If you're a fan of shortbread and enjoy soft, buttery caramels, these Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites have your name written all over them. Throw in the fact that they're ridiculously simple to make with a one-bowl, no mixer shortbread crust and the easiest caramel filling ever, well... I think hear them shouting your name (and mine)!
The Crème de la Crème
These heavenly little confections are finished off with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. If you're not familiar with flaky sea salt, there's a great article about it, over on the Bon Appétit site. The most common and most widely available variety is Maldon. Maldon flaky sea salt is harvested off the coast of England, about 50 miles north of London.
Flaky sea salt has become very popular in the past 20 years with chefs all over the world and is used as a finishing salt. A finishing salt is just what it sounds like, a salt used at the end of food preparation to bring out the flavor add a delicious "finishing touch".
Flaky sea salt is the "crème de la crème" or "icing on the cake" for these Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites. Grab a pinch between your fingers and sprinkle over the shortbread bites after filling with the caramel. Let the caramel cool a bit (if you can wait) then take a bite.. Oh my! The sea salt is like turning up the volume on your favorite song! It gives the caramel another layer of flavor, accents the sweet buttery richness and adds a wonderful little salty crunch.
You probably noticed that we added the description "Ridiculously Easy" to these Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites. That's because this recipe meets the guidelines of a specific category of recipes here at The Café that we call Ridiculously Easy. We have quite a collection of these well-loved (by our readers) recipes and you can read all about them in this post.
The post referred to above lists the specific characteristics a recipe must have to be labeled Ridiculously Easy. My super streamlined description is: "Fabulous recipes that make you look like a kitchen rocks star with minimal effort on your part". These Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites check all the boxes!
A familiar old friend
If you've been following The Café for a while, you will probably recognize the shortbread dough for these Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites. It's the same one-bowl, no-mixer, 5-ingredient recipe that I use for almost all of my rolled shortbread cookies. It's just one of those super-simple, never-fail recipes that everyone seems to love.
It's also the same shortbread dough I used for these Lemon Curd Shortbread Tarts and the same easy technique used to create the little tart shells for the lemon curd. How do you make the cute little two-bite tart shells?
- After mixing up the dough, divide it into 24 portions. I use a scale (for me, each portion is 25-26g) but you can also just eyeball it.
- Roll each dough ball in the palm of your hands to form a somewhat round shape and place the balls into a mini muffin pan.
- Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand.
- Using a half teaspoon measuring spoon, form a little well into the center of each flattened ball
- Bake, reinforce the well at 10 minutes and then again at the end.
- Allow the shells to cool then fill with the easy caramel sauce.
- Grab a pinch of flaky sea salt and give each caramel a little sprinkle.
Easy caramel sauce... really??
Yes! I have to admit, we are cheating a bit. But honestly, when this delicious little sauce comes together in minutes and when you (or anyone else) take the first bite of these Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites, you (and everyone else) won't care a bit!
The secret? Good quality, store-bought soft caramels. All you do is unwrap them (or have someone you can trust unwrap them!) and combine them with a splash of heavy cream in a small saucepan. Warm over low heat until nicely melted then stir until smooth. Spoon the caramel sauce into the cooled shells. That's it, see what I mean. Easy, ridiculously easy!
What kind of caramels should I use for these Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites?
Although I mentioned "good quality" store-bought caramels, you don't have to go to a specialty shop to find this ingredient. Here in the States, most grocery stores carry Werther's Soft Caramels which are perfect for this recipe. They're soft, buttery and delicious.
I also really like Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel Caramels for a reasonably priced option. Go light with the flaky sea salt though as these Trader Joe's caramels already have a pinch of sea salt.
I do recommend a soft caramel, like the Werther's mentioned above or the Trader Joe's caramels. But if you use a firmer caramel, like the well-known Kraft brand, you may need a little extra cream to compensate.
A fabulous gift!
In addition to being perfect for snacks, desserts and fantastic with tea, coffee or/and milk these Salted Caramel Shortbread bites make an ideal gift for friends, coworkers, family or anyone in your life with a sweet tooth. To add a little pizzazz to your gifts we've created a pretty label to use when sharing (pictured below).
If you're interested in receiving the labels, simply scroll to the bottom of this post and let us know in the comment section that you'd like them. We'll email you a free printable PDF for the labels as well as instructions on how to use them.
Okay, I'm going to run upstairs and get one of these Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites so I can properly describe them to you. That is my job, after all, right?
Ready? Oh my! This is my description: A beyond delicious gourmet treat with a crisp, sweet buttery shortbread shell that's filled with soft, creamy, butter-rich, melt-in-your-mouth caramel. The pairing of these textures and flavors packs a mouth-watering taste you'll find irresistible!
My nutshell assessment? RIDICULOUSLY DELICIOUS! Make a batch today! You'll see exactly what I mean!
Café Tips for making these Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites
- As mentioned above, I really like to use Werther's Soft Caramels or Trader Joe's Caramels for this recipe.
- Because this is a one-bowl, no-mixer recipe, the butter should be VERY soft. You don't want it melted, just nice and soft. Let the butter sit at room temperature for several hours or use a microwave at 10% power (for 1 to 4 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave) to soften your butter.
- You'll need one (24-cup) or two (12-cup) non-stick mini muffin pans for this recipe.
- Be sure to spray your mini muffin pan(s) with baking spray as a prep to ensure that the tarts don't stick to the pan. Baking spray is different than regular non-stick cooking spray in that it contains flour in addition to oil or some type of shortening. It works in the same way as the classic technique of greasing and flouring a pan before baking.
- I use a small teaspoon to fill the shortbread tarts with the caramel.
- One of the ingredients in the shortbread tarts is corn starch. Several years ago, I started subbing corn starch for a small portion of the flour in my shortbread as it gives a crisp, melt-in-your-mouth texture to the baked cookies.
- If you prefer to use an electric mixer for this recipe, feel free. Just don't overmix the dough, once you add the flour.
- Don't worry if your shortbread dough balls aren't perfectly round. Mine never are. I just reshaped them with my fingers a bit before adding them to the muffin pan.
- If you want to stack these on a plate, platter or in a box, allow them to harden for 12-24 hours. Otherwise, they will stick together. If packing in a box, I would separate the layers with a piece of parchment paper.
- If you have leftover caramel, just put it in a small jar, store it in the refrigerator and use it the next time you have ice cream.
Thought for the day:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
For in Him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
And He is the head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoy any of these recipes, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations and ideas for variations.
- 8 ounces very soft butter (2 sticks) I use salted butter
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ cup corn starch
- 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 10-12 ounces soft caramels I use Werther's soft caramels
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream or half and half
Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Spray two 12-cup mini muffin pans (or one 24-cup mini muffin pan) with baking spray. Rub each cup with a piece of paper toweling to make sure they’re thoroughly coated, including the top edges.
Place the soft butter and powdered sugar in a medium-size bowl and stir until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Sprinkle in the corn starch and stir until nice and smooth.
Add the flour and salt and stir, turning the bowl and stirring from the bottom up. At first, the dough will be very shaggy and dry, but after a minute or so it will come together nicely. Just keep stirring until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough comes together in a big clump.
Divide the dough into 24 equal portions. You can eyeball this or use a scale. I weigh the dough and then divide it by 24. It usually comes out to 25-26g each. Give each portion of dough a little squeeze and hold it in your hand for about 10 seconds (to compress and warm the dough a bit) then roll it between your palms into round balls.
Place each ball into one of the prepared mini muffin cups and flatten each one gently with your fingers. Using a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon (see the pictures above in the post), make an indention in the center of each flattened ball. (I like to do about 3 at a time: squeeze 3 portions, roll them into balls then make the wells. This keeps the dough from drying out and cracking when you make the little wells.) If the dough cracks at the edges, just push it together with your fingers while the spoon is still in the center.
Place the pan(s) in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes then remove the pan from the oven and reinforce the wells again with a half teaspoon measuring spoon. Bake for another 8-12 minutes or until the outer edges of each tart are a medium golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately reinforce the center wells one last time, by pushing in with the ½ teaspoon measuring spoon. You can make the wells as shallow or deep as you’d like at this point.
Allow the tart shells to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove them from the pan by inserting a small sharp knife into the center of each shell and pulling upward. Cool completely on a cooling rack before filling.
Unwrap the caramels and place them in a small saucepan. Add the cream or half and half. Heat over medium-low heat until the caramels are melted. Stir well to create a creamy sauce. Leave the caramel sauce on the burner with the lowest heat beneath it to keep it nice and spoonable. Spoon the sauce into the tart shells, filling to the top of the well. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and allow the shortbread bites to cool completely.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
If you prefer to use Metric measurements there is a button in each of our recipes, right above the word “Instructions”. Just click that button to toggle to grams, milliliters, etc. If you ever come across one of our recipes that doesn’t have the Metric conversion (some of the older recipes may not), feel free to leave a comment and I will add it.