Apple Cider Caramel Bars with Smoked Maldon Salt

Apple Cider Caramel Bars with Smoked Maldon Salt

This morning I was roused from sleep by a little pug burying himself under our bed linens. For the first time in many months the air in our bedroom was chilly. It was such a strong and obvious change, that I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that today is the autumnal equinox – happy first day of fall!

Today is one of two days that (reportedly) have equal portions of daylight and dark (the other being spring equinox). I’ve been told that it’s a good time to evaluate priorities and strive for more balance in life. Since that’s a bit overwhelming for me to think about -I fall short in several areas- I’ll work on finding balance in my baking; a little victory to help me on the way to balancing other, bigger things in life.

Apple Cider Caramel Bars with Smoked Maldon Salt

To me, this treat is symbolic of today because it’s all about contrast and balance. The crumbly shortbread crust is a nice counter to all that chewy caramel, and a sprinkling of smoked Maldon salt perfectly balances the sweetness.

Apple Cider Caramel Bars with Smoked Maldon Salt

I got the idea for these caramel bars after making cider caramels for the Etsy blog (see here). It’s amazing how similar they taste to apple pie, so naturally I felt inspired to add a crust. After researching a few caramel bar recipes online, I decided to do some experimenting. I have to say, I love the results! These candies taste so much like apple pie. 

To get that deliciously strong apple flavor, you’ll need to buy a bottle of boiled cider. You can find it at kitchen specialty stores and online at King Arthur Flour. Or, if you’re inclined to make your own, a substitute can be made from 2 1/2 cups sweetened apple cider simmered on the stove top until reduced to 1/2 cup. The flavor will be more subtle than the purchased boiled cider, but the caramels will still have a recognizable apple flavor.

Apple Cider Caramel Bars with Smoked Maldon Salt

Since the caramel is so soft and delectable, these bars need to be kept refrigerated or they will lose their shape. Alternatively, you can wrap the bars individually in wax paper as you would normally wrap caramels, and they can be stored at room temperature. 

If you’ve never used Maldon flake salt before, then I urge you to get a small pinch tin. It’s delicious on everything. The smoked variety gives caramel rich, sophisticated flavor. I’m hooked!

Apple Cider Caramel Bars with Smoked Maldon Salt

[click for printable recipe]

Yields about 15 bars 

Shortbread crust

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons/141 g unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup/100 g granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 egg yolk

1 2/3 cups/210 g all purpose flour

Caramel

1 cup/210 g unsalted butter

1 cup/220g dark brown sugar

3/4 cup/235g light corn syrup

1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/4 cup/50 g granulated sugar

1/4 cup/80g sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)

1/2 cup/150 g plus 1 tablespoon boiled apple cider, divided

1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Maldon Smoked sea salt

Grease a 9×9-inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper so that two edges of the paper overhang the sides of the pan. 

In a large bowl, mash the butter, sugar and salt together with a pastry blender or with a fork. Blend in the egg yolk. Blend in the flour until fine crumbs form. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and press it down evenly with your hands. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

Bake the crust for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges of the crust are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the crust cool completely.

To make the caramel, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, sugar, sweetened condensed milk and 1/2 cup boiled cider in a large pot. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the candy thermometer reads 248 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of boiled cider, cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Pour the caramel on top of the shortbread and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours. Run a thin knife around the outer edge of the caramel and lift the block out using the two overhanging edges of parchment paper. Cut the block into bars or squares using a large sharp knife. Sprinkle with Maldon smoked flake sea salt before serving. 

Wrap caramels so that they keep their shape, or keep the bars chilled in the refrigerator.

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Un postre para Pantagruel
Un postre para Pantagruel
7 years ago

Mmm i love the contrast betweeen the salt and the caramel
Awesome!

Peabody (Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)
Peabody (Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)
7 years ago

I love this! And I have that boiled cider from KAF so I can't wait to try this.

Monica
Monica
7 years ago

Sorry if you get this twice……Wow! these look amazingly delicious and easy enough for me.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

Superb!

Unknown
Unknown
7 years ago

These are just lovely! That smoked salt sounds divine with the caramel.

Liz @ Floating Kitchen
Liz @ Floating Kitchen
7 years ago

These look so great. I always make a big batch of homemade boiled cider this time of year. It will be perfect in these treats!

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

Oh my goodness, these look like the perfect little fall-time treat!! It sort of reminds me a of Twix bar sans chocolate. Looks delicious!

Unknown
Unknown
7 years ago

Wow the caramel looks so perfect! And I bet it tastes even better!

Rosa's Yummy Yums
Rosa's Yummy Yums
7 years ago

Divine! Those are totally irresistible.

Cheers,

Rosa

Unknown
Unknown
7 years ago

what a treat! I absolutely have to try it. have a nice day. eleonora

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
7 years ago

Maldon salt?! These sound so good!! Also, these caramels are lovely in general. They look dreamy πŸ™‚

Rashida Shaikh
Rashida Shaikh
7 years ago

I don’t think I’m making it, so many ingredients are not handy for me…I liked the pictures, yummy

Unknown
Unknown
7 years ago

Oh gosh. These look so good!!!! I'm definitely making them.
Caramel makes everything better πŸ˜‰

Kerry @ Kerry Cooks
Kerry @ Kerry Cooks
7 years ago

Yum, these look so delicious! LOVE the photography!

Unknown
Unknown
7 years ago

These look gorgeous! I love the apple pie effect with the shortbread crust. I have what is probably a really stupid question so I apologise in advance. In England our cider is the alcoholic kind- I just wondered if you were using alcoholic cider or a boiled and intensified apple juice? Not that it matters either way- just wondered if you got a kind of boozy flavour with them. Thank you! Love your posts.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

A perfect way to welcome the first day of Fall – yum!

June Burns
June Burns
7 years ago

Love this! The caramel looks so perfect, especially love the addition of smoked maldon salt…very fancy! Such a great way to introduce fall πŸ™‚

Laura.
Laura.
7 years ago

Ooooh looks lovely! I'd love to try these.

http://www.internetlyaddicted.blogspot.co.uk

Angelyn
Angelyn
7 years ago

loooooove everything about these! they look amazing!!

Ashley
Ashley
7 years ago

A warm chocolate chip cookie. What can I say, I'm simple?!

Siv - A World in My Oven
Siv - A World in My Oven
7 years ago

I finally know what to do with smoked salt! It's been sitting in my cupboard forever and I just couldn't find a good use for it.. Thank you so much for sharing! Happy fall to you too!! πŸ™‚

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

I would love if you could suggest somewhere to get boiled cider in the UK. I am finding it impossible!

Donna
Donna
4 years ago

I bet Apple Cider Caramel Bars with Smoked Maldon Salt will give me rich flavors. I would love to give it something new a try. I am planning to make Apple Cider Caramel Bars with Smoked Maldon Salt when my friends come over to a dinner. Thanks for sharing.

Monica Stolbach
Monica Stolbach
11 months ago

Hi! I'm curious why this caramel recipe uses condensed milk as opposed to your caramels for Etsy that use heavy cream? I've been making that one for years and love it. Just wondering what the difference is?