Christmas cookies: Salted Caramel and Hazelnut Squares

Salted Caramel and Hazelnut SquaresShortbread, salted caramel, roasted hazelnuts and dark chocolate, with a little dusting of sea salt – how could you possibly resist these? I don’t make them very often but they’re a great Christmas gift, just perfect for layering in a little tin, wrapping up safe and sending to someone special.

The last time I cooked this recipe was for the IFBA food photography and styling workshop but there’s now another tray on the go at the moment for Christmas. Be careful though: these disappear fast so make sure you don’t leave them on display for too long.

To roast the hazelnuts, the easiest thing to do is put them on a tray in the preheating oven for 5-6 minutes and keep a CLOSE eye on them. They burn too, too easily. When they are roasted, give them a good rub with a rough tea towel. The skins will come off easily and you just have to pick the nuts out of the flakes. I find that a Little Missy’s fingers are particularly well adapted for this kind of job – and she loves to help!

The best kind of salt to use in this recipe is a flaky sea salt or a French fleur de sel. I normally use Maldon but I’ve just come across a brilliant new product called Irish Atlantic Sea Salt. Made on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, I picked up my box at Tom Durcan Meats in Cork’s English Market.

Salted Caramel and Hazelnut Squares
I normally use a mixture of plain flour and cornflour for very short shortbread but feel free to just use 325g plain flour if you don’t have any cornflour around the house. As in all my recipes, I use regular, salted Irish butter throughout.

For the shortbread:
Butter – 225g
Plain flour – 275g
Cornflour – 50g
Caster sugar – 100g

For the caramel:
Butter – 150g
Caster sugar – 150g
Golden syrup – 4 tablespoons
Condensed milk – 395g or 1 tin
Flaky sea salt – ½ teaspoon
Hazelnuts – 150g, roasted

Dark chocolate – 200g
Flaky sea salt for scattering on top

Preheat the oven to 160°C (150°C fanbake). Rub the butter into the plain flour, cornflour and caster sugar, either by hand or in a food processor, until it resembles breadcrumbs. Press into the base of a 25cm x 38cm x 4cm Swiss roll tin and bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes until golden. Allow to cool.

To make the caramel filling, melt the butter, caster sugar, golden syrup and condensed milk in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add the salt and stir constantly until thick and a rich golden colour. This takes between 5 and 10 minutes. Mix in the hazelnuts then quickly pour onto the shortbread and allow to cool in turn.

Melt the dark chocolate and spread over the cooled caramel. Sprinkle sparingly with some flakes of sea salt.

Leave to set before slicing into small squares – this is rich so you really don’t need them to be too big!

Makes: 32 small squares.



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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