Faith Durand, author of Not Your Mother's Casseroles has a pretty loose definition when it comes to defining the word "casserole." She basically says that any baked dish falls into the category. Using this definition, all sorts of desserts fall under the casserole category, including these insanely delicious Salted Caramel and Walnut Slices. While I'm not totally sold on these crazy rich chocolate-caramel-coconut-walnut cookies as a casserole, I sure am glad that Durand shared the recipe.
These cookies originated in Australia and New Zealand where they are known as "millionaire's shortbread." They begin with a shortbread crust made with dried coconut and ground walnuts (both would be pretty fantastic on their own). The second layer is a caramel made from sweetened condensed milk cooked down with honey, butter, and salt. Using sweetened condensed milk makes for a much easier, neater caramel that doesn't require a candy thermometer and is less likely to overcook or even burn. Once the caramel is spooned over the cookie base, a layer of bittersweet chocolate is spread on top and flecked with flaky sea salt.
Equal parts candy and cookie, these slices are mind-blowingly good, thanks to an ideal mix of buttery, sugary, chocolaty, and salty flavors. All of the makings of a perfect dessert.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Not Your Mother's Casseroles to give away this week.
Adapted from Not Your Mother's Casseroles. Copyright © 2011. Published by Harvard Common Press. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.
- For the shortbread base:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
- 1⁄2 cup walnuts, finely ground
- 1⁄4 cup unsweetened dried coconut
- Pinch of salt
- 1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the caramel filling:
- 1⁄4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- For the chocolate topping:
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Flaky sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line the baking dish with parchment paper so that the ends hang over 2 of the sides. Lightly grease the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
To make the shortbread, stir the flour, brown sugar, walnuts, and coconut together in a medium bowl. Stir in the salt, melted butter, and vanilla. Press into the prepared baking dish in a thin, even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.
To make the filling, while the base is baking pour the filling ingredients into a small pan or double boiler and set it over low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture boils. Let it boil for about 5 minutes, or until it thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
Remove the shortbread base from the oven and pour the caramel filling on top. Spread it evenly and put the pan in the fridge to chill.
To make the chocolate layer, in a small saucepan combine the chocolate with the butter and oil. Cook over low heat until melted and smooth. Whisk thoroughly to remove any lumps, then spread evenly over the chilled caramel layer. Sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt and refrigerate to harden chocolate. Serve in very small squares; this stuff is extremely rich!