Chocolate pecan caramel shortbread

Life is better with chocolate, and chocolate is better with caramel. This turtle shortbread is an over-the-top dessert worth some extra effort. Share it with others and it will go fast!

By , The Pastry Chef's Baking

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    Bake this shortbread in a round or rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom.
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I found this recipe on Godiva.com years and years ago. It's no longer on their site as they refresh and rotate recipes around. I'm glad I snagged this when I did. I suppose you could call this a turtle shortbread since it has all the key turtle elements: nuts, caramel, and chocolate.

Actually, I've been on a turtle kick lately (the confection, not the sea creature) as you'll see with this shortbread and (upcoming) turtle cookies and turtle cake. Coincidence, I assure you, or simply my love of caramel and chocolate together.

Now I did change the recipe to make it more turtle confection-like because the original recipe called for baking this as a round shortbread, filling it with the pecan filling, baking it, then covering with ganache, and piping white chocolate decoratively on top. I even remember the original picture of this from long ago where it looked very pretty and professional.

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I didn't choose to go that route. Instead, I put the shortbread dough into a rectangular tart instead of a round one for easier portioning out to give away and par-baked the shortbread layer so it would brown and bake first. I was afraid that if I filled the unbaked shell with the caramelized pecan filling, the time the shell would need to bake would be longer than I wanted to bake the filling. I wanted a soft caramel filling, not a hardened caramelized one. That turned out to be a good call as I got some nice browning on the shortbread by par-baking and only needed another 15 minutes to bake it with the filling before the pecans achieved the toastiness I wanted.

I left the original recipe below for anyone who does want to make this as a round confection and go the pretty route with the white chocolate piping on top.  Me, I'm of the belief you can't go wrong with caramel paired with chocolate so after I spread the ganache over the cooled pecan shortbread tart, I also dolloped salted caramel (from Trader Joe's but you can also make your own if you're inclined) on top, then sprinkled it with mini chocolate chips.

The beauty about baking is you can't really go wrong with what you choose to mix and match. Yes, you should follow the recipe to make the crust, the filling and the ganache so each element will turn out properly, but you can choose to either do what I did and add a caramel layer or leave it out and go with white chocolate. Either way, it will be good.

I brought these into work and they went fairly quickly. Because I couldn't stack the pieces (the ganache was too soft), I brought them in on two paper plates. Both plates emptied before the morning was over. And I had co-workers mentioning them to me the day of, and days later as being good, so that's a good sign.

Chocolate pecan caramel shortbread

Shortbread crust

1-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pecan filling

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 cup pecan halves

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Chocolate topping

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Garnish

1 ounce white chocolate, coarsely chopped

1. Make the shortbread crust: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder

3. In a medium bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix at low speed until combined. While continuing to mix at low speed, add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing just until the dough starts to come together.

4. Scrape the dough into a 9-1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Using your fingertips, press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Set the crust aside. Alternatively, you can choose to parbake for 15-20 minutes or until crust is very lightly golden brown before you add the filling.

5. Make the pecan filling: In a small saucepan, place the butter, honey, sugar, and brown sugar. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue to boil the mixture for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pecan halves. Stir in the cream. Pour the pecan mixture into the prepared crust and bake for 30 minutes (15-20 minutes if you've parbaked the crust first). Cool the tart on a wire rack for hour.

6. Make the chocolate topping: In a small saucepan, combine the cream and sugar. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the chocolate chips. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Set aside 1/3 cup of the topping in the refrigerator for garnish.

7. Garnish the shortbread: Pour the warm chocolate topping over the top of the tart and spread it evenly with a small metal cake spatula.

8. Place the tart uncovered in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set the chocolate. Melt the white chocolate.

9. Fill a small parchment cone with the melted chocolate. Pipe the chocolate in fine lines across the top of the tart in a crisscross pattern.

10. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip (such as Ateco #5) with the reserved chocolate topping. Pipe 8 rosettes around the edge of the tart. Top each rosette with a pecan half.

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