I love the holidays because it gives everyone the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones. And one way to show you care is by making some homemade treats! My mom is visiting me from the Philippines and I decided to surprise her with something I know she will love: caramel pecan shortbread cups.
I’ve never made anything like this before and I am so happy with how they turned out. They are basically just shortbread cookies baked in mini muffin tins, then topped with a pecan caramel topping. It has the flavors of pecan pie, but more caramel-y, and the buttery shortbread just melts in your mouth. And they’re cute and portion-controlled (but I must warn you that its hard to stick to just one piece…)
I know my mom really likes caramel and pecans and shortbread so I wanted to incorporate all of those flavors. I looked at a lot of different recipes (like this one from Martha Stewart) for pecan bars, shortbread cookies, caramel candies, caramel sauce, and I just picked the best parts from each one I like and combined them to make my own. Most of the recipes for pecan pie/pecan toppings had corn syrup but I decided to use honey instead. Also, some people recommend chilling the shortbread until it firms before baking, but I was too excited and didn’t do that.
Caramel Pecan Shortbread Cups
(makes about 2 dozen mini cups)
2 1/4 sticks cold butter (cut into small pieces)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all purpose flour
caramel pecan topping:
1 stick butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons half and half (heavy cream would work too)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
Make the shortbread cups first. Preheat oven to 375F. Put all the ingredients in a big bowl and mix until the dough clumps together. If you have an electric mixer, you can do this with the paddle attachment. But I like going old school and using my hands to crumble the butter into the flour mixture. Also this gives me an excuse to have my fingers coated in buttery dough (not that I licked it or anything like that). Then take a heaping tablespoon of dough and spoon it into mini muffin tins. Make sure to press the dough into each cup – you can use the same spoon to do that. Then pierce the dough with a fork. If you have extra time, you can chill the dough now, until it firms up, for about 20 minutes. But if you’re like me and can’t wait to surprise your mommy, you can bake it until lightly golden, also for about 20 minutes.
Once the shortbread is done, you can let it cool a little bit then make the caramel topping. In a saucepan over high heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, honey, and granulated sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until it thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cream and salt, then fold in the chopped pecans.
Now you can assemble the cups! Sprinkle a few dark chocolate chips on top of each shortbread cup, then top each with about a tablespoon of the caramel pecan mix. The dark chocolate is optional – you can also use milk chocolate or just make these plain caramel cups. With the chocolate, these cookies remind me of those chocolate turtle candies. Anyway we’re not done yet!
Put the mini muffin tins back in the oven and bake until filling bubbles, 15 to 20 minutes. Then the hardest part – you have to let it cool completely before digging in (trust me on this one).
My mom loved these and so did I! And they made my apartment smell wonderful. If you’re thinking of baking for the holidays, try these. They would be great treats for your loved ones. And if you’re balking at using more than three sticks of butter in one recipe, stop it. Butter makes everything better. And we can all use a little of that in our lives :)
Are you making any homemade treats for the holidays?? I hope you’re enjoying the weekend!