LA, Vegas + Salted Caramel Shortbread

We’ve been traveling for the past couple of weeks. We were mostly in Los Angeles visiting Bryan’s family and some friends (hi guys!). Bryan’s sister and her husband recently had the most adorable baby ever, and the highlight of our trip was getting to meet our sweet niece. She was in her fifth week of life when we were with her. Five weeks! It is hard to wrap your mind around. In addition to plenty of baby holding, we also took a small side trip to Las Vegas.

Last year when we attended the Saveur Blog awards party, Bryan entered a raffle. Luck was on our side that night because he won the grand prize: a stay at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I think we’d need to be 10 years younger(or 30 years older?), heterosexual, and very drunk to really enjoy Las Vegas, but we did our best. Mostly we enjoyed our truly amazing suite (3 bathrooms!) and marveling at the insanity that is “The Strip”. We ate at a bunch of restaurants, but to be honest I didn’t love any of them. Everything was overpriced and under-loved. It was hard to find magic. We left the strip for a brief excursion to Amber Unicorn Books, which has the most glorious selection of used cookbooks I have ever seen—hundreds and hundreds…maybe even thousands? It is in a pretty nondescript strip mall, a fifteen minute drive from where we were staying. As we drove through the streets of Vegas that most tourists never encounter, I wondered what other secrets were lurking throughout the city. I know that if people come to Chicago and never leave the loop or Michigan Avenue, they have no idea of Chicago. I wondered if it is frustrating to live in a city mostly known for a couple of miles of casinos and shopping malls.

In any case, Las Vegas was a fun diversion, and we drove back to Los Angeles with a trunk full of cookbooks.


L.A. has become a bit like a second home to me over the last decade. Which means, in part, I take it for granted. I no longer worry about where to eat or what to do. I like how that feels, it takes the pressure off, it doesn’t feel like I am a tourist. The one exception is that I always make sure to eat at either Huckleberry or Milo and Olive in Santa Monica, usually I eat at both. They’re two of my favorite places anywhere, it is the sort of food I love eating—vibrant salads, pizzas, rustic pastries. They’re my jam, and Zoe Nathan is a like a pastry hero to me.

These salted caramel shortbread are almost always in the case at Huckleberry, and I love them. They’re sweet and rich (obviously!), but so delicious. Huckleberry cuts these into giant squares which I could never eat in one sitting. I chose to cut them into smaller bites.

I am excited to be back home and in the kitchen, ready to tackle the back-log of recipes I have been waiting to write about (pasta! English muffins!)

Salted Caramel Shortbread (recipe by Zoe Nathan)

Pastry Shell

  • 1 stick (4oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg white, beaten


  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2  teaspoons kosher salt
  • Maldon Sea Salt, for finishing

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the short sides. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer at low speed, cream the butter. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar. Add the whole eggs and beat until incorporated, then beat in the flour and salt. Press the pastry into the prepared pan in an even layer, 1/4 inch thick. Freeze until firm, 10 minutes.

Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 35 minutes, until just set. Carefully remove the pie weights and parchment. Brush the shell with the egg white and bake for 20 minutes longer, until golden and cooked through. Let cool.

In a saucepan, bring the cream, vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer. Cover; keep warm.

In a large, heavy saucepan, stir the sugar into 1/4 cup of water. Simmer over moderate heat, without stirring, until a deep amber caramel forms, 7 minutes. Remove the caramel from the heat and carefully add the cream. When the bubbling subsides, stir in the butter. Insert a candy thermometer and cook over moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the caramel reaches 240°, 10 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean and stir in the salt.

Pour the caramel over the shell. Refrigerate until firm, 4 hours or overnight; bring to room temperature. Remove the bar from the pan using the parchment overhang; cut into squares. Sprinkle with Maldon salt before serving.

39 comments to “LA, Vegas + Salted Caramel Shortbread”

  1. mmmm! i ate about 4 pieces of cake from huckleberry at LA Weekly’s Taste event this past sunday.

  2. Looks good! What’s the texture of the caramel like? Soft? Sticky and chewy? Hard?

  3. Hi Ann- It is pretty soft at room temperature, and firm straight from the fridge. Not hard ever. : )

  4. I’m psyched your back! (pasta! english muffins!) These look completely delicious.

  5. When I saw the photo of that shortbread I literally though “wow!” It is a beauty.

  6. Roxanne Rosensteel says:

    March 5th, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    These look great! What do you think the best way to store them would be, and for how long?

  7. Hi Roxanne- You can keep them in the fridge. If you need to stack them, put parchment paper between layers of cookies. They’ll be good for a few days…

  8. They look so good!

  9. this recipe looks insane in the best possible way. also, do you know if there’s any truth to the rumor that zoe nathan is writing a cookbook??!!

  10. They look mouth-wateringly perfect. And I’m jealous of your cookbook haul!

    I always love when you update; L+D posts are up there in my favourite RSS feeds to read.

  11. What a fabulous treat! Yum!

  12. Jenny- Totally true! A Zoe Nathan cookbook is coming our way soon. Can’t wait!

  13. These look delicious. Rich but kind of light at the same time!! Can’t wait to try them – I have been on a caramel kick lately.

  14. Congrats to you and your family on the adorable new addition! Too bad you didn’t see Sunset Magazine’s (NorCal edition) February issue before your trip. There was a great article about “The Las Vegas You Never Knew” and the renaissance of its soulful downtown neighborhood — away from the Strip. The article is full of recs for indy restaurants, coffee houses, bars, and cool things to do. If you ever get back to Vegas… :) xo

  15. I was wondering where you were! I have added the bookstore to my list of cool places to go! That salted carmel shortbread image makes me want to lick my computer screen!

  16. Miss you already! Come back soon! LOVE LOVE LOVE

  17. How amazing, this look so good! I hope you enjoy making your English muffins, are you using Dan Lepard’s recipe? Look forward to reading about the pasta making too!

  18. I feel the same about Vegas. Blah. Plus if you go in the summer, you could bake these bars outside. Congrats on being uncles, guys! Your stock of nieces and nephews is growing. Good thing you bake :)

  19. Holy cow. Holy Zoe Nathan. Love this!

  20. Wow…caramel and shortbread…two of my favorite things. Lovely!

  21. I’m so glad we got to see you even if you’d spent 10010101010 hours in the car that day!! xo

  22. These look so fabulous! I’m not much of a baker really, but I am going to be brave and give these a try. I’m a recent follower, and just love your blog! Thanks for sharing your story and your great recipes!

  23. wow, these look insane! never been to huckleberry, looking forward to the next time i get out to LA to try it.

  24. My god, those look incredible…

  25. Ohmygoodness. My sis lives in LA, and I love Huckleberry and Zoe Nathan and these bars. I was nostagically craigslisting the other day, only to discover that Milo and Olive was hiring a morning baker, and I seriously considered flying back from India just for the opportunity to work with Zoe and company! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. Glad you had happy travels! You probably already know about this, but if not, seeing as you like caramel and rustic bakery cafes, the next time you are in LA, definitely make a visit to Little Flower in Pasadena. It’s a cafe and candy shop, and Christine, the owner, is the sweetest lady.

  26. Carollina says:

    March 10th, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Those salted caramel bars look luscious; I wonder if my purist husband will like these. He has firmly informed me that the only flavor he likes in shortbread is butter. Are you going to make us all jealous and write a post about the books you brought home?

  27. I’m from Santa Monica and Huckleberry is one of my favorite places ever. It just makes you feel so good to be there. Zoe Nathan is inspiring– I would highly recommend Rustic Canyon, her (and her husband’s) other restaurant. I live in NYC now, and I still dream of those caramel shortbreads, so thank you for this recipe!

  28. I think I may have just secured myself a living situation with this recipe. Roommate acquired!

  29. “I think we’d need to be 10 years younger(or 30 years older?), heterosexual, and very drunk to really enjoy Las Vegas, but we did our best.” – best blog post quote ever

  30. Salted Caramel looks delicious! I live here in Las Vegas and it is weird to have people ask me about what it’s like down on the strip, especially when I’ve only been there a handful of times! But next time you come there are tons of delicious restaurants. Try out Lotus of Siam or Komol or Raku or a million other hidden gems. The trick is to get yourself off the strip. The neon museum is really great, too!

  31. Christina you are so right in advising people to avoid the strip, I haven’t been to Vegas but this advice certainly runs true in London, Venice and Barcelona as the “tourist traps” are overpriced and rarely give value for money.

  32. I was in LA last week and we went to Huckleberry for lunch and of course, I had to get a salted caramel square to go. I put it in my bag and then we walked around Santa Monica for a few hours. When I got to the airport, I took it out of my bag to go through security and discovered that caramel had oozed all over my iPad. First world problem I know, but I was kind of annoyed until I tasted it … and OMG IT WAS SO GOOD. Thank you so much for this recipe, and I’m really excited for a Zoe Nathan cookbook too, because everything we had there was amazing!

  33. Huckleberry (and, by extension, Zoe Nathan) is one of LA’s greatest treasures. Humble, but extraordinary in so many ways… the salted caramel being just one of them. I do admit that I actually have finished the whole thing in a single sitting before. So glad you consider it part of your LA “home” too! On your next visit be sure to check out their ice cream shop, Sweet Rose Creamery at the Brentwood Country Mart. They make a salted caramel flavor that is exactly what you want it to be (the ice cream form of the bar). And, incidentally, if you do make it to the Country Mart, I’d also implore you to check out Farmshop (if you haven’t already done so!).

  34. These look really yummy. I can’t wait to bake them. The carmel makes a change from a chocolate coating many people use. I suppose you could be really naughty and use both! :-)

  35. Ok, I need some help! I tried to make these and thought I followed the directions to a T but my caramel is completely hard (like toffee). The shortbread part was delicious though and I plan to simply break this up into tiny pieces and use it over ice cream (failure averted). What did I do wrong? I’d like to try again and see if I can get the yummy soft caramel the recipe calls for.

  36. Hey Nicole- Your caramel just got too hot. Could be a bunch of problems- thermometer off, took too long to get caramel out of pan, etc. Check your thermometer in boiling water to make sure it is accurate (212). Next time, pull the caramel at 238 or so, to avoid any chance of hardening. Nice work at making something delicious sounding out of the results!

  37. what’s the best way to get perfect cuts on the bars? letting it cool completely? warm knife? please help!

  38. hi lily-chill the bars in the fridge and they will be easy to cut.

  39. hi Tim, I usually let it cool in the fridge completely for about 4 hours or more sometimes some batches stay in overnight. the cookie part seems to crumble a bit when I cut it which is extremely frustrating because it doesn’t get that pretty straight edge. i noticed that when I lay it on its side to cut the cookie will get a straight cut but obviously I can’t do that while the entire sheet is in tact :(

What do you think?