***I reduced this recipe to half. Double at your own risk! A small 9x9 pan can feed about a dozen people.***
1/2 pound salted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour
In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars and beat until creamy. Add the vanilla. Sift the flour into butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth, soft dough forms.
Spray a 9x9inch baking pan lightly with cooking spray. Press one third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Place remaining two thirds of dough in refrigerator to chill.
Preheat the oven to 325F and bake until crust is firm and the edges are a pale golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool about fifteen minutes.
25 caramels, unwrapped
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt (optional)
Place caramels and milk in microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for one minute and stir. Microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring after each until caramels are smooth.
Pour the caramel filling over the crust. (If you are going to salt the caramel, sprinkle over the caramel layer).
Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is lightly golden, about 25 to 30 minutes (Don't be fooled if the topping is not very firm when the bake time has finished--it'll firm when it cools).
Let cool before cutting into squares.