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[Photograph: Carrie Vasios]

My dentist hates me. I'm not too fond of him, either, but his deep disapproval of the state of my teeth (and therefore disapproval of me, by laws of transference) really deters me from visiting. You can see the kind of vicious cycle I'm in.

I'll admit I get quite a few cavities. I won't say how many, but it's more than the average of friends who I've casually polled. Apparently everyone is running home and power washing their incisors. They're doing a little stop-and-floss between appointments at work. I thought that brushing two times a day was standard. I tried to impress upon my dentists that I eat for a living, and a certain level of dental damage is par for the course. He wasn't buying it.

Obviously the next step was to place the blame on my mother.

"You're the reason I have soft teeth," I accused her over the phone.
"There is a ton of fluoride in New York City tap water, which I drank constantly while I was pregnant with you. I didn't give you soft teeth."

I don't know what I was expecting, as my mother is firmly in the if-you're-messed-up-in-any-way-it's-your-own-fault camp. I moped around, feeling like a dental underachiever, until this morning. The light bulb moment involved me standing in my kitchen, licking caramel sauce off a spoon. As I sucked the sweet, amber colored syrup of my teeth I realized that maybe, just maybe, I was the one at fault.

But would I trade a few cavities to continue to eat delicious treats? Absolutely. Especially these buttery, tender shortbread cups filled with homemade caramel sauce and sprinkled with coarse sea salt. When you take a bite, the soft shortbread shell easily gives way and you get a flood of the caramel (straight at your teeth.) The salty-sweet combination is addictive, but they're rich enough that they'd be nice served after dinner with some tea.

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Salted Caramel Shortbread Cups »

About the author: Carrie Vasios is the Community Manager of Serious Eats and writes the Wake and Bake, Cookie Monster, and Serious Entertaining columns. She likes perusing her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar.

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