Friday, October 31, 2008

Caramel Butter Bars

You know, any cookie that calls for a pound of butter has to be good. I was browsing through the blogosphere and came across these bar cookies on the blog Taste and Tell. These had been made as a virtual housewarming gift for Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, whose blog I consistently drool over!

I figured for Halloween that these were somewhat similar to a candy bar with the nuts and caramel. I make a couple of things with caramels, but it’s always such a pain to unwrap all of those little caramels. I was at the store and ran across caramel bits, which were the same caramels, but unwrapped and in smaller bits so they were easier to melt down. What a great idea! Not having to unwrap caramels was such a time saver.

This recipe comes from Sticky, Chewy, Mess, Gooey, which has to be the best name for a cookbook ever. This cookie is from the gooey category. It wasn’t too messy coming together, and cutting wasn’t too bad either. In fact, these came out of the pan beautifully even though they were still a little warm.

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 bag (14 oz.) caramel candies, unwrapped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup cashews

Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Mix on medium speed until creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms.

Press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. (Refrigerate the remaining dough until firm, at least 30 minutes.)

While the bottom crust is baking and the remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling. Place the caramels in a small saucepan. Add the cream, vanilla, and salt. Het on medium low until caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth.

Sprinkle the cashews over the bottom crust. Pour the caramel filling over the cashews, using a small metal spatula to nudge the filling evenly over the crust. Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel. (I didn’t use all of the remaining dough.) Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 30-45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Recipe adapted from Taste and Tell who adapted the recipe from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Conner.

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