December 13, 2012
Caramel…Butter…Bars…What is not to love about that name for a recipe? I haven’t really taken a stab at caramel this year yet (for Christmas cookies that is). That’s because I have little to no luck with the stuff. I could go on and on about my experiences: about how the last time I tried to make caramel, it turned into a rock hard mess that even a jack hammer couldn’t cut its way through. Trust me I tried it. No, not really. So for this recipe I decided to take a little shortcut and skipped making my own caramel thing. I really don’t hate myself for it because I’m sure if I did make my own caramel it would have been an absolute disaster! Maybe in the next few days I will get gutsy enough to try and make my own caramel again. Probably not though. This is a walk through type of recipe…like to the extreme. Don’t skip a step or you may end up with a real mess on your hands!
Don’t be afraid. I am really not trying to scare you, but you do want to be careful; ESPECIALLY if you are making your own caramel. If you decide to go the homemade caramel route, be sure you use a SOFT caramel recipe. Like super soft…You don’t want to be biting into a brick of caramel when you are eating these or you may chip a tooth, but hey if that’s what you are going for, be my guest!
I went the easy route and just used the caramel nibs you find at the store, which are even easier than buying the caramel cubes that are individually packaged! When did they start this whole nib thing? It was genius though. No one ever liked unwrapping every single little caramel cube anyway, and it really didn’t make sense either. We know like one person that actually ate them like that and we don’t talk with them anymore. Ha just kidding, we really don’t know anyone like that.
So I don’t suggest eating these cookies (bars) if you are currently watching your weight, but who is at this time of year!? So hey, dig in! I’m not kidding when I say there is 2 cups of butter. Yes, this translates to 4 sticks of butter or 1 lb of butter. And yes, you do only get one 9x13in pan of bars which translates to about 15 bars. Moral of the story, there is a crap ton of butter in these little bundles of butter joy.
They are delicious little bundles of butter joy though. Soft and gooey that have a little bit of crunch on the bottom crust. You can literally TASTE the butter in these things! I of course needed another twist with these bars and added a ton of coarse sea salt. Be sure you are using SEA SALT and not KOSHER SALT. Yes there is a significant difference. If you have fine sea salt that is ok too, but I prefer the coarse stuff, and what else goes better together than salt and caramel. All you need now is some dark chocolate to top it off. Hey, now there’s an idea! If you’re feeling brave, drizzle some dark chocolate on top! Hey, I may go do that right now! See, even I learn some things from my useless rants =).
- 3½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups salted sweet cream butter, softened to room temperature
- 1¼ cup pure cane granulated sugar
- 1¼ cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 11 ounces caramel nibs (1 bag), or 11 ounces of your favorite soft caramel recipe
- ½ cup heavy cream
- coarse sea salt
- ¼ cup melted dark chocolate for drizzling
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13in baking dish with a non stick spray or line it with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and fine sea salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl of your stand mixer, with the paddle attachment fixed, cream together the butter and sugars until all if incorporated and the mixture is nice and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
- In ½ cup increments, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Do this until all of the dry is incorporated into the wet. The dough will be soft and crumbly.
- Take about ½ of the dough and press it in to the bottom of the baking dish, until the entire dish is covered and pressed up against the sides to form a crust. Wrap the rest of the dough in parchment or plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator.
- Decrease the oven temperature to 325 and bake the crust for 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes.
- While the crust is cooling, combine the caramel nibs and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep and eye on it and stir every minute or so until all is melted. Remove from heat immediately and let cool for 2 minutes.
- Pour the caramel on top of the crust and sprinkle the dough with COARSE sea salt (I love the salty, caramel flavor, so I use a lot (=…you be the judge).
- Remove the rest of the dough from the fridge, and with your fingers crumble the dough and sprinkle on top. It is ok if some of the caramel is poking through the top of the crumbled dough, but make sure you have a nice layer on top of the caramel.
- Bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes of until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely before you cut.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.