CARAMEL NUT BARS

Sometimes . . . I search high and low for recipes that my better half will enjoy.

Those bars, cookies or cakes can’t be too sweet or include chocolate or frosting.

Limited indeed.

He is the reason that I give most of what I bake . . . away.

He is the reason why I get up very early in the morning . . . and run.

He eats lots & lots of fruit . . . and his body is lean & fat-free.

He is the reason I’m happy!

Nuts . . . he love nuts.

He should love these Caramel Nut Bars.  Right?

So what was his response?  “They’re o.k, but I’d rather just eat the nuts.”

I just might go nuts!

The creamy caramel makes these bars chewy . . . like a candy bar . . . only better.

The shortbread layer on the bottom is tender, flaky and almost like pie crust.

You can use any nut you like.  The recipe actually calls for slivered almonds. I used a mixture of raw almonds, pecans and even a few salted cashews. This gem was found in a new cookbook, called . . . bake! – Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking.  The author is Nick Malgieri, and it’s loaded with wonderful pictures of pretty food. The recipe in the book is called: Golden almond bars.

I used my food processor to make the sweet pastry dough, but you can also do it by hand.  Just don’t over mix it!  The nice thing about this crust, is that you can vary it by making it a nut dough or even a cocoa dough. The caramel is easy as 1-2-3.  You will be tempted to just eat it by the spoonful. Don’t let the length of this recipe keep you from trying it.  The author of this cookbook is very thorough in his instructions, but they are simple to make.

One last thing.  Babble sent me an email that said this:

Congratulations! You are a Readers’ Choice Mom Food Blogger for 2011! Your blog has been nominated by the public as a supplement to our Top 100 Mom Food Blog list. Clearly your blog is a fan favorite when it comes to the best family-friendly recipes on the web, and we are so happy to recognize your achievements!

Attached is a badge you can post on your blog to show all of your readers that you are a Readers’ Choice Mom Food Blogger. Feel free to use this as a tool to get more people to vote for your blog on Babble!

So . . . I’m attaching the badge!

Pretty please -click on the badge and go vote for me.  I’m way behind!


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CARAMEL NUT BARS

Nuts in creamy caramel, sitting proudly on top of a flaky shortbread crust.

Scale

Ingredients

SWEET PASTRY DOUGH:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (spoon into a dry measure cup and level off)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cold, cut into 10 pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon cold water or less if needed

ALMOND TOPPING:

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dark corn syrup or golden syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 1/2 cups slivered almonds, or other nuts
  • one 9x13x2-inch pan lined with buttered parchment paper

Instructions

INSTRUCTIONS FOR SWEET PASTRY DOUGH:

  1. To mix the dough by hand, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and stir well to combine.
  2. Cut each piece of butter into 4 or 5 smaller pieces and add all of them to the bowl.
  3. Use both hands, palms upward, to reach under the dry ingredients to the bottom of the bowl, and lift them up through the contents of the bowl several times to distribute the pieces of butter evenly among the dry ingredients.
  4. Use your fingertips to pinch the pieces of butter into smaller pieces, alternating with rubbing the mixture between the palms of your hands and occasionally repeating this. Continue rubbing in the butter until no visible large pieces remain and the mixture is cool and powdery. (Jonna’s note: I simply used a pastry cutter!)
  5. Add the eggs and use a fork to break them up. Try not to over mix, but make sure the eggs are incorporated well.

Note: I needed to add about 1 tablespoon of cold water to my dough. It seemed quite dry to me. If yours is not dry . . . don’t add it.

  1. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and gently knead it into a ball.
  2. To mix the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the work bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
  3. Add the butter and pulse repeatedly at 1 second intervals until the butter is finely mixed into the dry ingredients.
  4. Add the eggs and pulse again until the dough forms a ball. (This is where I added about 1 tablespoon of cold water. My mixture was too dry to form into a ball. Add as little as you need).
  5. Use the dough immediately or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Variations:

  1. Nut dough: Add 1/2 cup ground nuts each as almonds or hazelnuts to the dough.
  2. Cocoa dough: Use 1 2/3 cups all purpose flour and 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted after measuring, in place of the 2 cups flour.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR PREPARING BARS:

  1. Place the dough on a floured surface and gently knead it until it is pliable and slightly softened. form the dough into a rectangle and flour the work surface and the dough again. Roll the dough, occasionally adding pinches of flour under and on it, to a 12×16 inch rectangle. Gently fold the dough into quarters and line up the folded corner with the center of the pan. Unfold the dough into the pan and gently ease it down into the pan. Use your fingertips to make sure that the dough molds to the angle between the bottom and side of the pan and into the corners. Trim away all but about 1 1/2 inches of dough on the sides of the pan. Chill.
  2. For the topping, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup one at a time, stirring to combine between additions. Add the salt and bring the mixture to a full boil, stirring occasionally. At the boil, add the cream a little at a time ( the mixture will bubble up). Continue cooking for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in the almonds and scrape the mixture into a buttered bowl to cool slightly.
  3. Set a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F.
  4. Use a large kitchen spoon to deposit mounds of the topping all over the chilled crust. Then use the point of a spoon to join the mounds and make a fairly even layer of topping. Concentrate on distributing the almonds evenly; the syrupy part of the topping will come to a boil while the bars are baking and even itself out.
  5. Bake until the dough is baked through and golden on the bottom and the topping is gently bubbling, 25 to 35 minutes.
  6. Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour.
  7. To unmold and cut the bars, cover the pan with another rack and invert. Lift off the pan and peel away the paper. Place a cutting board on the back of the bars and invert the whole stack. Lift off the top rack. Neatly trim away the sides of the bars and use a ruler to mark, then cut into 2 in. squares.

Notes

Variations: Pecan pieces, crushed skinned hazelnuts, or coarsely chopped honey-roasted nuts, cashews are all wonderful in place of the almonds. (I used salted deluxe nut mix as well). Just make sure they are 1/2 to 1/4 inch pieces so they cover the dough evenly.

  • Kader - 04/27/2011 - 11:20 am

    Ellerinize, emeğinize sağlık. Çok leziz ve iştah açıcı olmuş.

    Saygılar.ReplyCancel

  • Blog is the New Black - 04/27/2011 - 11:25 am

    This looks so amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Jordan - 04/27/2011 - 12:18 pm

    Congratulations, Jonna! You are by far my favorite food blogger, and you are very deserving. I will have to make these nut bars very soon!ReplyCancel

  • Natalie @ Perrys' Plate - 04/27/2011 - 12:19 pm

    Congrats on the readers choice award!!

    Your husband came from the same mold mine did, it sounds like. It’s nice to have healthy husbands to keep us in check, right? And my husband would have said the same thing about just wanting to eat the nuts. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Diana - 04/27/2011 - 12:55 pm

    Dear Jonna,

    Congratulations! I’m still voting for you:)

    Blessings,
    DianaReplyCancel

  • Janel - 01/10/2012 - 10:33 am

    I think the sugar is missing from the ingredient list in the pastry dough. Usure of the amount??!!ReplyCancel

    • Jonna - 01/10/2012 - 3:02 pm

      Thanks you Janel…..you are absolutely right!
      I’m sorry, I will be more careful with posting. I seem to always be in a hurry!
      Thanks again,
      JonnaReplyCancel