Need a ton of cookie bars in not a lot of time? Make these! This recipe consists of a basic cookie-like crust, a trio of toasted nuts, and a sweet ooey-gooey caramel to holds it all together. These would make great lunchbox desserts!
You start by toasting some cashews, pecans, and peanuts in the oven.
A quick crust is made with butter, brown sugar, and flour (and a pinch of salt). This is dumped out onto a shallow, buttered-and-parchment-lined baking sheet. It doesn’t seem like nearly enough dough to cover the large pan, but the recipe instructs you to lay another parchment sheet on top and use a rolling pin (or your hands) to push the dough around and even it out.
It really works! In no time I had a smooth, uniform crust that evenly covered the entire pan. The crust bakes on its own and then cools completely before the topping goes on.
So, then you make the caramel. This milky looking mixture is sugar, water, and some cream of tartar. It’s left to cook undisturbed until it reaches 300°F.
This seemed to take forever – I kept putting my thermometer in thinking it was close to done only to find the temperature had risen a measly three or four degrees. It probably took about 20 minutes to finally get there (give or take – I really wasn’t paying close attention so don’t go thinking that “20 minutes” is anything more than my deluded approximation).
Finally my thermometer read 300°F (although my caramel was nowhere near as dark as the caramel featured in the MSBH’s pictures for this recipe). Regardless, at this point, I slowly poured in the cream and the mixture started foaming and sputtering like dehydrated revival preacher. No good photos of that part, though I tried. (I really have to stop trying to photograph myself doing anything with cooking/candying techniques. It’s playing a dangerous game.)
Off the heat, once all the cream has been in incorporated, a hunk of butter is stirred in.
What’s left is a thick, smooth, creamy caramel sauce – and a lot of it! This goes into a bowl to cool. My caramel is much, much lighter in color than that shown in the MSBH and a good deal softer than what it was supposed to be, I think. Perhaps my thermometer needs calibrating – my caramel probably could have cooked a few more minutes before adding the cream. No big thing, though, as it tasted fantastic and all worked out in the end.
After the caramel cools a bit, the toasted nuts are stirred in.
…and poured onto the baked crust.
I used a wooden spoon to push the caramel-nut topping out to the sides of the pan. Super easy. Then it went into the oven to bake and “set” the caramel – just about 10 minutes.
I let it cool completely and then de-panned it all in one large piece. This was a cinch – buttering the pan and using parchment paper made it effortless.
From there, it was just a matter of slicing the individual pieces. A sharp knife made quick work of it.
Once sliced, they lift off of the parchment easily. The crust is perfectly simple and baked up so nicely.
The bars kept really well in tupperware at room temperature – it took me about a week to get through the seven pieces I kept for myself and they were perfect right through the seventh day. I have no clue how well these would freeze.
As you can probably imagine, they are incredibly sweet. The salty nuts are a great contrast to the caramel, however, and the cookie crust just minds its own business, as it should.
I think it’s a creative use of three nuts that you don’t necessarily think of together in baked goods. These bars are the quintessential homemade candy bar and the MSBH even has a variation that incorporates chocolate.
Cut the pieces small – a little goes a long way!