Monday, January 9, 2017

Salted Caramel Butter Bars

OK, ok, I know everyone has New Year's resolutions, and many are to lose weight or at least to start eating better, cutting out the junk, going on a diet, etc. Am I right? Well before you do that, I think you should make these bars!!! Otherwise you'll be missing out! They are ABSOLUTELY NOT something you want if you're on a diet, but OMG they taste amazing. I'm not even sure where I found the recipe. Someone probably posted it on Facebook, and I've seen it on several cooking blogs. I think it's from a blog called Cookies and Cups. It's got my name written all over it! I seriously have yet to meet a salted caramel anything that I didn't love. And these are now right at the top of my list. They're very similar in technique to the favorite Chocolate Chip Caramel Brownies. You make one dough for the top and the bottom, then you melt caramels for the filling. Easy! I made them for the cast and crew of the show I'm rehearsing and everyone LOVED them! (Sometimes you just need a little treat to help you through a 10 hour rehearsal!) So whether you're rehearsing for a show, throwing a party, or just craving a yummy sweet and salty treat, you should whip up a batch!

For the Crust:
1 lb. (4 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs vanilla
4 cups flour

For the Filling:
1 bag (14 oz.) caramel candies (about 50 individual caramels), unwrapped
1/3 cup milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

To make the crust:
Preheat oven to 325°.
In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using mixer on medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms.
Spray a 9x13" baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Wrap remaining dough in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator.
Bake crust until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown approx 20 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes.
While the bottom crust is baking and the remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling. Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the cream. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth. Once the caramel is melted add in your 1/2 tsp vanilla and stir until combined. Pour the caramel filling over the crust. If you are going to salt the caramel sprinkle it on caramel layer now.
Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel.
Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 25 - 30 minutes. Let cool before cutting into squares.

As I do with all bars baked in a 9x13 pan, line the baking pan with parchment paper and let it hang over the sides. Then you can use the paper as a sling to lift the entire batch out of the chilled pan before using a big sharp knife to cut into perfect squares.
Yes, yes, I know that's a crazy amount of butter. Let's just embrace it and move on, shall we? You're not going to eat them every day, right? And you're probably not going to eat the whole pan, right? So, you're fine!!
Since I like a extra salt with the sweet, I sprinkled a little extra sea salt over the baked bars as I took them out of the oven. You do you!
If you'd like to bake them in a half sheet pan, simply increase the ingredient amounts by half.
I'm thinking this same recipe can be used with other fillings, yes? What do you think? Maybe a raspberry jam? Or blueberry jam and a little lemon or orange zest? Or some sweet orange marmalade? Or how about peanut butter? That would definitely be a good thing with some chopped roasted salty peanuts on top! Yum.

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