Tropical Storm / Hurricane Isaac came and left South Florida without wreaking too much havoc on us. Thankfully, all we got was some wind and lots of rain. And a day off work and school on Monday! Some people have snow days, we have hurricane days.
What this meant for us was two and a half days of indoor-ness that involved cooking, eating, playing games (the Misses have discovered Twister!), movie watching, and hanging out.
One of the recipes I tried was for these Gooey Caramel Butter Bars. Tell me what in that title sounds bad? Nothing, right? My reasoning was that if, by some stroke of bad luck, our power went out, I wanted dessert!
Let me just say that I would be perfectly content to sit around in the dark with no electricity and eat these bars – they’re that good! Ok, maybe not content (losing power is not fun), but definitely less grumpy about it!
My notes: I used 1 Tbsp. dark rum in the filling and couldn’t taste it in the finished product, I did not use the peanuts, these are really, really rich (Helloooo? One POUND of butter?) so big squares aren’t really necessary, and I think that they would be stellar served warm with vanilla ice cream and/or a drizzle of chocolate sauce
Gooey Caramel Butter Bars
Yield: depends on size of cut cookie (15-20 larger bars or 48 1-1/2″ small bars)
For the Crust:
1 pound (16 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Filling:
2 bags (14 oz. each) caramel candies (about 100 individual caramels) unwrapped
2/3 cup half and half or heavy cream
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp. dark rum or Bailey’s Caramel liqueur (optional)
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup chopped peanuts (optional)
For the Crust:
1. Preheat to 325 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper with overhang on the sides of the pan to allow for easy removal of the baked bars; set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Add the flour and beat on low speed until a smooth, soft dough forms.
3. Press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust.
4. Pat the remaining dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
5. Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
For the Filling:
1. Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the half and half or cream, vanilla, liquor (if using), and salt. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. (If the caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth. Mine took about 8 more spins in the microwave to be completely melted.)
2. Sprinkle the nuts (if using) over the bottom crust. Pour the caramel filling over the nuts and spread evenly over the crust.
3. Remove the remaining 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 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. Using the parchment overhang, remove the bars and transfer to a cutting surface. Using a sharp knife, cut the bars into small squares.
The bars will keep in an airtight container for 1 week. Individually wrap each bar into a sheet of plastic wrap and place in a freezer-safe container, then freeze for up to 1 month.
Source: The Galley Gourmet