I’m really excited about these cookie bars – because I have somewhere to share them!! I am a believer than anything is better when it is shared. So I’m happy to be presenting these Gooey Caramel Butter Bars at Peabody’s housewarming party. Peabody is a new homeowner, and has generously invited us all over for a virtual housewarming. And since I know she has a lot of loyal followers, I’m sure the spread is going to be amazing!!
This is the first recipe I’ve tried out of Jill O’Connor’s Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. If you haven’t seen this cookbook yet, it is probably the cutest cookbook I own. Everything is decorated in pink and blue and stripes, ribbons and polka dots. And the photos are mouthwatering. You can’t help but feel happy when you flip through the pages of this book.
I am a caramel lover, so give me anything with caramel and I am happy. When I saw this recipe, I knew it was one I would be making. And I had tons of caramels left over from Halloween (ok, so I made these a little while back!) so it was a perfect way to use those up. These are pure indulgence. With a full pound of butter in the cookies, how could they not be good? I’m sure these bars would make Paula Deen proud!
This recipe gives you the option to add walnuts, pecans or cashews if you want, so I added cashews. They went perfectly!! The only problem I had with the recipe is that the topping is supposed to be crumbled on top, but mine wouldn’t crumble. It wasn’t a problem for me, though. The top just ended up like another layer, which worked!!
So Peabody – I wish you all kinds of happiness in your new home!!
Gooey Caramel Butter Bars
from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey
For the Crust:
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Filling:
1 bag (14 oz.) caramel candies (about 50 individual caramels), unwrapped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
pinch of salt
1 cup pecans, walnuts or cashews (optional)
confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)
To make the crust:
In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms.
Spray a 9×13 inch baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Pat the remaining dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325F. Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
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, rum (if using), and salt. 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.
Sprinkle the nuts, if using, over the bottom crust. Pour the caramel filling over the nuts, using a small metal spatula to nudge the filling evenly over the crust. 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 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Use a sharp knife to cut the bars evenly into 15 large squares. Remove the bars from the pan with a metal spatula and, if desired, cut in half on the diagonal to form 30 triangular bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
The bars will keep, covered tightly at room temperature, for about 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.