These bars came about because there was about 1/4 cup of whipping cream in the fridge...as well as a few different kinds of nuts in the drawer. It started out as a hiking snack for my husband and some friends; I had to freeze them to make sure there were some left for the hike! They are very rich, very decadent and one is never enough!
Start off by making the shortbread crust. Line a 9" X 13" pan with foil, this makes removal from the pan for cutting a whole lot easier, and also helps with cleanup. Heat the oven to 350F.
In a bowl combine the dry ingredients:
2 cups + 6 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
Melt 8 ounces of butter, and mix in 1 teaspoon pf vanilla. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix well to combine.
Press evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan and bake until set and golden, about 20 - 25 minutes.
Allow to cool. The crust can be prepared to this point the day before.
Next, the nuts. You need a total of 3 cups of nuts, roughly chopped. Use whatever you have in the cupboard. Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the prepared crust and set aside while you make the caramel.
I used a combination of pecans, peanuts and cashews. Mine were all unsalted and raw, if one of the nuts is salted it will turn your bars into salted caramel nut bars...just try not to use all salted, it will be too overpowering for the caramel.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan combine the following:
10 ounces butter
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup (I use light)
Bring to a boil, and boil it for 6 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add:
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Add these carefully as the hot mixture will bubble up and steam.
Pour the hot caramel over the nuts when it has stopped bubbling.
Put the pan back in the oven, at 350F and bake for 25 minutes.
Allow to cool completely, even overnight, before cutting into bars.
They may not be good for you, but they are definitely good to eat!!! Happy snacking...
Some other ideas:
- Sprinkle the top of the bars with chocolate chips as soon as the pan comes out of the oven. They will melt and can be left to re-set, or can be spread over the bars to coat them with a layer of chocolate.
- Drizzle melted chocolate over the pan before cutting. If you use white and dark, the effect is quite impressive for something so easy to do.
- Use almond extract instead of vanilla.
- Press the crust into a tart shell with a removable bottom. Follow the rest of the recipe, and cut the tart into slices and serve with fresh whipped cream for a dessert. This will probably make enough for 2 tarts (10" round).
- If you are able to find ribbon coconut, use a combination of that and macadamia nuts for a tropical twist.
- The bars freeze well.
- If you do not have corn syrup, or don't have enough (as I didn't) use real maple syrup instead.