Sunday, July 27, 2014
salted caramel toasted walnut shortbread bars.
The spatula beats and smooshes the cubes of butter into an undistinguishable mass of yellow. Throw in crystals of sugar and salt, piles of brown, white and white, stir. Throw in another pile of white, but this time powdery and less bright, stir.
Pat pat pat, the dough morphs from a sphere into a rectangle. The pan clangs loudly against the metal racks, the oven door shuts with a small squeak. Seven minutes, eight minutes, nine, the dough is uneven with mini hills. There is a fork on the counter, its tines still clean. Whoops.
Into the saucepan goes three-dimensional squares of various sizes and colours. And then a puddle of gold, and then a splash of milky white. It's a mess - how could this ever become caramel? But it can, it will.
The sweet-smelling liquid in the saucepan sizzles and bubbles furiously like lava. Stand back, hold your breath, rotate your wrists; freshly toasted walnuts slide down the sheet pan with a whoosh and fall into the pan in a parade of soft thuds. The caramel hushes. A small capful of vanilla goes in. Ah, it's alive again.
A long mechanical beep breaks the stillness of the kitchen. The pan comes out, the caramel goes in, and back in the pan goes again.
Another beep sounds. Is it done?
Yes it is.
I placed the bars in the fridge overnight to chill, thinking that if the caramel was firm it would be easier to slice but no. The coldness did its job too well and I had to invest a lot of muscle power into breaking up the large slab. I remember pressing on the knife continuously for 30 seconds but it created barely more than a visible line on the surface. Well I guess after 5 minutes of struggling the warmth of the weather helped more than my pathetic attempts at hacking at it and I finally managed to divide it up into small chunks. Not without shards of caramel and shortbread debris flying everywhere though!
All that slicing took so much work that I couldn't help but pick out a piece to nibble on to replace all the energy I expended. And I think that was actually quite a bad idea because I ended up with a few too many pieces gone. I couldn't help it, it was just so. good. Sweet, salty, crunchy, gooey, need I go on? Definitely make this. Please.
Oh and if you place your cursor over a picture you might notice this icon popping up. Do you see it? Yay you do! And yes it's pinterest's symbol! I finally got this function up and running so that you guys can pin away more effortlessly. In fact I was so excited that I managed to pull it off I even dedicated a post to it. Okay, announcement's over; now back to these bars.
Salted Caramel Toasted Walnut Shortbread Bars
adapted from here
For the crust:
9 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
For the filling:
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup agave (I used golden syrup)
1 + 1/2 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
coarse sea salt for finishing
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 8 x 8 inch pan with parchment.
Cream the butter, sugars and salt until light and fluffy. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Press firmly and evenly into the prepared pan, prick all over with a fork and bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Place on the cooling rack while you make the filling.
Make the filling: Reduce oven temperature to 325F.
Place the butter, sugars, agave, heavy cream and salt into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to boil for about 3 minutes, or until caramel is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, stir in the toasted walnuts and vanilla and pour on top of the crust.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture has begun to bubble. Remove from oven and let it cool to room temperature. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Slice when the bars are completely cooled. You can place the pan in the fridge to speed up the cooling process.