Mar 14 08
by cara
at 9:50 PM
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Gooey Caramel Butter Bars

I brought this dessert to a dinner party last weekend when I needed something that didn’t have eggs or chocolate.  Gasp!  Baking without eggs or chocolate?!  I know, right?!  It’s kind of hard to imagine a world without eggs or chocolate, but I would eat this dessert every single day in such a world.  Assuming, of course, this was also a world where you didn’t have to worry about gaining weight.  This is another rich recipe from Jill O’Connor’s Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey, the fabulous cookbook with the sinful Heart of Darkness Brownies.  I’m always a little hesitant to make something brand new to serve to guests or bring to a party, but I threw caution to the wind this time.  I really wanted to try another recipe from this cookbook.  The results?  Everyone loved it, and I’ve already received a request for the recipe from the dinner party hostess.  She wants to make it this weekend!  Alas, I have no pictures because I was pressed for time getting out the door with my dessert…but just imagine a layer of creamy caramel deliciousness sandwiched between two melt-in-your-mouth buttery layers of shortbread, and there you have it!

Gooey Caramel Butter Bars

From Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey, by Jill O’Connor

For the Crust:

  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For the Filling:

  • 1 bag (14 ounces) caramel candies (about 50 individual caramels), unwrapped
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
  • Pinch of salt

1 cup pecans or walnuts (optional)***

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions:

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 by 13 inch baking pan lightly with nonstick 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 325 degrees F.  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 remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling:  Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl.  Add the cream, vanilla, 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 even over the caramel.  Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubble 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.

Picky Apple Notes: I left out the nuts because I was serving this to a group of nut-haters (including the Picky Apple).  Those nut-haters.  Always raining on my parade.

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