Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Caramel Crumb Bars

I had to go to a gathering last weekend and wanted to bring something that I knew would be a unanimous crowd pleaser. Usually when this is the case I turn to basic brownies or chocolate chip cookies. Always a winner. I have learned from many past experiences, that when bringing dishes to parties, you want to go with something that everybody can recognize. When I bring something that sounds really interesting and good, like toasted coconut and white chocolate chip shortbread, but people are unfamiliar with it, they usually don't try it. Then you end up bringing home more than half a plate of leftovers, rather than an empty plate. That's why my new rule of thumb is "go simple" and stay away from nuts! As much as I love nuts and tend to think everybody else does, it's just not true: ( 

Anyways, this is a perfect recipe to take to a party. There are no nuts and the flavor components are simple- caramel sandwiched between a crumbly, buttery crust. Very, verrrrrry delicious! I left the party with an empty plate, exactly what you want when you bring something to a party. The crumb is so perfect, just the right touch of crunch to the crumble and the contrast to the caramel is perfect. The caramel itself is to die for. SO incredibly yummy!

Caramel Crumb Bars
adapted from "The Modern Baker" by Nick Malgieri

8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar 
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

4 Tb unsalted butter
1 Tb light corn syrup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13 pan with buttered parchment or foil. For the dough, beat the butter with the sugar and salt in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until soft and light, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla. On the lowest speed, beat in 2 1/4 cups flour, scraping the bowl and paddle with a spatula and continuing to mix just until the dough is smooth, and the flour has been absorbed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape 3/4 of the dough into the prepared pan. Use the palm of your hand to press down the dough evenly, without compressing it too much. Chill the dough lined pan. Work the remaining 1/4 cup flour into the remaining dough with your fingertips, so that it forms 1/8"-1/4" crumbs. Set aside at room temperature. 

For the filling, in a medium saucepan bring the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, and condensed milk to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Allow the mixture to boil gently, stirring often, until it starts to thicken and darken slightly, about 10 minutes. Pour into a stainless steel bowl to cool for 5 minutes. 

Remove the dough lined pan from the refrigerator and scrape the cooled filling onto the dough, using a small offset spatula to spread the filling evenly on the dough. Scatter the crumb mixture on the filling. Bake until the filling is bubbling gently and is a deep caramel color and the dough and crumb topping are baked through, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan until lukewarm, 15 to 20 minutes. Lift the slab of baked dough out of the pan and onto a cutting board before it has cooled completely. Cut the slab into 2" squares. 

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