Practical might not seem like high praise for a sweet treat, but while these chewy, butter-rich caramel nut bars are as delectable as you'd imagine, it's the former that I prize most about this recipe. Individual tartlets, cupcakes, and the like may be darling, but it's bar cookies (think brownies, blondies, and lemon bars) that take the stress out of baking for a crowd.
Not only are most bar cookies crowd-pleasing — few sane people will turn down a fudgy brownie or nut-studded bar — but all it takes are a few precise cuts of a chef's knife to break them down into individual portions. Trust me, you're going to want to try this recipe for yourself.
For neater cookies, trim off the edges of the slab before cutting the bars down to size.
- For crust:
- Nonstick baking spray
- 2 cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) powdered sugar
- A large pinch of kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons (6 ounces, 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
- For nutty caramel topping:
- 1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup (4 ounces) pecans, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup (5 ounces) almonds, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup (3 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 11 tablespoons (5 1/2 ounces, 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cubed
- 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line the inside of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil so that it hangs over the short edges, then spray the inside of the foil with nonstick baking spray.
- For the crust: Briefly pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until it's cut into tiny pieces. Transfer the crust to the baking pan and pat it evenly across the bottom and into the corners.
- Bake the crust for 20 minutes, until lightly colored. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
- For the nutty caramel topping: Place the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until toasted and aromatic, stirring after 5 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cool the nuts for 5 minutes.
- Combine the brown sugar, honey, salt, butter, and cream in a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately stir in the nuts, coating them completely with the caramel mixture.
- Transfer the nutty caramel mixture to the crust and spread it out evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and set. Remove the baking pan from the oven and cool completely on a rack.
- Lift the mixture from the pan with the edges of the foil, then peel the foil gently away. Use a large chef's knife to cut into 2-1/4-inch (or smaller) bars.
- Desserts, Cookies
- 20 (2 1/4-inch) bar cookies