Monday, November 3, 2008

Caramel Butter Bars

"It happens sometimes... friends come in and out of our lives like busboys in a restaurant."
--Gordie from Stand By Me

I've never been the type to have lots of friends. Actually, I find the idea of having lots of friends simultaneously to be kind of stressful. I mean... how do people have the time to spread themselves around to lots of different friends? I suspect the people who do, are less of the homebody type than I am.

I've always had a few close friends. My first best friend was Lisa McBroom. We met in the daycare at the fitness center that our mom's belonged to. We were lucky enough to be put into the same kindergarten class and our friendship continued to grow through the next few years. Her family eventually moved and I eventually went through a large group of close girl friends and guy friends through the years. But only a handful remain. And these are the friends that I consider my true blue, tested and weathered best friends: Stephanie, April, Jeff, Sara, and Leigh. These are my peeps. These are the friends who share my awesome times and my not so awesome times. The people I trust and love like family.

But you know what sucks? Their geography... Steph's in Portland, April's in Memphis, Jeff's in Baltimore, Sara's in Louisville, and Leigh's in Columbia, SC. I mean... bloody hell! Do you know how shitty it is to have a network of such amazing friends... but not have the ability to call any of them up and be like.. "yo, let's grab a burrito... or go to a movie... or get drunk tonight, cause there's nothing better to do?" Yeah. Let me tell you... it sucks.

But... a couple of weekends ago... that changed! Just the other night I was able to text my friend Sara and be like.. "what up? Let's grab dinner." and she called back (cause, girls not a texter... I'm working on her though... give me some time) and we went to dinner, because she moved to Nashville!!!! And not only did she move to Nashville, she's living like 2 miles away from me! Woop Woop!

It's great to have her here! And to welcome her, I wanted to bake her something yummy.

Now, I know Sara REALLY well. And I know that her favorite candy bar is the Milky Way. So, I definitely wanted to make her something that was very caramely and gooey and yummy.

This recipe immediately popped out at me. It came together really easily and turned out pretty tasty. But... honestly... it needs chocolate. I mean, it REALLY needs chocolate. It's like eating just the peanut butter side of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It's good, but it's blatantly missing it's rightful partner. So, I will make this again, but I will sprinkly chocolate chips over the caramel layer.
The Stand By Me quote I referenced above is true... some people do come in and out of lives like busboys... but if you're lucky like me... you'll have a few really true friends that stick with you forever. (And hopefully you'll eventually succeed in convincing them all to move to Nashville to be close to you, cause you're selfish like that. 1 down, 4 to go...) :)
Gooey Caramel Butter Bars
From Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey, by Jill O’Connor
These bars are delicious and I consider the crust to be an awesome base for other fillings. Mainly fillings that have chocolate in them. So, if you're making these bars.... I suggest throwing in some chocolate chips, some heath toffee bits, or something to add to the salty, chewiness of the caramel.

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)

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.


Beth said...

Those look fantastic! I'm a fellow TWD baker, and I was thinking that it would be nice if we all could chip in and get Laurie some small token/gift for all the work she does. Would you be willing to contribute? If I can get enough people, it would only be about $1 per person. No pressure :-) Let me know!

Shelby said...

I am much like you when it comes to friends. My very best friend lives in Ohio and I am still in NY. But when we get together its like we never parted. My very best friend at home is my hubby. I can't think of anything better than being with just him. I start to feel suffocated when I have a friend who wants to be around me everyday or every free moment I seem to have. Needless to say that friendship usually doesn't last too long.

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Peabody said...

Well, loving all things caramel, these bars are calling my name.