Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Confections - Day 5 Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut Pretzel Caramel

Day 5 - Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut Pretzel Caramel

I saw this recipe in my December issue of Bon Appetit. I have always been intrigued by the concept of a blondie but to be honest I have never eaten one, let alone baked one. I also love butterscotch and caramel flavors and appreciate the salty sweet balance that often accompanies. I baked these for a dear friends fabulous holiday party Todd and I attended last night. It was nice to bring a treat that was a little different this time of year, I shockingly get sick of sugar cookies during the holidays every year. The blondie part of these bars are great.  They aren't too dry, have a wonderful flavor, are made from a browned butter which I could really taste in the recipe, and are also incredibly easy to make. The caramel part provided a bit of an annoyance. I accidentally put the wrong ratio of sugar and water initially in my saucepan and ended up with a solid in the end. On the second try, I was extremely cautious and successfully ended up with my  liquid amber but I do wish that I hadn't heated it so much. I waited for the deep amber as the recipe suggests and I wish that I had followed my gut and taken it off the heat sooner for a softer caramel. My other tip is when I added the candy topping to the blondies I covered it with saran wrap, then a thick kitchen towel to press the candy firmly into the pan. A spatula just wasn't cutting it in this case, your hands are usually your best kitchen tool. This recipe is something to be careful with, you will be working with extremely hot sugar for a while in which one should always use caution. Hot sugar is very dangerous for skin burns! In the end, Todd loved these little treats and I was absolutely pleased to bring something unique and aesthetically pleasing to my dear friends and their fantastic party.

Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut Pretzel Caramel
December 2011 Bon Appetit

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peanut-pretzel caramel:
4 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups 1 1/2"-wide thin twisted pretzels, coarsely crushed

For blondie:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1" overhang on long sides of pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Stir butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until browned bits form at bottom of pan, 7–8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add brown sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until well combined and mixture resembles wet sand, 2–3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until fluffy and well combined, about 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients; beat until smooth (batter will be thick). Using an offset or regular spatula, evenly spread batter in prepared pan.
Bake blondie until golden brown, edges pull away from sides of pan, and a tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 20–25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
For peanut-pretzel caramel:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread peanuts over sheet in an even layer. Bake, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, 5–7 minutes. Set aside.
Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is deep amber, 12–15 minutes. Add honey; return to a boil, stirring often, about 1 minute longer. Add butter; stir until blended. Add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously); whisk until smooth. Stir in peanuts and pretzels. Pour over cooled blondie. Chill until cool, about 30 minutes.
Run a knife around short sides of pan to release blondie. Using parchment-paper overhang, lift from pan. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 10 bars.

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