Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

Sometimes a recipe stumbles into my lap that just doesn’t seem fair. Yeah. Like bon appétit’s Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel. No seriously, you just need to say caramel and I kinda start to drool like Grandpa from the Simpson’s when he’s sleeping in his chair.

Some people say they need a salt lick. I’m the gal who wants to carry around a massive sugar cube to lick. Always have been a sweets girl. You know, the whole sugar and spice thingee.

My parents are howling at that comment. They’d tell you I was a pain in their ever loving asses.

INGREDIENTS:

Blondie

  • 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 tablespoon 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

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Blondie

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking pane 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 the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 20–25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

  • Prehead oven to 350°. 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, occassionaly 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. DO AHEAD: Chill for up to 1 week in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Nutritional Content:

One cookie contains: Calories (kcal) 252.6 %Calories from Fat 46.8 Fat (g) 13.1 Saturated Fat (g) 4.6 Cholesterol (mg) 25.4 Carbohydrates (g) 31.2 Dietary Fiber (g) 1.3 Total Sugars (g) 23.3 Net Carbs (g) 29.9 Protein (g) 4.6 Sodium (mg) 129.2

Thumbnail Photo by Romulo Yanes for bon appétit

My Thoughts After Baking:

  1. Do yourself a favor and ignore the nutritional content. Let’s just agree that this isn’t something you should eat if you’re seriously dieting. However, if you’re anything like me, you look up what one of these sin filled cookies is in WW points simply because it’s actually there to look at and you like to torture yourself. Leave it at this…I still do WW simply to hold myself accountable to my eating habits, even though I’ve lost 20 lbs. These bars might (and it’s cousins like brownies, cakes, etc)…just may be…one of the reasons I can’t shed those last few pounds I’d like to shed.
    1. Let me please remind you here, life is about balance, and in some cases indulgence. Enjoy a piece of cake. Enjoy one of these bars. Just don’t hoark down the whole batch. Forget the calorie intake…you’ll regret it for sooooo many other reasons.
  2. Now, I’ve copied and pasted the recipe, as well as given you the direct link, and I’d like you to find the two spelling errors in the caramel recipe. No one is impervious to mistakes. As well, there is a curious omission in the size of the pan needed for the blondie. My guess is one of two things happened:
    1. The author of said recipe is like our macaron teacher Marthe, who writes from memory and omits things… OR, my more likely guess here:
    2. Said author was in a sugar coma after eating too many of these bad boys and was slobbering like a thirsty dog on a hot day.
    3. Who am I to judge either way. These bars are fucking amaze-balls.
  3. About the omission of the pan size: I used a 12×18″ jelly roll pan, sprayed it like my life depended upon it with cooking spray – I’m wicked smhart (New Englanders understand me) like that knowing shortbread can stick – then lined it with 2 pieces of parchment paper (forming a cross on the pan). Why? You want to be able to pick up the parchment from the pan with no difficulties. Clip the parchment to the pan so it doesn’t shimmy and shake around your pan whilest you try to pour in and spread the thick shortbread batter.IMG_0965
    1. Kitchen clips are your friend to keep chip bags closed and chips fresh, and parchment paper from making you look like a candidate for a straight jacket when you’re trying to spread thick batter.
    2. If you use a 12×18″ pan, lower the cooking time of the shortbread about 5-6 minutes. Mine cooked 20 minutes and became pretty crispy upon cooling.
      1.  Shockingly, I didn’t have enough light brown sugar and had to mix with a healthy dose of dark brown sugar, which likely added to the overall crispiness. No harm no foul… just be careful with baking times when you do things like this. I always remember this fact, well, after the fact.
      2. The dark brown sugar just added to the brown butter nutty richness of the butterscotch blondie part…like you feel like you’re cheating on something or someone when you eat it.
      3. You are cheating. That something or someone is called your diet.
      4. Fuck it. Go ahead and cheat. I can’t judge people about food choices like this.
    3. I oscillated between not liking it and liking it crispy, and my husband said it was really yummy, so it must be a winner with a super crispy bottom. If you want a super crispy crust, cook a full 20 minutes in a 12×18″ pan. I still think a softer crust would work better. I think this was meant to be made in a 9×13″ pan. In that case, cook the 20-25 minutes.
    4. In the 12×18″ pan, the topping spread almost to the edge and was still pretty thick. I simply cut off the hard edges and everything was perfecto. If I dropped to a 9×13″ pan, the topping would be even thicker… it’s your call.
    5. You be the boss in your kitchen.
  4. I used pecans in this recipe. We have a peanut allergy in our house, so I tend not to have them, and pecans are my favorite nut. I honestly think you could use any nut you like. Be nutty like that and mix things up.
    1. I learned from my breaking pretzels too small when I made the OMG Monster Cookies; I made sure to only roughly chop the pecans…like maybe in 1/2 or 1/3. Hunky chunky pecan… me likey. I also snapped the butter pretzel squares I had only in 1/2.IMG_0234
  5. So, that caramel…Holy crapoly. Just… drool. I could make all sorts of inappropriate comments, but I’ll leave it to this: I was searching for things to scrape the pan with once I’d poured out the caramel topping.
    1. If you’ve never made caramel, it can seem daunting, but just have everything you need right in arm’s reach, and be patient. DO NOT STIR the sugar syrup once it’s boiling. I wouldn’t even swirl the pan. You get over zealous, and you will be in the ER with major skin burns.
    2. DO regularly brush down the sides of the pan above the angry boiling concoction with a wet pastry brush.
    3. It’s funny what we’re willing to risk for a good sugar fix. Yeah, just stick your hands right above shit that can boil your skin off. If your skin is still in tact, and you’re real fuckin’ lucky, you will get good caramel. Not lucky, you’ve got one hell of a messy pot that is tough as baked-on cow shit to clean. Sorry…truth.
    4. So I got lucky and my caramel turned out sublime. However, I want you to see the sugar in the pan. Note: I’m using a 5 qt dutch oven here. Use a big pan…less mess when popping sugar pops. Besides, you have to add the nuts and pretzels at the end. See how the middle is starting to turn a deep amber color? I stood above this pot and watched my timer like a hawk. A little over a minute later, that amber color had spread out closer to the edges, but the whole mixture wasn’t completely amber colored, but the center was getting pretty dark…this was my cue to add the honey and move on with the process.
      1. When the recipe says “mixture will bubble vigorously” when you add  heavy cream –  it will with the honey and butter, too – be prepared for a moment similar to the movies you watched on Halloween as a kid. It sometimes can be a bullshit lie when they say vigorous – I’ve had stuff almost explode over the side of a large pot. Sometimes it’s simply vigorous, but be prepared either way. You know the moment where the witch says, “Boil, boil, toil and trouble” and adds the bat wings or eye of newt? And BLAMOOO! The mixture goes nuts? That moment will be yours with your caramel.
      2. Congratulations, you are now a caramel making witch. 

Here’s my pile of oooeeeyyy-goooooey crispy bottomed caramel pretzel pecan bars.

Say that 5 times real fast.

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