Wednesday, December 14, 2011

butterscotch blondie bars with peanut-pretzel caramel

It's been a while, so lets recap what's happened since the last time we spoke: I've attended an office holiday party, a pizza and prosecco party, and an ugly sweater party (I took home the first place trophy. Bedazzled poinsettias were involved.)

I drank pomegranate margaritas topped with sea salt foam at a girls' night out, and ate sheet cake topped with Sesame Street characters at a two year old's birthday party.  I spent a weekend in Washington DC. I came down with bronchitis. I praised the advent of antibiotics. I watched every single episode of The New Girl. I downloaded Christmas music.

And I made butterscotch blondie bars with peanut-pretzel caramel. Lets focus on that last one, shall we? The peanut-pretzel caramel is obviously the star here--it's sweet, salty and every bit as delicious as it sounds.  But that doesn't mean that the blondie itself is a mere afterthought.  Rather, the browned butter and sea salt infused batter is so rich and nutty that I actually exclaimed "wow" upon tasting it. Outloud. To myself. In my kitchen. 

The best part? You can make them up to a week ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator. Now if you'll excuse me I need to go add "ate another blondie straight from the pan" to the list of things I've done since my last post. 

Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel
Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2011

For the Blondies
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 light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Caramel
4 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
2 cups granulated 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 pretzel twists, roughly crushed

To Make Blondies
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving about a 1 inch overhang (once the blondies are baked, you will use the parchment to lift them from the pan). Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Heat the butter over medium heat until it's golden, fragrant, and brown bits have formed, about 7 minutes. (Watch the butter carefully to make sure it does not burn.) Transfer the browned butter to the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat the butter and brown sugar together for 2-3 minutes (it should look like wet sand). Add the eggs and vanilla and mix to combine. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until the blondies are golden, the edges pull away from the sides of the pan, and a tester inserted into the center pulls out only a few moist crumbs. This should take about 20-25 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack and allow the blondies to cool completely.

To Make Caramel
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toast the peanuts, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, about 6 minutes. Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil the sugar without stirring, swirling the pan and brushing down the sides with a wet pastry brush as necessary to ensure even cooking, until the caramel is a deep amber color, about 12-15 minutes. Add the honey and return the caramel to a boil, stirring frequently, for about a minute. Add the butter and stir until it's melted. Add the cream (carefully, as the mixture will bubble up). Stir in the peanuts and pretzels, and pour the caramel over the cooled blondies. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and use the parchment paper to lift the blondies out. Cut into bars. Bars can be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before serving. 


lynn said...

these look amazing....

Kate (Embarrassment of Riches) said...

Gah. These have EVERY I love all in one dense little package. I will definitely make them the next time I have a pitch-in to attend!