fat free opinions on a food centric life

Caramel Crumb Bars

 

While many others in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying the first snow of the season, I’m admiring from afar, surprised by our own low temperatures which have hovered near 40 on a few nights. It’s been enough to coerce me to turn on the heater and take the chill off the house, but not more than that, because it’s nice to have some sense of a change of seasons.

Our family has never decorated our home for Christmas until a week or so before the holiday, so the days immediately following Thanksgiving have always presented a time to consider the simplicity of the season. We won’t venture down to our favorite tree lot until a week or so before Christmas, and decorations will remain in their boxes until then. I’ve wondered whether to wait even longer this year since our youngest isn’t expected home for the semester break until the 19th.

Decisions, decisions.

In the meantime, I’m happy to have been invited again to participate in a holiday cookie fest of with a group of the loveliest people. Two years ago, we took on Gourmet and  Christmas cookies from 40 years of publication. Last year, it was Bon Appetit, and 12 cookie recipes in 12 days. This year, we’re choosing from Saveur’s collection of Christmas Cookies, and presenting one a week.

Each year, I’ve had some excuse for my lack of follow through on the task, whether it was an overwhelming home remodel, an adjustment to working life after three years of retirement, or in the case of this year, knee surgery with lots of physical therapy to follow.   We’ll see how it goes.

This year, our group is comprised of Courtney of Coco Cooks,  Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes, Claire of The Barefoot Kitchen, Di of Di’s Kitchen Notebook, Judy of No Fear Entertaining, Michelle of Big Black Dogs, RJ of Flamingo Musings, Sandy of At the Baker’s Bench, and Tiffany of The Nesting Project.

Ready?

Caramel Crumb Bars

To see the recipe, please visit Saveur here.

You’ll need lots of softened butter for this recipe, so a plan to give them away after you’ve sampled them is definitely a good one.

The dough comes together quickly and is soft, reminding me a bit of pie dough.

It’s pressed into a small, rimmed baking sheet layered with parchment, greased, and floured. I always wonder if all of that is truly necessary when there’s so much butter in a recipe.

Sweetened, condensed milk is mixed with sugar, more butter, vanilla, and just a touch of corn syrup.

Take a minute or two, maybe three or four to watch the thick stream of milk drizzle over the cube of butter, pouring with one hand, and shooting with the other. Then, get back to business wondering just how this particular caramel recipe will come together since it’s so different from any you’ve made.

Spread the caramel onto the chilled dough, and because you can’t keep to a recipe the way it’s meant to be made even if your life depended on it, sprinkle a couple of hand fulls of raw pecan pieces over the caramel.

Then sprinkle a bit of the remaining dough crumbs over the top, while noticing the size of them and confirming that the idea of chilling to ease crumbling and produce smaller pieces would have been a great thing to do. Next time?

Into the oven it goes where the caramel browns quite a bit, and the crumbs not so much, taking longer than expected. The aroma is lovely, however.

Let them cool a bit, then wonder that if the caramel hardens, it may become difficult to section the bars and give in to getting that task done. Only one or two crumbly casualties quickly become samples forcing a cold cup of tea to spend time in the microwave to wash it all down. The crust is a bit like shortbread, then nuts add a pleasant crunch, and the caramel is chewy.   A pleasant mouthful, I think.

Decide whether to coerce your significant other to take them to work, or wonder just how well they’d hold up in the mail and send them to one of your sons. They’re not that sturdy, so the mail option isn’t a good one for this batch. They shouldn’t last long on the cookie platter, though.

Don’t forget to stop by my baking buddies to see what they’ve got coming from their ovens this holiday season!

Notes:

  • The caramel is interesting.  It bubbles as caramel does, but not in the huge way it does when the sugar melts first, then the milk is added.  It thickens as you stir and becomes a bit floury looking or even dry.  The color doesn’t really change all that much, but the consistency is what makes it interesting.  I wanted to take it off the heat at the 5-6 minute mark instead of the 8-10 stated in the recipe.
  • The directions state that these cookies need to bake for 25-30 minutes.  After checking at each of those points, I left mine in for 35 mostly to brown the crumb on the top.  I’m thinking that if the crumb had been smaller, 30 would have been fine.
  • The crust is fairly crumbly, and although it holds up to cutting, expect some breakage.
  • I’m glad I added the pecans and was wondering about some mini-chocolate chips.  Perhaps I have Snickers on the brain.