These chewy salted caramel bars will drive everyone nuts, especially with the salted roasted cashews on sprinkled on top! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
There are certain baked goods that I MUST make for my dessert party. They tend to be the favorites that people complain about if I don’t make them. These include my lemon shaker tart, my Mediterranean citrus olive oil cake and my chocolate crackle cookies. But if I didn’t make my salted caramel bars, I think my friends would revolt. They’re insanely popular and, in truth, super easy to make. This year I decided to add salted and roasted cashews to the top of them and lets just say people were going back for seconds and thirds, which in a buffet of 23 different desserts is saying something.
I’ve written about these caramel bars before, when I made them with a bit of a tropical twist, but honestly these bars deserve another post because they are That. Good. The rich chewy caramel over the crisp crumbly shortbread makes them a true crowd-pleaser with the roasted and salted cashews just add a nice little bonus touch.
Now I realize that a lot of people think salted caramel is played out, but to those people I say pish-posh! Yes, I just used the phrase pish-posh. Apparently I’ve turned into an old British gentleman. But it’s true, I’m over people telling me what is popular, what is not popular and what I should be eating or making. Eat what you want to eat and skip over those things that you don’t. All I can say is that these salted caramel bars are not the sort of thing I (or any of my friends) will skip.
Caramel Bars with Salted Cashews (with gluten free option using Cup4Cup)
By Irvin Lin
These chewy caramel bars drive pretty much everyone crazy when they take their first bite of them. Adding salted roasted cashews on top just brings them over the edge. Be sure to store them in the fridge but bring them room temperature before you serve them, as they are rock hard when they are cold. I highly recommend buying a candy/deep frying thermometer to make these but if you don’t have one, you can use the cold water test and bring the caramel to the firm ball stage. That said, I’ve always found that method temperamental so I can’t guarantee the bars will turn out perfect.
If you are gluten sensitive, I tested this recipe using the Cup4Cup gluten free flour mix and they came out virtually indistinguishable from the ones made with all-purpose flour. Just substitute the same amount of Cup4Cup in the crust for the all-purpose flour.
1 1/2 cups (210 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (70 g) confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
3/4 cup (170 g or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup (115 g) salted roasted cashews
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup bourbon
1 vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
2 1/4 cups (450 g) white granulated sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (200 g or 1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon flakey sea salt (like Maldon)
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and lightly spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Fit a piece of parchment paper inside the pan, with enough paper to hang over the edges of the pan by two inches.
2. Place the ingredients for the crust in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix the ingredients together on medium speed until a smooth dough forms (this might take awhile, and it may seem like the ingredients aren’t coming together but trust me, they do eventually). Pat the dough down in the lined baking pan, evenly distributing the dough all the way to the edges of the pan. Prick the bottom dough all over with a fork and then place a piece of parchment paper over the dough. Pour pie weights, uncooked rice or dry beans over the paper and bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes or until the edges of the dough turn golden brown and the top of the crust looks dry and fully baked.
3. While the crust is baking, coarsely chop the cashews and set aside in a bowl. Start to make the caramel by placing the cream and bourbon in a small pot. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the cream (or add the vanilla extract if not using the vanilla seed). Add the empty vanilla pod into the cream and heat until bubbles start to form on the side of the pot. Turn the heat off and cover, letting the vanilla pod steep in the warm cream.
4. Place the sugar in a large heavy bottomed saucepan with a silver bottom (avoid nonstick, as the dark coating will make it hard to judge the caramel color). Turn the heat to high, stirring occasionally with a heat proof silicon spatula or wooden spoon. As the sugar melts, continue to stir and shake the pan so all the sugar melts evenly. Once the sugar starts to brown, turn the heat off and let the residual heat of the pan continue to caramelize the sugar. You want the caramel to turn a dark golden brown, closer to chestnut but not mahogany black. If the caramel has stopped browning or isn’t dark enough, turn the heat back on to low to give it a nudge. It’s better to go slow and let the residual heat caramelize the sugar, as you can always make the caramel darker, but you can’t go backwards and if you burn the sugar, you have to start all over).
5. Once the sugar has reached the appropriate color, remove the vanilla bean pod from the cream and pour it into the caramel, being careful as the caramel will sputter and steam up (some of the caramel will seize up and harden, that’s ok). Add the butter and then turn the heat back on to medium. Cook the caramel, stirring until all the harden pieces have dissolved. Heat the caramel until it reaches the soft-ball stage of 240-245˚F degrees (about 8-12 minutes). Once the caramel has reached the appropriate temperature, immediately pour the caramel onto the baked crust and then sprinkle the chopped cashews and the flakey sea salt evenly over it. Cool to room temperature and then place in the fridge overnight. Cut into squares and allow to warm up for an hour at room temperature before serving.
Makes 24 bars.
If you like this recipe, check out some of my other caramel recipes:
Apple Pie Bars with Easy Caramel
Easy Caramel Apples
Caramel Apple Popcorn
And check out these other caramel recipes from around the web:
Sprinkle Bakes’ Triple Salted Caramel Cupcakes
Shutterbean’s Bourbon Salted Caramels
David Lebovitz’ Chocolate-Caramel Tartlets
Taste and Tell’s Loaded Caramel Pumpkin Blondie
Our Best Bites’ Buttermilk Caramel Syrup
As soon as I opened up my newsfeed and saw these I had to click over! OMG! I’ve been looking for something sweet and mind blowing to take to a relative’s house…I just found it! Thanks! Hugs and Happy Holidays!
The Suzzzz says
What does played out have to do with anything? Delicious is delicious, regardless of fads or trends.
One thing I’ve never understood is why people put so much emphasis on SALTED caramel. Growing up in a candy making household (my mom and aunt dip several hundred pounds of chocolates every fall) is why all of the sudden people went nuts for “salted” caramel. Their caramel has always been a little heavy on the salt, but any good caramel should be, because when used correctly it is simply a flavor enhancer.
I’ve shared my mom’s caramel recipe with friends and several of them have called to complain that “These don’t taste like your mom’s caramels” and I ask them to walk me through their process and it almost always comes down to them leaving out the salt and the vanilla, or adding the vanilla in too early. When I ask them about the salt, they either say they forgot, or they say “I don’t like salted caramel”…and if it is the later I do a mental forehead slap and try to explain why the salt is necessary.
I do like it when there is a little crunch of rock salt, or you can taste the tang of salted nuts, but most of the time when something says “salted caramel” you can’t even taste the salt. These bars look like they definitely wouldn’t disappoint though.
Anyway, sorry for the novel, these bars look amazing, and don’t listen to the trend setters and the nay sayers…do what you love and never apologize for making something amazing.
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says
These are total stunners! They would totally steal the show at any Christmas treat gathering!
Belinda @zomppa says
Oh wow these are sure to impress anyone!
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama says
I try really hard to not pay attention to trends. There just some foods that are beyond just being trending. Salted caramel is one of those things that is never out of style. If anyone tries to argue otherwise, all I have to say to them… that’s just plain silly. These bars are proof that it’s fabulous! I can’t wait to make them, I added them to my candy/cookie making mania this weekend.
Hey, you’d only be an old British gentleman in you said “pish” all by itself. No posh required. 🙂 I actually will totally use “pish posh”in conversation just because it’s fun! LANGUAGE. Anyway, these sound so good! Cashews and salted caramel are definitely an amazing pair, no matter how played out anything might seem.
So wish I could make these for my get-together tomorrow but I am plumb out of steam. They look so delish. Wish you lived here so I could hire you to cater my parties!
Lovely. I adore caramel, dark caramel Too light and all I get is sweet, but let it go to the dark side, so to speak, and the sugar, having gone through its magnificent transformation by heat, is utterly changed; with new bonds and new compounds, it has morphed into a candy with a depth of flavor that is simply unmatched. These sound wonderful. I will have to give them a try. Being of Abruzzese descent , where Christmas is all about a dark caramel and almond confection known as Croccante di Natale, this is definitely my kind of treat. Buone feste a te!
Jeannine DiBart says
Got this recipe in my inbox this morning and now the cookies are cooling on the counter! They look delicious! I got a little nervous at how long it took the hardened caramel to dissolve after adding the cream and butter, but I was patient and it all smoothed out. I simply can’t wait to try them!
Marnely Rodriguez-Murray says
Seriously, cashews are my favorite nut ever. I need to make these ASAP!
Mariah-Food, Booze, & Baggage says
I made these today and they are amazing! I did substain an injury in the process..caramel IS really hot! 🙂
Yikes! Yes, caramel is NAPALM hot. I usually have a bowl of ice water next to me when I make caramel just in case, but lately I’ve been lazy about doing that. I hope the burn wasn’t too bad!
Mariah-Food, Booze, & Baggage says
Oh no- nothing too bad-just a small blister where a small drop hit..I was just shocked at how hot it was. Obviously, I’m a caramel novice…but your recipe turned out great even for a beginner. Good tip to keep in mind next time! Also, my pot was a bit too small I think and would have been better with a slightly larger one…less risk of splash out. I don’t want to scare anyone away from making these:)