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.
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