Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cookie Swap: Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

I am really excited about my post for today.  Rachel, the sweetie behind The Avid Appetite emailed me a while back and invited me to participate in a virtual cookie swap.   A group of bloggers would all make a batch of cookies and then share our recipes all in one list.  What a great way to get some fun new recipes for cookies, just in time for the holidays!  I was more than happy to participate.
The December issue of bon appetit is full of some fantastic holiday cookies that I have been dying to try.  I decided to bake up a batch for the cookie swap.  Some of the recipes I have marked: Butterfinger Truffles, Almond Oat-Lace cookies, and these Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel. 
Sort of a complicated name for a bar cookie!  Thankfully the recipe was not nearly as complicated.  However, I have to be honest and say I scorched my caramel! I turned my back for mere seconds and when I checked again....deep brown!  I tried to save it, but by then it was a lost cause!  When I mixed the final product with the salty pretzels and peanuts, it still worked okay.  I need to make these again and be more careful with my caramel!  If you're looking for the perfect combo of salty and sweet, this is the bar for you!

Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel
from bon appetit
Blondie Base
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks butter
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking pan with parchment paper leaving a 1" overhang (the recipe called for a 13x9x2 metal pan, I used a 10x9x2 jelly roll) Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until browned bits form at the bottom of the pan, about 7 minutes.  Pour into the bowl of your stand mixer, or a medium bowl and use your hand mixer, and blend with brown sugar, just till combined.   Add eggs and vanilla, beat until fluffy.  Add your dry ingredients and beat until smooth and batter is thick.  Spread batter in pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center only has a few moist crumbs attached.  Let cool completely.
Peanut-Pretzel Caramel
4 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups thin pretzels, coarsely chopped
Oven is still at 350
Spread peanuts over a lined baking sheet.  Bake, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 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, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is a deep amber, 12-15 minutes. Watch carefully!  Add honey; return to a boil, stirring often, about 1 minute longer.  Add butter; stir until blended.  Add cream (mixture will start to bubble) whisk until smooth.  Stir in peanuts and pretzels. Pour over cooled blondie.  Chill and cool, cut into bars. Bars should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  
A few notes: the instructions may seem lengthy, but these really were pretty easy to make.  While the blondies bake, you can clean up the dishes you used to make them, then get your caramel going once you take them out of the oven.  Have all your ingredients for your caramel measured and ready to go.  I would like to try adding a little chocolate next time.  Maybe a chocolate drizzle or a few chocolate chips???  You could probably use premade caramel, but what fun is that?!?
Thanks Rachel for inviting me to be a part of this cookie swap! I can't wait to check out all the other recipes that people made.  I hope you all do too! Go ahead, bake a few dozen for me!