Thursday, December 15, 2011

Caramel Crumb Bars

If there were one household chore that I could elect out of, it would be to never again have to put away my clothes or laundry.  It's the one thing I put off until it drives me crazy, and then I still wait another day or two to put them away.  And by that time, it's time to do laundry again.  And the cycle continues.  I keep waiting for the laundry fairy to come and do it for me, but I think she's lost my address.

I shouldn't complain - it's not like I have kids to pick up after, and Jamie puts his own stuff away - but I seem to accumulate more clothes throughout the week needing to be put away than you would think was possible.  But when I feel like complaining, I try to remember what I should be thankful for.  That I not only have nice clothes to wear, but that I have a washer and dryer that always works.  In my apartment in China, I had a tiny little washing machine that only held a pair of jeans and a couple tops at a time.  The machine sat in my shower, since it had to drain down the shower drain, too.  But at least it gave me a place to rest my feet while shaving my legs!  There was no dryer, so I hung my clothes to dry on clothesline that was strung across the kitchen.  If you've ever had to do that, then you know just how stiff and uncomfortable jeans and towels are after line-drying.

Jamie's too nice to say anything about my lack of motivation to hang up my clothes, but I wonder if it drives him crazy, too?  So because he's so sweet, I made him sweet things...  like these Caramel Crumb Bars.  When I mention recipes I want to try, he asks, "Does it have caramel in it?"  He LOVES caramel, and when I saw this recipe, I knew I wanted to make it for him.

Although I enjoy creating my own recipes, I've seen this recipe used so many times that I thought it must be worth trying.  It was really easy to make, although the caramel did end up more firm than what I was expecting, so the only thing I would change would be to reduce the cooking time for the caramel so that it stays a little softer and gooeyier after the bars bake.  Also, a scoop of ice cream was really good with these, although the cold ice cream did make the bars a little hard, so I'd keep them separate.

I made these the morning we visited some friends and their new baby, so after we sampled one, we packed up the rest to take to them, and if babies could eat caramel, I bet she would have liked them, too!

Now I have to go, because, well...  I probably have clothes that need to be put away...

Caramel Crumb Bars
printable recipe
from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri

Crust and Crumb Topping:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Caramel Filling
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil or parchment (leaving an overhang so you can lift the bars out) and spray foil with non-stick spray.

To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed until soft and light, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, add 2 1/4 cups of the flour, beating just until the dough is smooth and the flour has been absorbed, and stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl and the paddle as necessary.

Transfer 3/4 of the dough into the prepared baking pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan to form the bottom layer. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator while you make the filling and top layer.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour to the remaining dough in the mixer bowl and work it in with your fingertips until 1/8 - 1/4-inch crumbs form. Set aside.

To make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar and condensed milk. Bring to a simmer to melt the butter, whisking occasionally. When the mixture begins to boil, whisk constantly until it begins to thicken and darkens in color slightly, about 10 minutes (Cook for only 5 minutes for a softer filling). Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator and pour the filling over the bottom crust. Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.  Sprinkle the crumb topping over the filling.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling is gently bubbling and a dark caramel color. Cool the bars in the pan on a wire rack until lukewarm, about 15-20 minutes. Use the foil to lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Once completely cool, cut into 2-inch squares.