Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Caramel Bars

I wanted to love these. I really did. They look great, don't they? But they just didn't taste as amazing as they look. And it's all my fault.
See, I found this recipe over at Piece of Cake, and it looked amazing. Actually, everything over there looked amazing, but I chose this one to try. But I changed it up. Though I used her crust recipe, I found a different recipe online for the caramel filling. Why, you may ask?
Well, basically, I wanted to make this recipe non-dairy, and her recipe called for sweetened, condensed milk, an ingredient that is basically impossible to substitute for. So instead I found one that called for butter - for which I used margarine, and heavy cream - for which I used non-dairy whip topping (Rich's is great).

We'll get back to the cookie later, but now that we're discussing caramel...oy.

My first trial at making it did not go particularly well. See, though the instructions clearly stated not to stir once it began boiling, I, clearly having a far superior intellect, could not prevent myself from stirring, and the whole thing quickly seized up in to a big, white mess. Finished product = disaster.
By try two, I reluctantly admitted that I may be human after all, and have to follow the instructions of mere mortals. Guess what? It worked perfectly. Thick, beautiful, delicious caramel was mine.
So after patting the crust into a pan, I got to pour it on top.
And pour.
It was at this point that I realized I hadn't paid enough attention to the recipe. The crust recipe called for 2 1/2 cups of flour, so when it came time to add the flour to the other ingredients, that's what I added. Only afterwards, did I realize that I was only supposed to add 2 1/4 cups, and save 1/4 to add to the reserved crumb topping.

Oops. I forged on anyhow.
Now here's where things get interesting once more.
When I pulled the baked bars out of the oven, I was a little nervous because the caramel seemed very soft and runny. And perhaps a little too plentiful as well. Even when it cooled to room temperature, it still didn't look like it would hold together when I cut it up. So I stuck it in the fridge.
When refrigerated, they totally held their shape, but biting in to them, I wasn't...thrilled. They weren't bad, but they were just a little too...much. There was too much caramel, I didn't love how it tasted cold, and the crust was a little too oily and heavy.

Basically, it was all my fault. I think that the amounts of filling didn't stand with my switching out recipes, and the filling itself was a little runnier than the original would have been.

I strongly recommend that you try the original recipe out - and let me know how it is!
Tip of the Day: Always use a non-stick saucepan when making sauces, syrups and toppings. And if your non-stick pan is scratched and worn, realize that it's likely lost much of it's "non-stickness."

Recipe: (adapted from Piece of Cake and Recipezaar)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour (spooned and leveled), divided

1 cup sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream, heated
2 tbsp unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp vanilla

Beat the butter, sugar and salt together. Add in the vanilla.
Gradually mix in to low and gradually mix in 2 1/4 cups of flour.
Press 3/4 of the dough in to the bottom of a greased 9x13" pan.
Chill the pan in the fridge while you prepare the topping.

In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup and water.
While stirring constantly, heat about 5 minutes until it begins to bubble.
Stop stirring, and allow to boil undisturbed until it turns a deep amber color.
Remove from the heat and slowly pour in the heated cream.
Stir until smooth, making sure to mix well.
Stir in the butter, mixing well.
Allow to cool for three minutes, then stir in the vanilla.

Pour most of the caramel topping over the chilled pan.
Top with the remaining 1/4 of the crust, mixed with 1/4 cup of flour and crumbled.

Bake on 350F for about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes.


  1. I would have eaten this. You should have called.

  2. A for effort! I always am tempted to tinker with recipes, especially ones that have so much butter and crazy things like corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk...I'm looking over my shoulder for the Food Police the whole time! But this is definitely one of those "all or nothing" recipes. Thanks for reading my blog. :)