Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Salted Nut Bars

Best. Cookie. Ever.

No seriously, I'm not the biggest fan of sweets, but this bar cookie rocks. It's an old family recipe that was obviously way ahead of its time because now treats like salted caramel and sea salt desserts are all the rage.

When we used to go up to a cabin in Big Bear Lake, CA to snowboard, my mother would bring these cookies to serve for dessert after her infamous turkey soup. These freeze amazingly, and you can just zap them for a couple seconds to thaw them, or even just wait for your coffee to cool down a bit and they will be edible by then. I just gnaw on them frozen.

Shown here with my Peppermint Sugar Cookies
I love bar cookies because I really hate using a rolling pin. If you look, I haven't included a single recipe that uses one in all my years of blogging. I just don't have the counter space here in my little shit hole of an apartment, and it's a bother. Plus bar cookies are less time consuming to make large batches without having to form cookies. And you never have to worry that you overcrowded the cookies and your cookies will turn out funny shaped as they spread.

Bar cookies are for smart but lazy people, basically.

This cookie was introduced into Mochi family lore by my step-grandmother on my father's side. She's quite the accomplished baker, and she has an amazing kitchen that she utilizes to make batches and batches of cookies in a frenzied weekend dubbed "Christmas Cookie Baking." I forget how many varieties she makes in one weekend with friends and family, but it's insane. This is one of the recipes that has been part of that weekend for as long as I can remember, and I've seen lots of versions but I have no clue where she picked it up from as it is decades old at this point.

As a bonus, you will see some bars covered in chocolate. My mother christened this version "Heretic Bars" when she first poured bittersweet chocolate over Salted Nut Bars as my step-grandmother would not approve of her tinkering with tradition. If you don't mind breaking the rules and living dangerously once in a while, it's a variation worth trying. Just microwave some and pour over the bars after they have cooled.

Salted Nut Bars 
makes about 48 bars
crumbly base

Base:
3 cups All Purpose Flour (lightly spoon flour into cup and then level off) * or substitute 3 cups of Cup4Cup for gluten-free!
1.5 cups light brown sugar, packed firmly
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine, softened

2 cups mixed nuts

Topping:
Notice the half-baked base
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon water
1 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, and salt. Cut in the margarine until combined, the mixture will be very sandy. Press into a parchment paper-lined 15x10 inch jelly roll pan.

Making the topping
When I made this, I only had 12x9 inch pans and therefore split the mixture into two batches. It worked fine. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until very light golden brown.

Next sprinkle the nuts over this partially baked base. Try not to eat all the Brazil nuts out of the mix while you wait for the base to be done. If you're like me, fail at this miserably.

For the topping: combine corn syrup, margarine, water, and butterscotch chips in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium. Boil gently for two minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over the nut-covered base and return to oven for another 10-12 minutes until the base is golden brown and the nuts have toasted in the oven a little.
Right before baking a final time

Cool completely, remove from jelly roll pan, and cut into squares.

*We actually made this batch gluten-free by using my trusty Cup4Cup flour that I've written about with my Gluten-Free Cranberry Bliss Bars. Can't tell the difference, and this is a recipe I've been eating my entire life! Just make sure that there isn't any gluten hiding in the butterscotch chips.

See Also:
Matcha Shortbread Cookies
Cowboy Cookies
Coconut Icebox Cookies

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