Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Caramel Almond Bars: On being grateful

Recently, there was a period of about two weeks where I really wallowed in the dumps.  I refused to see any sunlight in the sky (and it was beautifully sunny here in the Bay Area) and instead moped around feeling sorry for myself.  As I woke up every single day, I started with the thought that life is unfair.  My circumstances were unfair, my life was unfair, the kids were unfair to me, and all in all I was a total downer.  No one wanted to be around me and for sure my food did not taste as good, as I firmly believe that food really reflects the heart of the cook.  If I'm down and wallowing and moping around, the food loses something.

After spending a good while there, friend GK reminded me that although life is not fair (and is one of the hardest lessons to swallow), that God always provides for my needs.  And it really made me think for a moment.  I have been blessed to abundance in terms of my needs.  God has overflowed and filled me up and made me full.  I have an amazing family (extended and otherwise), wonderful friends, and I'm not starving nor am I homeless.  My needs for sure have been abundantly provided.

Suddenly the sun shone through the clouds and I could smile.  The sky was blue and gorgeous, my children funny and loving and my life blessed.  Just changing what I decided to look at, to truly count my blessings and not my trials, changed my spirit and my mood.  And I found the desire to start experiment and cook again.

These Caramel Almond Bars have been calling my name for a while, but I could not get the desire to make them as I was too down and out.  But once my outlook changed, these were the first things I wanted to make.  And make them I did.  And what I love about them?  EASY.  I have another caramel pecan bar which are super delicious but the crust and the making of it is a bit more finicky than this recipe.  What is wonderful about this recipe is that there is no crust to roll out, nor is there any complicated thermometer readings on making the caramel.  It comes out nutty, filled with caramel, and incredibly addictive.

Caramel Almond Bars
adapted from Tish Boyle's book, The Good Cookie

Sweet Pastry Crust
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350. Line a 9X13 baking pan with parchment paper or grease bottom and sides very well.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment (or a bowl that you use your hand mixer with), beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Breat in the vanilla extract. AT low speed, add the flour mixture and mix just until the mixture is crumbly, 10 to 15 seconds.

Pat the dough even ly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick the dough well with a fork. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Allow to cool slightly as you prepare topping.

Caramel Almond Topping
1/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
3 tablespoons honey
2 cups sliced almonds

In a medium sized heavy saucepan, combine the water and sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly and occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until teh sugar is dissolve.d Increase the heat ot high and cook, without stuirring until the caramel turns a dark amber color. (Please do not leave your pan. Observe it carefully because it suddenly turns the darker color without any warning.) Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in heavy cream. (Be careful - it will bubble up.) Ad the butter and honey and stir until the butter is melted. Stir in the almonds and toss until they are completely coated.

Pour the hot caramel mixture over the baked pastry base and using a metal off set spatula, spread it into an even layer, making ure that the nuts are evenly distributed. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the almonds are lightly toasted the caramel is bubbling. Cool the bars in the pan on a wire rack for at least an hour.

After they have cooled, remove from pan and cut into 30 bars.

Printable recipe


Roxan said...

I'm sorry to hear that you have been in a bad mood, but so so glad that your friend was able to turn that mood around. Good friends like that should be treasured for life! :) These bars look delicious, and would put an extra hop in my step.

Anonymous said...

Sorry you've been unhappy. I totally empathize, and I'm glad you're better.

I'm so excited to try these bars -- I have all the ingredients in my pantry already! I haven't visited your site in awhile (it's been a hectic few weeks) and all the recent recipes sounds wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing!

Joy said...

That looks so good.

Me, the hubby, plus 3 said...

Glad your seeing the glass half full! I've been feeling depressed lately as well but know that things could be worse. Happy to know that your friends are there to help you see the "light".

I love the simplicity of this recipe. I haven't tried making your other caramel bars because (as you mentioned) of the crust. But this one seems easy! Gonna have to try it soon! I'm really craving something sweet right now but I think sleep (and my heavy eyelids) will win over my craving.

Thank you for all you share!

Alicia said...

These bars look so amazing.. I have never seen anything quite like them. I love almonds and caramel! I'll be sure to make these soon!


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