Sunday, December 11, 2011

Caramel Almond Pretzel Bars: Borrowing and Mixing Things Up

For SH - and for more than the reasons listed below.

For the longest time, my closest friends have been those who have not been close by.  Most of them live at least 20 minutes away from me, if not further, and although communicating with them with text, telephone, or instant messaging keeps them close by in spirit, it certainly doesn't mean that I can go to their house and borrow a cup of sugar.  

But in the past few months, someone who lives very close to me has not only become a close friend because we spend so much time together, but has also become a close friend because of proximity.  She lives 1 minute away from me.  It is faster for me to go to her house to borrow something (like a cup of sugar or a can of beans) than it is to go to my local supermarket which is also quite close.  It is convenient to ask her if I can use something, and I'm happy to lend her anything that she might need.  It has been awesome on many levels, companionship, friendship, foodship, and borrowship.

Over this past weekend we each had a party, mine on Saturday (for Son's 4th birthday) and hers on Sunday (for her annual cookie exchange.)  We spent some time discussing how we would pool our resources to make for a more economical hosting of the event.  I borrowed from her this awesome 100 cup coffee pot (I only used it to have hot water handy) and she borrowed from me my glass water dispenser.  I gave her the decoration after Son's birthday party, and let her take home a vase of beautifully colored winter berries.  I borrowed sugar for one of my dishes and she tried to borrow from me a boom box. I would have given her one, only I didn't have one to lend out.  It's been really fun finding ways to find double use for the things in our house, and I'm happy to say that sharing and lending and exchanging with her is only a 1 minute car ride away.  

This recipe is a mix of a couple with my own adaptations mixed in.  I saw something of the sort in Bon Appetit,  and it gave me an idea of how I could take a couple of my favorite recipes and meld them together into something.  I borrowed crust of this one and added to it a modified caramel from this one.  I mixed in the pretzels, and voila - out came this delicious, totally amazing concoction that I was happy to take to friend SH's cookie exchange.  The combo of chewy, salty, crumbly and nutty is incredibly addicting.  Make no mistake, this is something that you DO want to make.  The pastry crust comes together simply and the only thing that is slightly finicky is making the caramel.

NOTE:  You DO need a candy thermometer, but it's not hard to use nor does it take up much room. I have busted through a few cheapies, and have decided that I am going to treat myself to a professional one.  There are plenty of cheap versions that cost less than $10, but this is my next purchase. 

Caramel Almond Pretzel Bars
Makes 32 bars (large ones, or 64 smaller ones)

Sweet Pastry Crust (from Tish Boyle’s Book The Good Cookie)
Ingredients
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method
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. Beat 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 evenly 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.

Topping
Ingredients
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups light brown sugar
½ cup honey
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound almonds (around 4 cups)
1 ½ cups pretzel twists, lightly crushed

In a large saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, honey and salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until foamy and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add cream and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer inserted in the caramel registers 240°F (soft ball stage), about 10 minutes longer. Add the almonds and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add pretzels, quickly incorporating it into the caramel. Pour the filling over the crust, spreading it evenly. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the topping is bubbling. Let cool completely. Remove onto a cutting board. Cut into bars and serve.

Printable recipe

The coffee maker I borrowed from SH - and I have to say, it may be enough to keep me in the neighborhood, because this thing was AWESOME.

6 comments:

S said...

Stop I'm tearing up!

Kelli said...

These look yummy! I've got a similar recipe I kind of made up modeled after the salted caramel bars from Starbucks!
(Also, your ingredients are in the wrong place (you have filling under the crust and crust under the fillings) Surely people will figure it out, but I was initially confused how a cup of heavy cream would make a crust!)

Jeannie said...

I am totally going to make this, looks so good!

You are very lucky to have a nearby friend! :)

Joy said...

The bars look great.

Ambika said...

Yum!! I can eat all of these in one go!!

MyFudo™ said...

I love caramel, and pretzels and almonds...This is gonna be one of my favorite treats!

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