Caramel Nut Bars
In our 'Preparing for Multiples' class, Brian and I learned that one of the signs that a person is going into labor is 'nesting', e.g., obsessively cleaning the house, sanitizing, organizing. Brian joked that I must have been in labor for the past 6 years. Very funny.
It's true, I'm kind of a neat freak. I have an entire collection of toothbrushes expressly set aside for specific cleaning projects. I clean up non-existent dust bunnies under my bed every day. You could eat a sloppy joe off my toilet seat and I like it that way. Although it pains me, I do understand that this is going to change once the twins arrive. I've heard that the only way for a person like me to successfully balance two newborns and a neat, well-organized home is to find some sort of a 12-step program to deal with the fact that the house is going to be a mess. Period.
Well, as difficult as it is to acknowledge this, I have thoroughly been enjoying these past few months. A kind of 'calm before the storm'. Brian and I have both been nesting like crazy. Tying up loose ends, organizing, cleaning, painting, working in the yard. And yes, I know how backward it is to think of those types of activities as 'calming'. But I do.
I've also been doing quite a bit of baking. I imagine it'll be somewhat difficult to fill my pastry bags with one infant under each arm, so I'm soaking it up while I still can. I'm sure you saw the picture at the top of this post, so I doubt you need any convincing; you want to make these Caramel Nut Bars. They're just so stinking delicious, they taste like you don't deserve them.
The recipe comes from the Sweet Pea Baking Co. in Portland. The original recipe and accompanying video instruction can be accessed here. I adhered to their recipe pretty strictly, except I recommend dismissing their instruction to stir the caramel only occasionally. You should stir it constantly to prevent it from burning. I learned the hard way.
Caramel Nut Bars
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup chilled non-dairy butter, I like Earth Balance
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp non-dairy butter
2 tbsp soy milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp flour
2 cups salted mixed nuts, whole or halved - not chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9X13'' baking pan with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and brown sugar for the crust. Add the butter in one-inch chunks and cut in with a pastry cutter until coarse crumbs form. It will be very dry and sandy. Pour it all into the baking pan and spread it out evenly pressing down firmly with your hands. Bake for 15-22 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Set aside to cool.
While crust is baking, start the caramel sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and 1/2 cup flour. In a small sauce pan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. As soon as it starts to boil, whisk in the sugar/flour mixture. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly boil for about 5 minutes stirring constantly to ensure the sugar does not burn. The liquid should thicken a bit. Remove from heat and whisk in salt, butter, soy milk, vanilla and the tbsp of flour.
Pour caramel sauce over prepared crust and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the top and put back in the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove and let cool before cutting.