Almond-Pistachio Vanilla Nougat Candy- no recipe

Following a successful and encouraging first experience at making nougat (see Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites), I got cocky and decided to make nougat candy with a limited amount of add ins so that the nougat would really stand out as the main component.  The nougat recipe I chose sounded especially promising because it had a good amount of honey in it, and pistachios and almonds would provide just the right richness and balance to the sweetness.  However, once I started cooking, my attitude changed very quickly.  Never have I ever hated a recipe as much as I hated this one.  I was irritated and stressed by EVERY SINGLE step involved in making the nougat.  At every step of the way, I was sure the final result would be failure.  Somehow I pushed through, with each step getting more difficult and frustrating, and at the end of it all, somehow, miraculously, I had amazingly delicious little squares of Almond-Pistachio Vanilla Nougat Candy.  I don’t know how that happened, but one thing I know for certain is that I will never ever ever never ever never never make this recipe again.  So, you will not find the recipe below, but enjoy the photo.

The bane of my existence, but oh so delicious.
IMG_0103[1]

Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites

(Sung to the tune of the Beatles “Let It Be”)
“When I find myself in times of trouble
Candy bars are there for me
Easing all the stress
De–li–cious–ly”

A series of flight delays and other airport hassles on a Sunday night led me to treat myself to a See’s Candies Nut & Chew Bar from an airport See’s kiosk.  And you know what?  It made my travel experience a little sweeter and inspired me to make nougat from scratch.  Most people barely know what nougat is, and you don’t really need to know much more than that it’s the chewy stuff that holds together a Snickers bar.  My experimentation with nougat was in the form of Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites- a mini twist pretzel covered in a mound of chewy, fluffy nougat with two roasted almonds on top, smothered by dark chocolate.  It turns out the nougat wasn’t as difficult to make as I thought it would be, but it still requires proficient use of a candy thermometer and coordination skills that allow you to slowly and carefully pour boiling hot sugar into a rapidly turning mixing bowl.  So, it’s definitely not a process for the candying making novice.  That said, the results are pretty ridiculously delicious.  Note, the nougat doesn’t take too long to make (under an hour), but it takes quite a bit of time to individually assemble each of the candies.  Plus chilling time is needed, so this recipe can be quite a time intensive project.

The nougat in all its beauty and glory.  You can see the candies to the left before they’ve been covered with chocolate.
IMG_E0039[1]

Hours later, the Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites are ready to eat.
IMG_0048[1]

Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites

Makes approximately 100 pieces
(From Hand-Crafted Candy Bars)

Ingredients

Mini twist pretzels (buy a big bag to make sure you have enough.  The number of pretzels you use will depend on how much nougat you pile on top of each pretzel)

Nougat

3 egg whites
1 cup (200g) sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) corn syrup
1/4 cup (60ml) water
2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whole roasted almonds, approximately 1 pound (16 ounces)

1 pound of melted dark chocolate (I used a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Dark Chocolate bar)

Directions

  1. Line at least two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Put the pretzels on the baking sheets in a single layer.

Nougat

  1. Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, and continue to boil without stirring until the mixture reaches 235°F on a candy thermometer (about 6 minutes).
  4. When the sugar mixture has reached 235°F, begin whipping the egg whites on low speed, just until they are a bit bubbly.
  5. Continue cooking the sugar syrup until it reaches 245°F.  Take it off the heat.
  6. With the mixer on low, pour a splash of the sugar syrup into the egg whites, aiming for the space between the rim of the bowl and the whisk attachment.  Make sure not to add too much sugar syrup at a time because it could cook the egg whites.
  7. Continue whisking, and slowly add the rest of the hot sugar syrup.
  8. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix until the nougat reaches a full, frothy foam (about 4 minutes).
  9. Add the vanilla and salt to the nougat.
  10. Keep whipping at high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3-6 minutes.
  11. Allow the nougat to cool in the bowl, and once it has reached room temperature, you’re ready to assemble the candy.

Assembling the Candy

  1.  Using two spoons or a small cookie scoop, put a mound of nougat on each pretzel.
  2. Lightly press 2-3 whole almonds on top of the nougat.  Repeat with all the pretzels.  Set aside.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl set over a boiling pot of water.
  4. Spoon the melted chocolate over the almond/nougat, and spread lightly over the sides if desired.
  5. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

Note: These can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 2 months.  I prefer to keep them in the fridge.

Brown Sugar Sour Cream Cake with Peach Jam Swirl

While making a big batch of peach jam, I discovered that one of my jars of jam did not process correctly and had to be used within a week.  Instead of eating almond butter and peach jam sandwiches for a week, I opted to bake a Brown Sugar Sour Cream Cake with peach jam swirled through the center of the cake and spread as a glaze on top.  Turns out peach jam is a perfect accompaniment for this light and tender, buttery cake.

IMG_9201[1]

Brown Sugar Sour Cream Cake with Peach Jam Swirl

Makes one bundt cake
(adapted from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

16 tablespoons (1 cup; 8 ounces) butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 8-ounce jar of jam (I used peach jam)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9- or 10-cup Bundt pan.
  3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugars at medium speed for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be light and airy, and will have lightened in color.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute or two between additions. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat briefly to recombine any residue.
  5. Add the baking powder, salt, and baking soda, then gently beat in half the flour.
  6. Gently mix in the sour cream and vanilla,
  7. Add the remaining flour, mixing just until blended.  Don’t over mix to ensure the cake will be tender.
  8. Scoop the half of the batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Evenly dollop approximately 2/3 of the jam on top of the batter (set aside the remaining 1/3 or jam for use after the cake has finished baking).  Use a knife to lightly swirl the jam into the batter.  Then pour the remaining half of the batter on top.  Make sure that the jam is covered by the cake batter, otherwise the jam will burn.
  10. Bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven. Cool it in the pan for 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a rack to finish cooling.
  12. When the cake has cooled for about 15 minutes, spread the remaining jam on top of the cake.  Cool completely before slicing.

Fresh Peach Jam

In my first year of harvesting from my peach tree, I learned a few lessons.  I was so intent of picking my peaches at the absolute prime level of ripeness that in the process of testing the fruit for ripeness and picking them off the tree, the fruit would get bruised or  slightly squished.  At first I didn’t mind and enthusiastically ate the blemished fruit immediately.  But when it started to feel like I was in a competitive peach eating contest, I decided to to switch tactics and instead make peach jam.  One of my favorite things about making homemade jam is that you can take advantage of the flavor from perfectly ripened fruit, control how much sugar to add, and add in spices like cinnamon to make it extra special.

IMG_9191[1].JPG

Fresh Peach Jam

Makes about 5 half-pint jars
(from Canning for a New Generation- Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry)

Ingredients

12 ounces Granny Smith apples (about 2 large)
4 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 6 cups)
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Prepare your jars for canning (by sterilizing them).
  2. Cut the apples into quarters, and cut the cores from them.  Put the cores and seeds in a cheesecloth bag, tie it off, and set aside.
  3. Gently combine the peaches and sugar in a wide, 6 to 8 quart preserving pan.  Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook until the juices just cover the peaches.
  4. Pour the peach mixture into a colander that’s set over a large bowl.   Stir the peaches gently to drain off the juice.
  5. Return the juice to the pan.  Add the apple quarters and cheesecloth bag.  Bring to a boil over high heat.
  6. Boil stirring occasionally, until the syrup is thick and reduced.  This takes about 15 minutes.
  7. Return the peaches (and any accumulated juices) to the pan.  Add the lemon juice and cinnamon, stir gently, and bring to a simmer.
  8. Simmer, stirring frequently until the peaches are very tender.
  9. Remove the jam from the heat, and stir gently to evenly distribute the fruit in the liquid.
  10. Remove the cheesecloth bag and the apples.
  11. Put the jar lids in a medium-sized bowl.  Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids.  Let sit for 5 minutes.
  12. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel.
  13. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top.
  14. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars.  Remove the jar lids from the hot water, and drain the water off the lids.  Put a flat lid and ring on each jar, and adjust the ring so that it’s just finger-tight.
  15. Return the filled jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process.
  16. Remove the jars to a folded towel, and do not disturb for 12 hours.  After 1 hour, check to make sure the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately.  Label the sealed jars and store.

Fresh Peach Cake

One of the most delicious things I’ve eaten so far this year are the juicy, sweet peaches from my tree.  And if that weren’t enough, my peach tree pumped out peaches at such a plentiful rate that I had to find other creative ways to eat peaches.  Enter the Fresh Peach Cake.  This thick, tender, fluffy, vanilla cake is layered and topped with fresh, ripe peaches, and the cinnamon sugar sprinkle adds a sweet crunch to the crust on top.

I was rich is peaches this year.
IMG_9088[1]

Peaches abound on top of the cake, but they’re also layered within the cake too.
IMG_9130[1]

Even people who claimed not to like peaches liked this Peach Cake.
IMG_9133[1]

Fresh Peach Cake

Makes one 9-inch square cake
(from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?)

Ingredients

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 large or extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced (if you don’t fully peel the peaches, the skill will create an unappetizing greyish hue after baking.  Also if the slices are too thick, they’ll sink too far into the cake batter.)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar for 3-5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Add the sour cream and mix well.
  6. Add the vanilla and mix well.
  7. In a separate large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  8. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until combined,
  9. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar and the cinnamon.
  10. Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan.  Use a small offset spatula to spread the batter all the way to the edge of the pan.
  11. Top with half of the peaches, laying in single layer, evenly distributed.
  12. Sprinkle 2/3 of the sugar mixture on top.
  13. Spread the remaining batter on top.
  14. Arrange the remaining peaches on top.
  15. Sprinkle remaining sugar mixture.
  16. Bake the cake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  17. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nectarine Upside-Down Cake

Two years ago, I lived in downtown Los Angeles among the hustle bustle of high-rise buildings and endless construction and traffic.  My valiant efforts at growing herbs on my rooftop patio were constantly thwarted by the sooty layer of city grime that always covered my plants.  So, when we moved to a house in the suburbs with a yard, high on my wish list was a garden of edibles including fruit trees.  Fast forward to the present, and those fruit trees have produced their first crop.  After eating more white nectarines in a month than I’ve previously eaten in a year, I decided to bake with them too.  This Nectarine Upside-Down Cake takes everything good about nectarines and amps it up 100% with a caramelized layer of nectarines resting on top of a tender, vanilla-almond cake.

Even though the tree was small, the fruit was plentiful.
IMG_9094[1]

Tree-ripened, just picked, super sweet and juicy nectarines are a little slice of heaven.IMG_9095[1]

Upside down cakes look so demure and unassuming in the pan…
IMG_9106[1]

But when you flip the pan over, the nectarine party is in full swing.IMG_9107[1]

Nectarine Upside-Down Cake

Makes one 9-inch round cake
(adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

7 1/2 ounces (15 tablespoons) unsalted butter (3 tablespoons melted, 12 tablespoons softened; more for the pan)
3 tablespoons demerara or other raw sugar
4 to 5 nectarines, cut into wedges (you can keep the skin on)
6 3/4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or paste
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven,  and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  3. Pour the 3 tablespoons of melted butter into the pan, and tilt so that the butter covers the bottom.
  4. Sprinkle the demerara sugar evenly over the bottom.
  5. Lay the nectarine wedges over the bottom in snug concentric circles, starting from the edge. Set aside.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  7. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 12 tablespoons of softened butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  8. Beat in the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next.
  9. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
  10. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined; the batter will be very thick.
  11. Use a silicone spatula to spread the batter over the nectarines, being careful not to move them. Smooth the top.
  12. Bake until the cake is dark brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
  13. Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert onto a cake plate. Remove the cake pan and parchment, and let the cake cool completely before serving.

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies)

It’s never a good day in my kitchen when baked goods come out of the oven ugly.  But I’ve found an exception to that rule.  These Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies) are the most addictively delicious ugly cookies ever.  They’re crispy on the edges like a delicate thin sheet of caramelized sugar and chewy in the center with crunchy pockets of flavor speckled throughout from the Fruity Pebbles clusters.  From start to finish, these cookies take extra time, effort, and patience, but the enjoyment from eating them is endless.  IMG_9041[1]

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies)

Makes approximately 15-20 large cookies or about 3 dozen smaller cookies
(from Milk Momofuku Milk Bar)

Ingredients

Fruity Pebble Crunch

1/4  (17-ounce) box (2 1/2 cups; 120g) Fruity Pebbles cereal
1/4 cup (20g) milk powder
1 tablespoon (12g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1g) kosher salt
6 tablespoons (85 g) butter, melted

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies

16 tablespoons (2 sticks; 225g) butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
2/3 cup tightly packed (150g) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon (2g) vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (240g) flour
1/2 teaspoon (2g) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1.5g) baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons (5g) kosher salt
1 recipe Fruity Pebbles Crunch
1 1/4 cups (65g) mini marshmallows (I used fruity marshmallows but regular mini’s work too. Make sure the marshmallows are not stuck together.)

Directions

Fruity Pebble Crunch

  1. Preheat the oven to 275°F.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the Fruity Pebbles, milk powder, sugar, and salt until well combined.
  3. Add the butter and mix until the cereal is fully covered.
  4. Spread the cereal mixture on a parchment or Silpat-lined sheet pan.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until the cereal mixture looks toasted, smells buttery, and is crunchy when cooled slightly and chewed.
  6. Cool the Fruity Pebble crunch fully before storing or using in a recipe (this took about 15 minutes for me). (Note: the Fruity Pebble Crunch can  be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for about a week or in the fridge or freezer for about a month).

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies

  1. Using a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and light brown sugar on medium-high for 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 7-8 minutes.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and mix until the dough comes together (no more than 1 minute).  Scrape down the bowl with a spatula,
  5. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the Fruity Pebble crunch until evenly distributed through the dough (30-45 seconds).
  6. Stir in the mini-marshmallows until incorporated.
  7. Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, portion the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Flatten the dough balls slightly.
  8. Wrap the sheet pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week.  Or put the dough in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  (Important note: do not bake the cookies using room temperature dough.  They will spread too much and become a big mess.).
  9. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  10. Place the chilled dough disks at least 4 inches apart on a parchment or Silpat lined sheet pan (I usually only bake 6 cookies per sheet pan.)
  11. Bake the cookies (1 cookie sheet at a time, and rotate half way through baking time to ensure even baking) until the edges are slightly browned, and the center is no longer doughy (You will have to experiment with bake times.  If you refrigerated your cookie dought, the approximate bake time for 2 3/4 ounces dough discs is 18 minutes; bake time for a tablespoon cookie scoop is about 7 minutes.  If your cookie dough is frozen, add about 1 minute extra to the bake time.).
  12. Cool the cookies on the sheet pan.

Note: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Almond Flour Brownies (Gluten-Free)

I’ve been having some unusually good brownie karma lately.  After making an especially delicious batch of candied bacon brownies, I was emboldened to bake a batch of gluten-free brownies using almond flour.  In a word, these brownies are perfect.  They have a crispy, shiny top crust and an uber fudgey center.  The almond flour adds a “je ne sais quoi” overall richness to the chocolately flavor while keeping everything moist and tender.  If you don’t have almond flour in your pantry, it’s worth buying just to make this recipe.

IMG_9030[1]

Almond Flour Brownies

Makes 16 brownies
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups (2 1/4 ounces) cocoa powder, Dutch-process or natural
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (5 1/8 ounces) almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease or line with parchment an 8″ square pan that’s at least 2″ deep.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs.
  4. In a medium size bowl, stir together the almond flour, cocoa, and baking powder.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well mixed.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges.
  7. Bake the brownies for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few damp crumbs.  Do not overbake, or the brownies will be dry.
  8. Remove the brownies from the oven, and cool for about 15 minutes before cutting.

Note: Store the brownies in an airtight container at room temperature for several days or freeze for longer storage.

Candied Bacon Brownies

THIS is how you make brownies epic-ly delicious – swirl candied bacon throughout the brownie batter and sprinkle even more candied bacon on top.  The result is a fudgey, chewy, rich brownie with a smoky, salty kick.  Never have pork and chocolate tasted so good together.

IMG_8995[1]

Candied Bacon Brownies

Makes one 9×13″ pan of brownies
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

Candied Bacon

12 ounces thick cut, uncooked bacon
light brown sugar, to coat

Brownies

1 cup Dutch-process cocoa
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon espresso powder, optional; for enhanced chocolate flavor
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 9×13″ pan with aluminum foil and grease lightly, or line with parchment paper (I prefer to line with parchment paper because it’s less mess to clean up, and it’s easy to lift the brownies out of the pan).

Candied Bacon

  1. Spread the bacon in a single layer on a wire racked placed over a large, rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Coat the strips of bacon with a heavy sprinkling of brown sugar.
  3. Bake the bacon until it’s crisp but not totally browned (about 20 to 25 minutes).
  4. Remove the candied bacon from the oven, and place it on a plate or parchment to cool. Do not cool the bacon on paper towels as it will stick. When the bacon is cool, crumble or chop it coarsely.

Brownies

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugars, salt, flour, and espresso powder.
  2. Add the eggs, oil, and water, mixing just until smooth.
  3. Stir half of the chopped candied bacon into the brownie batter.
  4. Spoon the brownie batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining candied bacon on top of the brownie batter.
  6. Bake the brownies for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, with a few wet crumbs clinging to it.

Note: Brownies should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than 4-5 days.

Caramel Candy Bars

I’ve reached the point in my baking repertoire where a shortbread cookie layer topped with caramel and finished off with a rich layer of chocolate has become a bit mundane.  It’s delicious, but where’s the fun in so much predictability?  These Caramel Candy Bars provide a refreshing deviation from the norm with the addition of all things almond, including almond extract,  almond flour, and chopped almonds.  In a further unexpected twist, half of the shortbread dough is sprinkled on top of the caramel to create a streusel layer that is then topped off by a generous layer of chocolate and toasted almonds.  While these Caramel Candy Bars require a bit of time and work, the results are anything but ordinary.
img_71461

Caramel Candy Bars

Makes one 9×13 inch pan
(from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook)

Ingredients

Crust

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (5 1/2 ounces) brown sugar
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar (also known as powdered sugar)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1 cup (3 1/4 ounces) toasted almond flour or finely ground toasted almonds

Filling

2 cups (16 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (11 ounces) light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick; 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup (8 ounces) cream (light, heavy, or whipping) or evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting

1 cup (6 ounces) chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips
3 tablespoons (2 ounces) light corn syrup
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) chopped toasted almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan and line the pan with lightly greased aluminum foil.

Crust

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and confectioners’ sugar until well combined.
  2. Beat in the egg, and scrape the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the vanilla and almond extract, and mix until well blended.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the four, salt, baking powder, and almond flour until well combined.
  5. Stir the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until well combined.
  6. Divide the dough in half.  Press half the mixture into the prepared pan.  Save the remaining half to use as the streusel topping (Press the dough into a log, and freeze it while making the caramel.)
  7. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until it’s lightly browned around the edges.  Remove it from the oven, and cool slightly while making the filling.

Filling

  1. In a large (3 1/2 to 4-quart) heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the brown sugar and corn syrup.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes without stirring, to wash any sugar crystals off the  insides of the pan.
  2. Uncover the pan, stir in the butter, and continue to boil, stirring often, until the caramel reaches the soft ball stage, 234°F on a candy thermometer.
  3. While the syrup is boiling, gently heat the cream in the microwave or over low heat on the stovetop until it’s hot but not boiling.
  4. Remove the syrup from the heat, and slowly stir in the hot cream.  Be careful as the mixture will bubble up.
  5. Return to the heat and cook until the mixture reaches firm-ball stage, 245°F to 248°F.
  6.  Stir in the vanilla.
  7. Pour the caramel over the baked crust.  Let the filling cool for a few minutes.
  8. Remove the dough log from the freezer and use a coarse grater to grate the crumbs over the top of the hot caramel, or use your hands to crumble the reserved crust mixture over the hot caramel.
  9. Bake the bars for 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Remove the bars from the oven and cool them on a rack.

Frosting

  1. In a saucepan set over medium heat, or in the microwave, stir together the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter, until melted.
  2. Spread the frosting over the cooled bars.
  3. Sprinkle the almonds over the warm chocolate, and let the bars rest until the chocolate firms up, several hours or overnight.  You can refrigerate the bars to speed up the firming process.
  4. If you’ve refrigerated the bars, let the bars come to room temperature before cutting into 1 x 2-inch bars (if you cut the bars right out of the oven, they may be difficult to cut and break off unevenly).