These Peanut-Caramel bars are the weapon of resort when you seriously need persuasion but it has not quite risen to the level of firearms. They will, I assure you, make strong men kneel and grouchy teens smile. They freeze like a dream, cut neatly, ship well, and are wonderfully durable. I have never yet kept a batch for more than 8 hours or so. The ones in this photograph, after their Kodak moment, are going into zip-loc bags and making a one-way trip to Afghanistan, where our armed forces will devour them in seconds. Peanuts, caramel, cream, butter and 12 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate morsels, what more could you ask for?
I got this recipe from the Washington Post some years ago, but in case you do not want to click through to the paper, here it is. The only tip I would add is that you should triple that 2 1/2 minute boiling time, or even more, to be sure that the caramel sets up good. Take it off the stove at the recommended time and the bars will be oozy and sticky.
Servings: 32 bars
- For the crust
- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 5 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the topping
- 1 1/4 cups tightly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups chopped unsalted peanuts
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels or mini-morsels
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil and coat the foil with nonstick spray oil.
For the crust: In a food processor, blend the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the cream and vanilla extract and pulse just until the dough holds together, being careful not to overprocess. Press the dough firmly and evenly across the bottom of the baking dish and prick the crust all over with a fork. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until just tinged with brown all over and slightly darker at the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
For the topping: In a heavy, medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the brown sugar, corn syrup, cream, butter and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Add 2 1/2 cups of the peanuts. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 1/2 minutes, adjusting the heat so the mixture boils briskly. Immediately remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the hot topping over the crust, covering the entire surface as evenly as possible and smoothing it with a greased table knife, if necessary. Let cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the chocolate morsels on top and let stand for a few more minutes or until the chocolate is partially melted. Using a table knife, spread the melted chocolate over the topping. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup peanuts on top. Let cool completely before cutting into bars about 1 1/2 by 2 1/4 inches.
The bars can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days or frozen for 2 months. Bring to room temperature, if desired, before serving.
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