Caramel Pretzel Bars

This recipe is from Saveur I love the combination of the shortbread base, sweet caramel and salty pretzels.
Caramel Pretzel Bars
FOR THE SHORTBREAD:
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

FOR THE CARAMEL TOPPING:
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1¼ cups light brown sugar
¼ cup honey
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tsp. salt
1 cup heavy cream

6 cups (about 9 oz.) small pretzel twists, lightly broken up

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Make the shortbread: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°. Line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper, folding paper up and over the sides of the pan. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar at medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla, change speed to low, and add the flour-salt mixture. Mix until crumbly, 10-15 seconds. Pat the dough evenly into the bottom of the parchment-lined pan, and prick dough all over with a fork. Bake 15-18 minutes, until just golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

2. Make the caramel: In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and salt. Stir regularly until mixture is foamy and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add cream and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer inserted into the caramel registers 240°F (soft ball stage), about 11 minutes. Add the crushed pretzels and quickly incorporate into the caramel.

3. Pour the pretzel-caramel mixture over the baked shortbread, spreading the mixture evenly. Return to the oven until the topping is bubbling, 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Remove from the baking pan by lifting the edges of the parchment paper; unfold the paper and slice into bars. Serve immediately, or bars will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

Ultimate Nutty Granola Clusters

My Canadian friend, Jen, gave me The Oh She Glows Cookbook, vegan recipes, that she claimed is the hottest cookbook in Canada! This is an easy and delicious granola recipe.
Granola
1 c. whole raw almonds
1/2 c. raw walnut halves or pieces
3/4 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. raw buckwheat groats or rolled oats
2/3 c. mixed dried fruit-apricots, cherries, cranberries etc.
1/2 c. raw pepita seeds
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/3 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
2 t. ground cinnamon ** I only used 1/4 t.
1/4 t. sea salt
1/4 c.+ 2T. maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
2 t. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 275. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 1/2 c. almonds in food processor and process for 10 seconds-until a fine meal forms. Transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining 1/2 c. almonds and the walnuts to processor and process for 5 seconds-you want some larger pieces and some finer meal. Add to bowl. Add remaining ingredients through the coconut and stir to combine. Add maple syrup, melted oil and vanilla and stir well. Spread onto the sheet pan and gently press it down to compact it slightly. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate pan and bake 18-25 minutes-until golden brown on the bottom and firm to the touch. Cool for one hour before breaking apart. Store in glass jar in refrigerator or freeze for 4-5 weeks.

Meyer Lemon Raspberry Squares

I could not resist a beautiful bag of Meyer lemons at the store. Dorie Greenspan is a famous baker and I was very interested in trying this recipe.I made the Meyer lemon curd a day before I made the squares so it could cool. The curd recipe is very easy-you must stay with it for 8-10 minutes but it is very fast. The crust did not totally come together for me but I patted the 2/3 in the parchment lined (a must!) pan and it worked out fine. I baked the filling 8 extra minutes as it was very loose. Also, I cut the pan into 24 squares, which is a perfect size as they are quite rich!
Meyer Lemon Raspberry Sq.
Crust and Crumbs
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages (6 ounces each) Driscoll’s Raspberries (3 1/2 to 4 cups)
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup almond flour

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
Lemon Curd Filling
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
2/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (from 8-10 lemons)
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

Filling
Working in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, whisk the eggs and sugar together until well blended. Whisk in the zest and lemon juice, then drop in the chunks of butter. Put the saucepan over medium heat and start whisking, taking care to work the whisk into the edges of the pan. If your whisk is too big to clean the edges, switch to a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. Whisk without stop, and, in 8 to 10 minutes, the buttery curd will thicken. It won’t get terribly thick–it thickens more as it chills–but you’ll notice that your whisk leaves tracks. The sign that the curd is ready is a bubble or two burbling to the surface, then popping. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and scrape the curd into a heatproof bowl. Place a piece of plastic film against the surface and refrigerate the curd until it’s cold all the way through. (Packed airtight, the curd can stay in the fridge for a couple of weeks.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to about 13 x 17 inches or so that about 2 inches hang over the edge of each side of the pan. Place the parchment paper inside the pan and butter the paper.

To Make the Crust and Crumbs
Put the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a food processor and whir until the mixture is blended. Add the almond flour and blend until smooth. Add the flour and pulse, stopping as needed to scrape the bowl, until you’ve worked the flour into the other ingredients and have moist, bumpy curds of dough. Reach in–if the dough holds together when you pinch it, it’s ready.

Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead it gently to gather it together. Cut off one third of the dough, cover it and set it aside. Press the rest of the dough evenly over the bottom of the lined pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Bake the crust for 15 – 18 minutes, or until it’s pale golden all over. It will puff a bit and still feel soft to the touch, so judge its readiness by its color. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the crust cool to room temperature.

If you’ve turned off the oven, heat it to 375 degrees F again.

Scatter 1 package (1 3/4 to 2 cups) of raspberries over the crust. Stir the chilled curd to get it moving then, using a long offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the filling evenly over the berries. Pinch off small pieces of the reserved dough and scatter them over the filling – you’ll have enough dough to almost completely cover the curd.

Bake the lemon squares 30 minutes, rotating the pan after about 20 minutes. Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and scatter the remaining raspberries over the crumbs, gently and lightly pressing them into the topping. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 10 to 13 minutes. The filling will puff – and it should puff all the way to the center – the lemon curd will caramelize around the edges (my favorite part) and the crumbs will be golden brown. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let stand for at least 2 hours (and up to 6 hours) before cutting.

Use the edges of the parchment paper to carefully lift the lemon squares out of the pan and set on the counter or rack. Invert a plate over the lemon squares and turn the plate and lemon squares over and then peel away the parchment paper. Using a long, slender knife, cut the cake into 12 squares, about 3 inches on a side. Serve now or chill – the bars are delicious at room temperature, when the crust is almost as tender as the filling, and just as good chilled, when all the elements are firm but the filling melts in your mouth.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if you’d like, just before serving.

Storing: Well wrapped, the squares will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days; wrapped airtight, they can be frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost the squares, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Blondies with Cherries, Chocolate, Cashews and Pecans

A wonderful recipe from the blog, Apt.2bakingco. How could you go wrong with cherries, chocolate, cashews and pecans?
Blondies

1 cup butter
3 cups dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoon bourbon (optional)
2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup roughly chopped cashews
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried cherries
2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350º and line a 9×13 baking pan with foil and grease well

1. Brown the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until all of the milk solids turn golden and the butter has a nutty fragrance being careful to not let it burn. Remove from heat and stir in the dark brown sugar, set aside to cool slightly.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, bourbon and salt. Whisk in the cooled butter, sugar mixture then fold in the flour and baking powder.
3. Stir in the nuts, cherries and chocolate, but make sure the mixture is cool enough that the chocolate won’t melt. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30-35min or until the top is shiny, set and slightly cracked around the edges. Place on a wire rack to cool completely then cut into squares.