These were all the neatly lined-up factors which led to a craving for the rich buttery sauce. It's a bittersweet time of year. I love autumn, but that love is tainted with the dark spot on the horizon known as Winter. And I never want to let go of summer. If summer were a person I would be clinging to it's legs, using all my strength to keep it from walking away.
These shortbread bars are the grown-up versions of the 'naked' Snickers. A not-too-sweet buttery shortbread, creamy salted caramel, and crunchy toasted pecans. There is a heart-stopping 3 sticks of butter in the recipe so please be sure to share the gooey goodness with a lot of people and have plenty of napkins on hand, these are too fun to eat with a fork.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/4 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
caramel layer ingredients
1 1/2 sticks Salted butter *
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound pecan halves (toasted)
* I like my caramel on the salty side. If you prefer a sweeter caramel, you can use unsalted butter.*
Toast the pecans: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Scatter the pecan halves onto a cookie sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes or until they just begin to get aromatic. Keep a close watch on them because they can burn very fast once they become fragrant.
In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the cubed butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle on the ice water and vinegar and process until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Turn the crumbs out onto a sheet of wax paper and knead just until the dough comes together. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until slightly chilled, about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of wax paper to an 11- by-15-inch rectangle (1/4 inch thick). Trim the dough to a 9-by-13-inch rectangle and place it in the baking pan. *Cut the remaining dough into 3/4-inch-wide strips and press them up the side of the pan to form a rim all around. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes. *Since the filling is not very thick, I found the edges to be on the dry side. I would have preferred to use all the dough for the bottom crust only.*
Line the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the dough is just set. Remove the parchment paper and weights and bake the crust for about 12 minutes longer, until lightly golden and set. Let cool.
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 the cream and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer inserted in the caramel registers 240° (soft ball stage), about 10 minutes longer. Add the pecans and cook for 2 minutes longer. Pour the filling over the crust, spreading it evenly. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and the topping is bubbling. Let cool completely. Slide the parchment onto a cutting board. Cut into bars and serve.
Makes about 16 bars