Let’s be honest here – I would not be low carb if I didn’t have to be. Some of the sweet comments I receive on this blog suggest that I am somehow virtuous for creating my low carb treats, but virtue has nothing to do with it. The simple truth is that I have a sweet tooth and I love to indulge it. And if my health weren’t on the line every time I eat something sugary, you can bet that I would be indulging it with sugar. I’ve never had to watch my weight, and although I love healthy foods, I’ve never been good at denying my cravings for sweets.
And let’s face it. For all that I am able to create some very satisfactory low carb sweets, nothing truly compares to sugar. It behaves in a way that no other sweetener can fully imitate. This recipe is a case in point. The way the butter and sugar caramelize together to create a chewy, gooey, sticky topping has no equal. And the holy trinity of baking – flour, butter and sugar – form a shortbread crust that is tender and delightfully crumbly. And the nuts…well, if you follow me you probably already know my passion for nuts of all kinds. Perhaps not the human, crazy kind of nuts, but I am sure you know what I mean.
Have I sold you on these yet? Because I could go on and on, ad nauseum, singing their praises. These are the ultimate in carbilicious indulgence. I have made these for Christmas every year for 11 years, ever since I discovered them in Bon Appetit, December 1999. The only change I have wrought on these amazing bars is to add walnuts and almonds in with the pecans. The original is all pecan, but I was once making several batches for a cookie swap and ran out of pecans. The mixed nut results were, in my humble opinion, better. More complex and flavourful. At the cookie exchange I was asked for the recipe at least half a dozen times. Everyone who has ever tasted them has given them rave reviews.
Let me just say that it was pure torture, photographing these bars. Because I love them, and the smell of caramel and toasted nuts and shortbread was almost more than I could bear. Try them, and I guarantee that you will love them too.
I’ve added this recipe to the Holiday Recipe Exchange being held by My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats…Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Kerrygold.
Caramel Nut Bars – adapted from Bon Appetit, Dec. 1999
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cups cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
For the crust, preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 13×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper, with a 1-inch overhang on the short sides of the pan. Grease paper and sides of pan.
Blend flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and process until mixture resembles a fine meal. Press evenly into bottom of prepared pan and bake until set and lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Set aside while preparing the topping.
For topping, stir brown sugar, corn syrup and butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Boil 1 minute. Add nuts and cream and boil until slightly thickened, about 3 more minutes. Stir in vanilla and pour hot topping over crust.
Bake until caramel has darkened and bubbles thickly, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove by lifting overhanging ends of parchment and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into bars with a heavy sharp knife.
Serves 32. Can be stored for 1 week between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container.