Almost-Burnt-Still-Tasty Salted Caramel Crunch Bars

I’m not sure I have the attention span for caramel.
You have to watch it, I remind myself when it starts cooking. Watch it or it will burn. It. Will. Burn. And then approximately 15 seconds before it’s done I turn away to pet the cat or check my phone or see the video the Boy just found on his computer and it’s so great I have to see it NOW please and then I come back 30 seconds later and OH LOOK IT’S BURNED.
You never want to make a second batch of caramel, though, so depending on how far gone it is sometimes I’ll still just use it. After all, that whole “burnt sugar” or “bitter caramel” or whatever taste is sort of in right now, right? (Don’t answer that.)
All this goes to say that when I made these Salted Caramel Crunch Bars, I burned the caramel a little. But they were still tasty! Whew.
The bars center around a rice-krispies-caramel-crunchy topping. That would be the caramel that I burnt.

Once the topping is made and the rice krispies have been mixed with slightly-overdone (in my case) caramel and set aside to cool, you prepare the actual bar part – basically a blondie-type situation.

And then while that’s cooking, you make the caramel glaze, which thankfully doesn’t involve any actual cooking of caramel in the traditional sense and hence didn’t burn as most of my caramels traditionally do.

Finally, the bars get assembled and cooled for a very, very long time which sucks if you were hoping to eat them right out of the oven, so to speak, but is awesome if you were looking for a dessert to make the day before and then bring to a party (say, 4th of July tomorrow?).

These were generally a huge hit – luckily for me, the bars and glaze are sweet enough that the unintentional bitterness of the caramel crunch topping was well balanced, and the sprinkle of sea salt brought out all the right flavors. These are rich, so I got a lot of bars for my buck, so to speak, giving them one more point in the “party dessert” column. Thanks Peabody for the recipe!

Salted Caramel Crunch Blondies
From Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

As noted, the 7-8 hour cooling time makes these a great make-ahead dessert (and in fact, ONLY a make-ahead dessert, please don’t make these thinking you’re going to eat them tonight). They do tend to start softening up if you leave them out, so any leftovers would be best kept in the fridge. And as noted above, I prefer to cut these into smaller bars, since even with added bitterness (not that I’m recommending you burn your caramel) they are quite rich.

Yield: 12 Big Blondies or 24 Smaller Blondies

Salted Krispie Topping
1 ½ cups Rice Krispie cereal
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tb. water
1 tsp. Lyle’s Golden Syrup or corn syrup
½ Tb. fleur de sel

Blondie Batter
12 oz. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ¾ cups brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 ¾ tsp. baking powder

Caramel Glaze
3 oz. salted butter
¾ cup heavy whipping cream (try and find 40%)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

Salted Krispie Topping
Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Measure the cereal out.

Using a small saucepan (I recommend an older one that doesn’t conduct heat well…you make less mistakes that way) add the sugar, water, and Lyle’s Golden Syrup, stir until combined. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once mixture comes to a boil, lower heat to medium and boil until a medium-amber color forms, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the cereal, making sure to coat all the cereal with the caramel. Pour out the caramelized cereal onto the parchment paper on the pan. Spread it out as best you can. Sprinkle evenly with the fleur de sel and let cool to room temperature. Set aside.

Blondie Batter
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with baking spray. Place aluminum foil or parchment paper into the pan and have it form an overhang to make removal of the blondies easier. Spray baking spray on the foil or parchment.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugars, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time and scrape down the bowl and sides after each addition.

Add the vanilla and beat another 30 seconds.

Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix on low speed and mix until fully combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly (as best you can). Bake for 20 minutes at 350F. Then lower the oven to 325F and bake for another 16 minutes (mine took another 3 after that) or until a toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes.

Caramel Glaze
Cut butter into 8 slices. Place the butter slices, cream, and brown sugar into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted.

Once melted, turn up heat to medium-high and bring to a full boil, boil for two minutes without stirring. Remove from pan and add vanilla and salt.

Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Add sifted powdered sugar and whisk until it forms a smooth glaze and you don’t see any stray powdered sugar. Pour glaze over the blondies, use a spatula to distribute the glaze evenly.

Chop up the caramelized cereal with a knife into ¼-inch pieces. Immediately sprinkle them over the glaze (push down a little) so that when the glaze cools they will stay put. Cool for 30 minutes.

And now the hard part…put in the fridge for at 7-8 hours or overnight.

Remove from fridge. Run a knife around the edges so that removal will be easier. Hopefully you can just tilt them on their side…if they don’t come out tug a little on the foil or parchment to get them to come out. Cut with a knife and serve.


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