Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Caramel Pistachio Cashew Butter Cookie Squares

There was a time in my life when I really didn't care for nuts. I never liked peanut butter growing up, but you probably would never guess that based on this recipe, or these Peanut Butter & Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars and these No-Bake Butterscotch Oat Bars with Peanut Butter Fudge.

It's obvious things have changed.

Now I think I eat too many nuts for my own good. Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts... all of them. I don't discriminate.

These squares celebrate a couple of those - Cashews and Pistachios.

Atop a brown sugar cookie base (that comes together in seconds by the way - no creaming necessary!), lies a silky milky ganache of cashew butter and white chocolate. If you haven't noticed yet, it's dripping with caramel. Decadence is the appropriate word here.

Making the ganache is simple but there is a tip to help you along the way... First chop the white chocolate into very small pieces - this helps it melt quickly and uniformly. Combine the cream and white chocolate in a saucepan over very low heat. White chocolate contains a lot of sugar and milk solids that burn easily. Heat only enough to melt the chocolate and make a smooth emulsion - do not come close to a simmer and stay far far away from a boil!

When it is time to slowly stir in the cashew butter you can take the pot of the heat - there will be plenty of residual heat in the ganache to melt it down. Now, depending on what type of white chocolate and nut butter you use, you will have different experiences. The fat content varies for type of nut, brand of nut butter and brand of chocolate so if you notice the mixture begins to separate then the best way to recover is to add a teaspoon or two of cold milk and whisk it in vigorously until it comes together. This extends the liquid phase of the emulsion and can help balance it out.

If you do not have cashew butter for any reason, I understand. It's not the cheapest ingredient to have around. So if this means an expensive and special trip to the supermarket or a specialty store, then you can make this recipe with smooth or creamy peanut butter too. You have peanut butter don't you? Awesome. Cashew butter takes this over the top but peanut butter works.

Stir some roasted pistachios through the ganache and spread it over the baked cookie base. If you like salty and sweet, go for salted pistachios - that's the stuff! This top layer sets in the fridge while you make a buttery caramel sauce. Now we're going over the top and I like it up here.

Ooooooooook. I can't put these down. In the words of "The Mask", somebody stop me!

With love & cookies (and unicorns and rainbows),

Caramel Pistachio Cashew Butter Cookie Squares
Makes 16 squares

For the base:
1 cup (142g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (55g) packed dark brown sugar
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
7 tbsp (100g) unsalted butter, melted

For the topping:
6 oz (170g) pure white chocolate
1/3 cup (80ml) 35% whipping cream
½ cup (118ml) smooth cashew butter
½ cup (70g) chopped roasted pistachios (plus extra for topping)

For the caramel sauce:
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15ml) water
¼ cup (60ml) 35% cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp (42g) unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt 

Preheat your oven 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch pan with parchment paper, leaving 2 inches of overhang at each side.

To make the base, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl until evenly blended and there are no lumps. Add melted butter and stir incorporate. Use your fingertips to bring it together if necessary. Turn the crumbly mixture out into your prepared pan and press it down in an even layer. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden and slightly puffed. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the topping, combine white chocolate and cream in a saucepan over very low heat and stir constantly until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and gently stir in cashew butter, letting it melt slowly. Do not stir too vigorously or the mixture may separate depending on what type of nut butter you are using. Stir in pistachios. Pour the mixture over cooled base in the pan and spread it out evenly. Refrigerate for 1 hour, until firm. Slice the slab into squares.

For caramel: put the sugar and water in a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Stir gently until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil without stirring. Allow to bubble away until the mixture turns to a rich amber colored caramel, then take the pan off the heat.
Stir in cream being cautious as it will bubble up. Once combined, stir in vanilla, butter and salt. Transfer sauce to a bowl and let cool completely before spooning over sliced squares and topping with chopped pistachios. 
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