Sunday, April 8, 2018

Cashew Caramel Crumb Bars

Have you yet tried the combination of roasted cashews and caramel?


I'm trying to remember where I first tried it... Oh yes! It was this ice cream in New Zealand. It was a salted caramel ice cream base with swirls of salted caramel and roasted cashews throughout. All of the ice cream in New Zealand is incredible because their dairy is so delicious, but this particular flavour blew my mind! The perfect blend of salty and sweet and irresistible savoury notes from the roasted buttery cashews and caramelized sugar.

Ever since then I've recreated this combo in so many desserts.

To simplify things (and make them no less delicious) I've used prepared dulce de leche which I actually brought back from Chile last year. Dulce de leche is basically milk candy and it just adds to the creaminess. In Spanish it literally translates to "milk candy" because it is made by slowly cooking down whole fresh milk with sugar until it is thick and chewy. It has a more savory taste compared to caramel due to the protein-induced Maillard browning reactions arising from the slow cooking of milk proteins with sugar.

The crumbly mixture that you use to make the base also serves as the topping after we added chopped roasted cashews to it.

This is a one-pan recipe so we're talking (almost) instant gratification!

Cashew Caramel Crumb Bars
makes 16 squares

For the crumb:
1 cup (142g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (55g) packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
½ cup (50g) rolled oats 
½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
¼ cup roasted cashews, finely chopped

For the filling:
¾ cup (180ml) Dulce de Leche
2 tsp all-purpose flour       
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp (15ml) milk

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper leaving 1-inch overhang along the sides.

To make the crumb, combine flour, both sugars, baking powder, salt and oats. Whisk to blend. Add butter and blend it in with your fingertips until it is evenly distributed and forms clumps. The mixture will be crumbly but should hold together when pinched. Reserve about ¾ cup of this mixture and press the remaining crumbs firmly into the base of your prepared pan. Bake for about 12 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges.

Add chopped cashews to reserved mixture and toss the crumbs in it to coat.

To make the filling stir together dulce de leche, flour and salt until combined. Add milk and stir until smooth.
Spread this mixture evenly over the partially baked crust. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture over top and lightly press the toppings into the spread.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are browned. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars.

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