I have to say that I made this recipe because I was curious to see just how sweet these bars would be. When I saw the picture of the glistening caramel mixed with nuts and pretzels over a blondie, my mouth watered a little and my teeth started to ache. I imagined a sweet and salty treat sort of like a Payday, and immediately went into the kitchen to get started.
One thing that I thought was pretty cool about this recipe, is that you make a brown butter for the blondie. It requires just a little extra effort, but I was convinced that the nuttiness from the butter would add to the blondie. (and if you’re not in the mood to make your own brown butter, you can always buy a jar of ghee)
The blondie came together without any issues. The process was pretty true to the recipe, so I moved on to the caramel. I’ve made caramel quite a few times now and should be a pro, but there’s still something that can go wrong with it, so I’m always a bit nervous. And also, almost every caramel recipe I come across is a bit different, and instead of using my tried and true, I have to try the “new” one because I always think that I might learn something new.
Well, the caramel came out….ok. As soon as I added the honey, I regretted it, because I could smell it and had a feeling that it might be the only thing I could taste. I wasn’t wrong. I quickly added more cream and butter (it was all I could think of) and cooked it a little longer. It started to lose some of its sheen, but the taste was better. I added the pretzels and peanuts and poured it on top of the blondie. It was purdy. The caramel was nice, and glistened just like the picture and I was satisfied.
As it began to cool, the caramel became more opaque. The added cream! It was all starting to harden instead of staying shiny and pliable. I tasted a tiny bit and hated it. It tasted like honey with salt free peanuts. The blondie was tasty though. As I tried to cut it, it broke apart like bark. Disappointed, I considered it a failure, and let sit until the next day so I could take pictures and then complain about it later here.
The next day, I was invited to a family friend’s house for a casual dinner. These are friends who are my usual test subjects for my experiments, so I took the blondie with me. I gave my excuses for why the bars failed, they listened and tasted it anyway. They loved it. I decided to try it too, and I loved it. It was good. Really good. Yeah, the caramel was a little more like a praline than caramel, but the flavor was there. And the salt from the blondie came through and complimented the nuts and pretzels. It was almost like a Payday. Almost. Like if you tried to make a fancy one. This one is worth trying again, and I’m definitely going to experiment with the blondie.
Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups 1 1/2"-wide thin twisted pretzels , coarsely crushed
- Special equipment: A 13x9x2" metal baking pan
Make the blondie
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking pan with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Stir butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until browned bits form at bottom of pan, 7–8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add brown sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until well combined and mixture resembles wet sand, 2–3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until fluffy and well combined, about 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients; beat until smooth (batter will be thick). Using an offset or regular spatula, evenly spread batter in prepared pan.
Bake blondie until golden brown, edges pull away from sides of pan, and a tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 20–25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
For peanut-pretzel caramel
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread peanuts over sheet in an even layer. Bake, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, 5–7 minutes. Set aside.
Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is deep amber, 12–15 minutes. Add honey; return to a boil, stirring often, about 1 minute longer. Add butter; stir until blended. Add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously); whisk until smooth. Stir in peanuts and pretzels. Pour over cooled blondie. Chill until cool, about 30 minutes.
Run a knife around short sides of pan to release blondie. Using parchment-paper overhang, lift from pan. Cut into bars.