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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.