You guys, there’s this bright light in the sky and I don’t know what it is.
Oh, that’s the sun???!!!
You’ll have to forgive me for not recognizing it. I can’t remember the last time the sun was out. This winter hasn’t been that bad as far as winters go. We recently had a ten day stretch during which even low temperatures did not dip below freezing.
But it has been so dark and grey and lifeless and downright depressing I can’t even.
Winter has me down. This happens every year, but this year it’s stronger than ever. Maybe it’s because I was making the same wishes last birthday as I did a little over a week ago on this one and because year after year things build and build and build until they come to a head.
I want to frolic outside in the sun and take walks and eat outside and be happy and not have to slather lotion and oil and all things moisturizing on my skin. Please tell me I’m not alone.
I won’t be alone in loving these Caramel Nut Shortbread Bars. I made these years ago, before the blog and loved the filling but not the crust. Then I made them again recently with a different crust that tasted great but totally fell apart.
Enter test three. These are the winner. The filling is as gooey and rich as ever with tons of crunchy nuts. The base is a vanilla bean olive oil shortbread. I know olive oil in shortbread sounds weird, but trust me, it is heaven. It provides a fruity, light note against the rich filling.
Winter is no match for these bars. Well, really it is, but we can pretend it’s not while we make them.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. generously butter a 9 by 13-inch pan.
- Make the crust. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, salt, butter, oil, and vanilla bean paste until a thick dough forms that holds when squeezed together. If it falls apart, add a bit more oil until it holds. Press into the prepared pan, bringing some of the dough up the sides. Bake for about 15 minutes until just barely golden brown.
- While the crust bakes, make the filling. In a medium saucepot, stir together butter, brown sugar, honey, and salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until the mixture is slightly thickened and foamy.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream. Be careful! It will bubble up. Place pan back over the heat and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees or about 10 more minutes. I actually did this without a candy thermometer. It’s rather forgiving and you can always test for soft ball stage in a bit of cold water.
- Add the nuts and cook an additional 2 minutes. Pour filling over the hot crust, spreading into an even layer. Bake for about 15 minutes, until bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Cool completely in the pan before cutting and serving. Bars may be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag. Thaw at room temperature about 1 hour.
Filling recipe adapted from Food and Wine