I tried to streamline and slim down that slightly ostentatious recipe title, but these bars just weren’t having it. Apparently, every ingredient, even the humble pecan, needs a minute in the spotlight now and then.
In no particular order:
Caramel (enhanced with a little SCM – sweetened condensed milk for those not in the know)
White chocolate chips
Dark chocolate chips
And butter (not stated in the title but hopefully an obvious conclusion)
If that list doesn’t speak for itself, let me just add: there’s a whole lot to love here.
Layer bars are the best. The buttery, shortbread-like crust gets a quick snap in the oven, and then all the other yumminess gets layered and dolloped and sprinkled on top.
Back in the oven, at which time you should spend the 20 minutes summoning the patience to let the bars cool completely (unless you want a mess of gooey, lava-esque, hot caramel), and then, your waiting will be rewarded because those glorious layer bars are all yours.
Layer upon layer of deliciousness. And while I’m not usually a craver of white chocolate or pecans, they definitely have their well-chosen place every once in a while, and they certainly do great things for these decadent, caramelly layer bars.
My favorite storebought caramels to use in recipes like these are Trader Joe's but the Kraft brand works great, too (I haven't tried other brands in this recipe). Don't use caramel sauce as it will be too thin for the bars.
- 2 sticks (1 cup, 8 ounces) butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (5.75 ounces) light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups (11.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 11-ounce bag caramel bits or soft caramels, unwrapped (see note above)
- 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon extract vanilla
- Coarse kosher salt
- 1 cup (6 ounces) white chocolate chips
- 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (ok, you can use milk chocolate chips if you have to)
- 1 cup (6 ounces) Heath toffee bits
- 1 cup (4 ounces) chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a metal 9X13-inch baking pan with foil and lightly grease the bottom and sides with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light in color, 1-2 minutes. Add the flour and salt; mix until combined. Reserve one cup of the mixture and reserve to use later. Press the rest of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes until just set and very lightly golden on the edges.
- While the crust bakes, place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk and butter. Microwave for 1-minute intervals, stirring in between, until the caramel mixture is melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla and a pinch of coarse, kosher salt. Drizzle across the crust and spread evenly (it's ok if the crust is still warm).
- Sprinkle the white chocolate chips, semisweet chocolate chips, toffee bits and pecans over the caramel layer. Crumble and drop the remaining dough over the top. Return the pan to the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes until the caramel is bubbling and the edges are lightly golden.
- Cool completely in the pan before cutting into squares.
Recipe Source: adapted a little from my long-time friend and old roommate, Kate (the great)