Gooey Caramel Butter Bars (half And Full Batch)
For the Crust:
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature(2 sticks)
1 cup sugar (1/2 c)
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted(1 1/4 c)
1 teaspoon salt(1/2 tsp)
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour(2 c)
1/2 tsp vanilla (1/4tsp)
For the Filling:
1 bag (14 oz.) caramel candies, about 50 individual caramels, unwrapped (7 oz of Caramel Bits)
1/3 cup evaporated milk (1/6 c)
pinch of salt(10 shakes from shaker but I'd say 1/8 tsp should work)
To make the crust:
In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms, do not overwork the dough, just make sure all the flour is incorporated.
Spray a 9x13 (or 9 X 9) inch baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Pat the remaining dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325F. Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown(kinda like a saltine cracker), 20 to 25 minutes(22 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes or until your other batch of dough is thoroughly chilled and ready.
While the bottom crust is baking and the remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling. Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the evaporated milk and salt. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth.
Pour the caramel filling over the crust, using a small metal spatula to nudge the filling evenly over the crust (mine was a pourable consistency and I just drizzled evenly). Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 30 minutes(actually baked 27 minutes and then turned the oven off and left the bars in the oven for 30 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Use a sharp knife to cut the bars evenly into 15 large squares(9 large squares). Remove the bars from the pan with a metal spatula and, if desired, cut in half on the diagonal to form 30 triangular bars.
The bars will keep, covered tightly at room temperature, for about 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Pairs Well With
These one of the best things I have tried in a while. For the caramels I used those new Kraft Caramel Bits and then you don't have to unwrap anything, saves you from the tedious work. I made a half-batch in a 9 X 9 metal pan and included the measurements out to the side in parenthesis. Anything else I did while baking was included in the body of the recipe in parenthesis. I allowed them to continue cooking with the oven off b/c I had to go pick up my son from school and was out of time. They actually came out perfect doing it that way. I thought the caramel might be goopy and oozy, but it wasn't, it was semi firm.