A thick and chewy caramel cashew bar with a cookie-like shortbread crust!
One of my favorite parts of the holidays is being in the kitchen.
Scratch that, I’d say that next to eating the food, being in the kitchen is my favorite part of the holidays.
Standing over the stove, dipping your finger into a sauce to taste its tartness. Inviting your S.O. to come next to you for a more formal taste test. Or pulling a pie out of the oven, getting down to eye level to see how cooked it is, then asking your mom to hand you a knife to double check for doneness on the inside. It fosters a warmth and connectedness that occurs less and less in our day to day lives, and I love it.
And of course for the holidays, I am always in the kitchen making at least 4 desserts.
Aside from traditional holiday cookies, during the holidays I can always be found making bars. There’s something so accessible about bars, and something so tempting, too.
And since I’m the biggest fan of making twists on classic desserts, this year I’m making Salted Caramel Cashew Bars, the more interesting older brother of the Pecan Pie Bar.
These bars are made with a thick, underbaked sugar cookie-like that you just can’t get enough of. Then, as if it couldn’t get any better, they’re topped with chewy golden salted caramel laced with cashews.
I plan on having to swat a lot of hands away from these babies before they make it to the dessert table.
Plus, can we talk about how easy these bars are to make? It’s just a cream cheese shortbread dough, plus cashews drizzled in a quick and easy homemade caramel, then popped in the oven for 30 minutes.
It’s almost too easy, and I’m worried that instead of a holiday tradition, these are going to turn into a weekly occurrence in our house.
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temp, cut into tablespoons
3/4 cup heavy cream, room temp
1½ teaspoons sea salt (I used a finely-crushed pink Himalayan sea salt and it was fantastic!)
16 ounces Planters Lightly Salted Cashews Halves and Pieces
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 8″x8″ baking dish with parchment paper.
In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, cream the cream cheese, butter, sugar, salt and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Turn mixer to low speed and incorporate flour.
Press dough firmly onto the bottom of the baking dish, spreading evenly to the edges. Bake for 15 minutes.
While the shortbread is baking, make the caramel. In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Use a spatula to occasionally stir the sugar, getting to the bottom of the pan. At first the sugar will be lumpy, but will soon melt and start turning a brownish color. Don’t stir too often, just enough to keep everything evenly cooking.
After 5 minutes, the sugar should become fully melted. Once it becomes a medium golden hue, remove from heat immediately and stir in butter. The mixture will violently bubble. You’re doing it right.
Use your spatula to stir the butter and sugar until they melt together completely. This can take 1-2 minutes.
Next, pour in the heavy cream and sea salt. Stir until combined.
Once the shortbread has baked for 15 minutes, remove from oven, sprinkle the cashews evenly over the surface, then pour on salted caramel. Place back in oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before garnishing with more sea salt and cutting into bars (cut 5 rows by 3 rows).