It's a funny, fizzy thrill to find what you need, even when it's not what you were looking for.
A picture in Baking by the fabulous Dorie Greenspan has been calling to me for weeks. She describes her Snickery Squares as a slimmer, sleeker version of Snickers, my favorite candy bar. And the picture is totally droolworthy. I set my heart on making these and then read the ingredients. Dulce de leche? I don't have that. So I went to the store. They didn't have it. They said they'd order it. Which left me pining for the snickery squares, baking lust unrequited.
Then I read a post by the amazing David Lebovitz in which he tells how to make dulce de leche. So, problem solved. But as I was ruminating about the making of process, I thought how much his picture looked like the caramel sauce I had sitting in my refrigerator.
When I made the Turtle Cheesecake I had leftover caramel, about a cupful. In the saucepan in which I'd made the caramel I put about 1-3/4 cups of cream and brought it to a boil. Then I added the caramel, stirring it in with a spatula and let it boil for about 3 minutes. I put the sauce into a pint canning jar with a lid and put it in the refrigerator.
Well, I thought, if the dulce de leche is basically sweetened, carmelized milk, I could probably use the caramel sauce in it's place. If not the authentic Snickery Squares, I'd get something pretty toothable. And it worked! The squares are incredibly tasty. I didn't go to the trouble to candy the peanuts, since I wasn't following the recipe to the letter, and they taste just fine. A satisfying salty crunch to contrast with the gooey sweet caramel, the dense, bittersweet chocolate, and the crispy shortbread crust.
Since they're not Snickery squares, my daughter named them Fabulously Awesomely Terrific Bars (F.A.T. bars for short).
Fabulously Awesomely Terrific Bars
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
Caramel sauce as described above. Or a store-bought jar. Or about 1-1/2 cups dulce de leche (and good luck finding it)
1 cup salted peanuts
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature.
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch pan.
2 - Put the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the beaten egg yold over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds - stop before the dough comes together in a ball.
3- Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven.
4- Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Remove the pan to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
5- Once the crust is cooled, scatter the cup of peanuts over the crust. Since my caramel sauce came out of the refrigerator I warmed it briefly in the microwave (about 10 seconds) and stirred it before pouring it over the crust. Spread it and smooth it with a spatula.
6 - Put the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. I like to use my pottery bowl because it retains heat and helps the chocolate to gently melt. Melt in 30 second bursts, stirring after each burst, heating only until chocolate becomes glossy and begins to lose its shape. Stir in the butter until it if fully blended into the chocolate.
7 - Pour the chocolate over the caramel, smoothing it with a spatula, then sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top. Put the pan into the refrigerator to set the bars for about 20 minutes. Cut into 16 bars.