Do you prefer cookies or bars? I stand with bars. Simply put, they are easy to bake -- just spread the batter in one pan at once. I also prefer the texture of a bar, with its crunchy top and crisp edges that give way to gooey center that melts in the mouth. And lastly, I think bars store better. I know, I know, who am I kidding. It's not like these sweets don't get gobbled up before you can say brown butter, right? It's true, though. I find that bars freeze exceptionally well, and don't dry out, unlike cookies -- or at least the cookies I make.
And speaking of brown butter: Whether it's a cookie or a bar you're baking, brown butter is that extra ingredient that tips a sweet from good to decadent. Brown butter adds a golden, nutty, butterscotchy color and flavor. The method to brown butter is simple. Melt the butter and continue to cook it until it takes on a deep golden, light brown color with a toasty aroma. The key is to keep an eye on the butter, since it can go from light brown to dark brown to burnt very quickly. It's not the time to step away from the stove and water your plants.
These blondies include toffee, which makes for a sweet and very butterscotchy bar. Finely chopped bittersweet chocolate helps to balance out the sweetness of the batter.
Brown Butter Toffee Bars
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yield: Makes about 25 (1 1/2-inch) bars
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and browned, cooled
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped toffee bars, about 5 ounces
1/2 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate, about 2 ounces
Sea salt for sprinkling, optional
Melt the butter in a medium heavy-bodied saucepan over medium heat, whisking frequently. Continue to heat the melted butter until it begins to foam and then subsides, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue to cook until the butter has a deep amber color with a nutty, toasted aroma. Keep a careful eye on the butter, since it can quickly go from brown to burnt. When the butter has browned, remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter into a heat-resistant bowl to stop the cooking process. Cool completely. (At this point, you can use the butter as-is, or strain the butter through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer to remove the brown bits. For this recipe, keep the brown bits for extra flavor.)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-8-inch baking pan and line with parchment.
Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
Whisk the sugars, egg and yolk in a large bowl until light, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the cooled butter and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the toffee and chocolate.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with sea salt, if using. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted comes clean, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on a rack. Cut into squares.
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