Sometimes when I cook, I want to make absolutely the best version of that dish possible. I want to coax the maximum potential from every single ingredient, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Other times, I just want to use up the container of dulce de leche in the fridge.
I only made a quarter of the Florida Pie recipe, which left me with leftover sweetened condensed milk. I made it into dulce de leche, thinking it would preserve better that way and that I’d have more options on how to use it. Half a Snickery Squares recipe called for almost exactly the amount of dulce de leche I needed to use up. (Um, I think. There was no measuring.)
I didn’t want to get out and then wash all of my food processor parts for half a recipe of shortbread crust, so I mixed that by hand. I didn’t want to bother with half an egg yolk, so I used heavy cream. I made the caramel peanuts as instructed, and that was fun. Caramel always fascinates me, and the peanuts sounded like plastic pieces once they cooled. Due to laziness and ingredient availability, I tweaked the chocolate topping ingredients just a bit. Everything seemed to come together nicely, even with the shortcuts.
I didn’t expect to love this dessert. I don’t dislike Snickers bars, but neither am I a fan. And I’ve heard a few reviews saying that these bars are really rich, so I was expecting another over-the-top Dorie creation.
Holy smokes, this is the best treat I’ve made in months. It’s certainly my favorite of the recipes I’ve made from Dorie’s Baking book. The shortbread crust is sturdy but tender, the dulce de leche adds complexity, the peanuts provide crunch, and the bittersweet chocolate ties everything together and keeps it from being too sweet.
There are a few tiny changes I would make to the recipe next time. I’d reduce the sugar in the crust. I was surprised by how sweet it was when I tasted it plain, and I think it would make a better contrast to the filling if it weren’t so sweet. I’ll probably use heavy cream in the crust in the future, like I did this time, because it seemed to work fine and it’s easier than dealing with an egg yolk. And I’d reduce the peanuts from 1½ cups to 1 cup, because I really couldn’t fit them all in the pan. I’d correspondingly reduce the sugar in the filling to ¼ cup (for a full recipe).
But really, this is nitpicking. The squares are amazing how they are, and after two days of them beckoning me from the kitchen, begging for nibbles to be taken and already-clean edges to be shaved off, I’m relieved but sad to have just sent the last square off to work with Dave.
Snickery Squares (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)
Bridget notes: Next time I’ll reduce the granulated sugar in the crust to 3 tablespoons and the powdered sugar to 1 tablespoon. I’ll reduce the peanuts to 1 cup, the sugar in the filling to ¼ cup, and the water in the filling to 2½ tablespoons. However, these changes aren’t to say that the bars aren’t amazing how they are.
For the Crust:
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ (1.75 ounces) cup sugar
2 tablespoons (0.5 ounce) powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
For the Filling:
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons water
1½ cups salted peanuts
About 1½ cups store-bought dulce de leche
For the Topping:
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
Getting Ready: Preheat oven to 350F. Butter an 8-inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.
To Make the Crust: Toss 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 yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds – stop before the dough comes together in a ball.
Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.
To Make the Filling: Have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet at the ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon and a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.
Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. Toss the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white-keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet, using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature.
When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in biggish pieces for the filling, and finely chop the other half for the topping.
Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base and sprinkle over the whole candied nuts.
To Make the Topping: Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate.
Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, then sprinkle over the rest of the peanuts. Slide the pan into the fridge to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you’d like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting.
Cut into 16 bars.