Monday, July 28, 2008

Fast, Easy, and Addictive

Recently some friends here in town were having a social evening at their business, the neighborhood bookstore. It was a 'Cookies and Lemonade' night, an open invitation to come in, meet, and mingle with other residents of the town. Now you know me, I never like to show up empty-handed, but I just didn't have all day to devote to making anything elaborate. Enter Almond Bars! I, or should I say my mom, acquired this recipe from our former hairdresser years ago, and it is just too easy to believe. The original recipe specifies margarine, but I didn't happen to have anything other than butter on hand. The substitution did end up creating a few differences: the caramel flavor was richer, definitely a butter caramel, and the caramel itself was more opaque and stayed a bit softer after cooking and cooling. When using margarine, the caramel stays a translucent amber and sets up a little harder and faster. I tweaked the recipe a bit flavor-wise as well; the original recipe had just 4 ingredients, but I added a few drops of extracts and a little salt, as I have a deep weakness for salted caramel. I'd say these were the best Almond Bars I've made so far. 

Almond Bars
adapted from Tina

12 whole graham crackers
1 stick of butter
1 C light brown sugar, packed
Sliced almonds 
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Fine sea salt, for sprinkling

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until very bubbly, stirring occasionally, about 8 -10 minutes. In the meantime, break the graham crackers in half and place them on the baking sheet. Sprinkle each graham cracker with almonds, heavy or light as you like. When the butter-sugar mix is really boiling away, remove from the heat and add the vanilla and almond extracts. Stir to combine, and carefully spoon or pour the hot sugar mixture over the graham crackers and nuts. Bake for 10 minutes. When you remove the tray from the oven, sprinkle each bar with a little fine sea salt. Let cool on the baking sheet, then break apart and serve. 

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