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Cashew Caramel Cracker Bars

With their flaky crust, smooth caramel filling, and deep chocolate glaze speckled with toasted cashews, these scrumptious cashew cookies are rich, habit-forming, and perfect for gift giving. The secret to the flaky crust? It’s not complicated pie dough, layers of transparent phyllo, or something even more exotic. No, this crust is made from simple supermarket soda crackers. The crackers take on a taste and appearance that would impress the most discerning cookie connoisseur. (The secret is revealed only to the baker when she inverts the cookies to cut them.)–Sara Perry

LC Christmas Party Conversation Starter Note

In Ghana at Christmastime, notes the author, cashew tree grows freely, and in courtyards throughout the country, it’s often decorated like a Christmas tree. Huh. Who knew?

Special Equipment: A 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pan and a candy or deep-fry thermometer

Cashew Caramel Cracker Bar Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes 35 to 40 bars

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 35 saltine crackers, preferably Nabisco Premium Saltines
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • One 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup toasted unsalted cashews, coarsely chopped

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pan with a sheet of foil, shiny side up, leaving a few inches hanging over the longer edges.
  • 2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Drizzle 1/4 cup of the butter onto the foil-lined pan, and brush to cover the bottom of the pan. Line the pan with the crackers (don’t worry if there are small gaps between the crackers).
  • 3. Clip a candy or deep-fry thermometer onto the side of the pan. Stir the brown sugar into the butter remaining in the pan and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, until the mixture forms a thick syrup (248°F/120°C) on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and slowly, slowly whisk in the condensed milk until blended. Pour the mixture over the crackers, making sure all the crackers are covered.
  • 4. Bake the bars for 10 minutes. The top will be bubbly and brown. Remove from the oven, scatter the chocolate chips over the topping, and let rest until they soften and maybe even melt, about 5 minutes. Using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula, spread the chocolate evenly over the surface of the caramel mixture. Sprinkle with the nuts and, using your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the nuts into the chocolate. Transfer the pan to the freezer until the chocolate sets, about 30 minutes.
  • 5. Invert the pan of caramely goodness onto a clean surface (don’t worry if you lose some nuts from the surface; they’ll be great for topping an ice cream sundae or for adding to cookie dough or just nibbling). Carefully peel back the foil to reveal the soda-cracker underside of the cookies. Using a sharp knife, cut the cookies along the cracker outlines. (This is easier to do when the cookies have begun to thaw slightly.) Invert and cut the squares into quarters for bite-size pieces or thirds for finger-size pieces.
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