Buttery shortbread base and the gooiest nut and fruit filling make up these fabulous loaded butterscotch bars. Mind-blowingly delicious and such a crowd pleaser!
A sweet, gooey, nut bar that can count as a snack or maybe dessert.
The loaded part of the title gives you permission to use whatever nuts or dried fruits you like. I like to make almost an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink version. All bits and pieces go into this masterpiece.
The shortbread base
The base is a buttery shortbread.
A very standard one (using cups as the volume unit) with 4 parts flour, 2 parts butter, 1 part sugar, and a pinch of salt. Works every time for whatever type of square or bar you want to make.
It can be frozen before baking. You can line your pan with the shortbread base, prick it with a fork, and pop it in the freezer for a few days, or weeks until you're ready to bake the whole thing.
The butterscotch topping
And the topping, oh the butterscotch topping.
It has butter, sugar, and cream. Gooey, sweet, and the perfect vehicle for the citrus zest, nuts, and dried fruits (image below).
It's my favorite, the one that also works time and time again. And I've made these bars a million times. I even sold them at the cafe at some point, and people went crazy for them. Seriously.
What goes into the filling?
You can use whatever combination of dried fruit and nuts (or just nuts like the original recipe) and even substitute the cream for coconut cream like I did today. Just because I had some. I usually use good and faithful double fatty cream.
It's butterscotch after all.
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For the crust:
- 1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup (100g) sugar
- 2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
- Large pinch of salt
For the topping:
- 1 cup (225) unsalted butter
- ½ cup honey
- 1 cup (200g) light brown sugar, firmly packed
- ¼ cup (50g) sugar
- ¼ cup coconut cream (or double cream)
- Zest of 1 orange
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 5 cups nuts and dried fruits (any combination (I used 1 ½ cups whole almonds, 1 ½ cup walnuts, about ½ cup each dried pears, dried cherries, raisins and macadamia nuts))
For the crust:
- In a bowl mix butter and sugar with a wooden spoon or handheld electric mixer.
- Add flour and salt in two or three additions, mixing well. It will all come together in a shabby ball. Be sure the flour is well mixed and no dry patches remain.
- You can line a 13x18-inch (23x33cm) baking pan with 2 inch sides, with aluminum foil that hangs a bit over the long edges. It will cover the bottom and both long sides, but not the short sides. This will aid when unmolding the whole piece before cutting.
- Distribute the dough in small mounds on the bottom of the pan.
- With floured hands, slowly and patiently, pat the dough to cover the entire surface and go 1-inch up the sides.
- Start with the sides and work your way to the middle, flouring your hands as necessary.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF / 180ºC.
- Bake the dough for 15 or 20 minutes, until beginning to color.
For the topping:
- When the dough is baking, start with the topping.
- In a large bowl mix the 5 cups assorted dried fruits and nuts with the citrus zest.
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter with honey.
- Add both sugars, mix well, turn on the heat and, when it starts to boil, cook for exactly 2 minutes without stirring.
- Remove from heat and add coconut cream, careful because it will bubble furiously.
- Immediately pour over the nut mixture and mix well to coat everything.
- Pour this caramel nut mixture over the dough, carefully covering the whole surface. Don't dump everything in the middle because it will be hard to spread to the sides without tearing the dough.
- Some parts will have more caramel than other, but it will even up in the oven.
- Bake for 25 minutes, remove and let cool on wire rack.
- If the caramel spilled to the sides of the dough, run a thin knife around the egdes after it's cooling for a few minutes, so it doesn't stick. If it does stick and you have trouble to unmold it, simply pop it in the oven 4 or 5 minutes until the caramel is warm.
- Lift the aluminum foil and put the whole piece on a surface to cut it.
Filling: use whatever combination of nuts and dried fruits you like as long as you respect the 5 cups.
Freezing: you can freeze the unbaked shortbread base for a few weeks.
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 25
- Category: Bars
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: International
Keywords: butterscotch bars, loaded bars
Adapted from Cookies, by Maida Heatter