that job hunting is a full time job.
I really thought that in those moments between interviewing here and staging there, I’d have tons and tons of downtime.
Yes, there were those special days where I’d refreshed the job listings page about 1,000 times in the past hour,
checked and re-checked my Netflix feed
(because you know, MAYBE something new would be added since I last checked… five minutes ago…),
and re-scanned my Instagram for the hundredth time.
But then there were those days where I was out of the apartment from 10am to 8pm, running here and there.
Although it was exhausting, going from doing nothing to doing everything all at once, I was cool with it, since I typically go insane if I have more than three hours of downtime!
Naturally, I had one of those crazy busy days
every single time
I tried to write this darn blog post.
In fact, I probably had the post written and re-written in my head about twenty different times. I’d think of opening lines while I was making dinner, headed back from the grocery store, or on my way to another job interview.
Of course, none of that actually made it to this post… which is probably for the better.
I’m not mad about it, visions and revisions, right?! 😀
Of course, the creation of these delicious, overly buttery, sweet and salty cookies occurred twice during the past two weeks, both in an attempt to get them photographed and on the blog so you could feast your eyes upon them!
[The first time was supposed to be the only time, but we all know how recipe testing goes.]
This is how it went down.
I was going to a girls night.
Yes! Girl’s night!
That never happens, since I know probably five girls in the entire city of Boston, so I was SUPER pumped.
I love getting invited places, because this means that I get to bring dessert. Of course, I use it as an excuse to make something elaborate for the blog that I wouldn’t want hanging around the house for Brandon and me to eat.
So naturally, the idea for a decadent bar cookie popped into my head.
Pretzel shortbread, salty oozy caramel, rich chocolate chunks, and an oatmeal cookie crumble to top it all off?
Sounds like the ultimate shove-me-in-your-face-whilst-watching-Bridesmaids type of dessert.
So that morning, I made the salted caramel so it could cool, and prepped the oatmeal cookie crumble for the top. I had justtttt enough butter to make it through, which was totally fine, since I had to go to the store anyway for our weekly groceries.
Then, I went to the gym (and spent probably an hour and a half there… this is what happens when you have no job: ultimate gym time before you stuff buffalo chicken pizza in your face three hours later).
Lastly, I went to the store, picked up some strawberries and veggies for some healthier options (pshhhh, who was I kidding???).
On the train back, I checked my phone.
I had two hours to shower, finish and bake the cookie bars, and get ready.
All was well.
Then, on the train ride home, grocery bags in hand, I realized I had forgotten the butter.
Ummmmmm, how am I going to make rich, scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread without butter?
Oh, and I also forgot cake flour. Needed that too.
I guess I was too busy la-dee-daing around the grocery store,
buying greek yogurt for my ranch dip
that I FAHGAHT THE BUTTAH.
You’d think I’d get myself together, yeesh!
My mind was racing. Two hours? No time to go back? Ok, culinary school training, get me through this. What can I replace the butter with… hmmm…. shortening? Nope, don’t have any. Oil? No, that’s going to make it tough. Wait! I have a stick of light butter at home! And AP Flour! Well, not exactly what I wanted, but I’ll have to make it work.
Of course, by the time I get home, figure out how to substitute everything, bake it, cut it, pack everything up, and get ready, it’s time for me to leave.
Uhhhmmmmm, except I haven’t photographed it yet, it’s 6:30PM and the light is horrible, and I don’t want to skimp on these girls by leaving half of the cookies home! I will eat them all!
That’s never good…
Welp, gotta go with the flow!
So I took the light butter/AP flour version of these babies to Girl’s Night and they inhaled them. No problems there. *phew*
But of course, that whole saga wasn’t what I’d wanted, AND
there were no photos to show for all of that crazy work!
Luckily, later on in the week, another friend was coming over to hang out and chat. She happens to live in a house with many roommates, and is usually the recipient of any and everything I’ve ever blogged, so naturally it was perfect for me to re-try my recipe.
I got the butter, got the cake flour, this time I was ready.
Then I went to make the recipe,
and LOW AND BEHOLD THERE WAS NO LIGHT BROWN SUGAR.
It’s as if making a proper grocery list and checking my pantry prior to making a blog recipe wasn’t ever a thing.
But, voila! There was some dark brown sugar in the pantry, yay!
And so, I made the recipe again, with (mostly) the right ingredients this time around
(and they were EVEN BETTER than the last time I made them. Success!).
Plus, my friend got to take home half, and she happily reported that her roommates inhaled them.
A few things to know about this recipe:
-Each component only takes one bowl or pot to make, yay! So essentially, you should only have three dishes to wash by the end of making this recipe. You’re welcome. If you want to get really fancy, you can make your shortbread base in one bowl, press it into the pan, and then RE USE the same bowl for the oatmeal crumble. Boom, now you only have two dishes to wash!
-The caramel will take you less than 10 minutes to make. It is not a traditional caramel where you start with white sugar, caramelize it, and hope and pray that it doesn’t over-caramelize, burn you, crystalize, or somehow catch on fire. Plus, it’s going on a cookie bar anyway, so the easier, the better!
-Since you aren’t caramelizing the sugar, I’d recommend using light brown sugar. In the photos, you will see that the caramel in the jar is one made with light brown sugar, and the caramel poured over the cookies is made with dark brown sugar. Notice the difference? The one in the jar is that perfect caramel color that you picture in your head when you think of a traditional salted caramel! Light brown sugar all the way.
-The shortbread recipe is absolutely amazing, easy, and extremely versatile. It calls for cake flour, and trust me, you won’t want to use anything else in this recipe! It gives it that perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture. This time around I replaced some of my cake flour with pretzel flour (which is basically pulverized pretzel pieces- I explain it in the recipe). If you so choose, you can replace all of the pretzel flour back with regular cake flour to make it plain shortbread, or, if you want to get really crazy, replace even MORE of the cake flour with pretzel flour for a more pretzely (just made up that word) flavor. Honestly, you could just make this shortbread by itself and you’d be happy as a clam, I promise.
-You could make the components of this recipe ahead of time, if you so choose. I fit them in during my day when I had time. You can also make everything at once. The caramel is going to get warm in the oven either way, so don’t be afraid of making it at the same time as the cookie doughs. HOWEVER, if you are going to make them all at the same time, I WOULD suggest making the caramel first, pouring it into a cool container, and letting it hang out until you are ready for it.
Salted Caramel Pretzel Oatmeal Crumble Bars
Yield: 1 9×13 inch pan
Easy Peasy Salted Caramel
2 Tbsp Salted butter
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/4 c heavy cream of half and half (either works)
large pinch kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (or a large dash of any boozey flavoring of your choice)
1. Combine all ingredients, except for vanilla or booze, together in a small saucepan and set over medium heat.
2. Bring the caramel to a boil, whisking often
3. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce it to a simmer. Allow to simmer for five minutes, whisking often. The caramel will be slightly thick, but still runny, and will be bubbly. Note that once it cools, it will thicken up nicely.
4. Off the heat, add the vanilla or alcohol. The caramel will bubble and spit violently, so don’t be alarmed. Whisk it in to combine. Pour the caramel into a glass jar or a separate bowl until you are ready to use it.
Pretzel Shortbread Cookie Base
1 c unsalted butter, softened
1 c cake flour
1 c pretzel flour*
3/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
*In order to make pretzel flour, pulse broken salted pretzel pieces in a food processor or magic bullet until you have a flour-like consistency. At first I used my food processor, but it didn’t pulverize the pieces enough, so I moved on to my “magic bullet” blender, or if you have a coffee grinder, this would work as well. You don’t want big chunks of pretzel in there because it will become soggy in the crust while baking. Sift these out. The measurement is taken AFTER you have crushed the pretzels, not before.*
1. You can make this dough in the bowl of a stand mixer, but I find it’s easier to just get my hands in there and get dirty. This way my shortbread isn’t over-creamed whatsoever, and it is perfectly flaky and delicious.
2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Using your hands or a spatula, work them all together until a homogenous dough is formed.
3. Press the dough into a 9×13 inch pan that has been sprayed with baking spray. Use a fork and prick the top of the dough over the entire surface, so it doesn’t form air bubbles while baking. Set aside while you make your crumble.
Oatmeal Cookie Crumble
3/4 c. All Purpose flour
3/4 c. Old Fashioned, or rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 c light brown sugar
1/8 c white sugar
1. Just like the shortbread dough, combine all ingredients in one large bowl and, using your hands, mix to combine. You are looking to form large chunks, or crumbles, of dough, instead of one large block of cookie dough. Set aside until you are ready to assemble.
Cookie Bar Assembly:
You Will Need:
1 recipe prepared Salted Caramel
1 recipe prepared Pretzel Shortbread
1 recipe prepared Oatmeal Cookie Crumble
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks (or chips)
1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F.
2. If your caramel has set up, pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so to loosen it up. Pour and spread the caramel evenly over the surface of the shortbread dough.
3. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks or chips evenly over the caramel.
4. Crumble your Oatmeal dough evenly across the surface of the caramel and chocolate chips.
5. Bake on the middle oven rack for 25-30 minutes, or until the top of the oatmeal crumble has turned a light golden brown color. The time will vary depending on your oven.
If you are having a bad week,
maybe you should make these crumble bars.
FIRST check your pantry, to make sure
(like seriously, MAKE SURE)
you have all of the ingredients, and then just do it!
Sit there with the pan and have at it.
If you are having a great week
(like, say you just got a job??? More on that next post ;), you should definitely make them.
They will be that proverbial cherry
on your sundae of a week.
Either way, please make sure you enjoy these with good friends who wont judge you on your use of light butter.
Oh, and buffalo chicken pizza and Bridesmaids are recommended accompaniments.
Stay hungry and curious,