These. Bars. Are. Epic.
There are certain desserts I can’t stay away from. Snowball cookies (a.k.a. Russian Tea Cakes) are in that category. If they’re on a plate, I’m eating every last one. There’s no doubt about it. And when I’m presented with toffee bars, the same dang thing happens.
Add caramelized smoked almonds, and guess what? It’s known in my brain as, “Give these away now now now before I eat every last one.”
Sometimes when I’m busy brainstorming recipes to post three times a week or stuck in a baker’s block rut, I don’t take the time to fully appreciate what drew me to create this blog. Luckily, I had a reminder the other day.
Every now and then, I have a day at work that makes me want to quit. It’s rare, since I’m lucky enough to love my job, but it happens. I worked really hard on something that I cared about, and it just didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to because of a little detail that I’ll call bureaucracy. That’s the b-word in my life. It’s what limits creativity with arbitrary, often pointless rules.
I got home that day feeling pretty weepy, and before I knew it, I was pounding away at smoked almonds with a rolling pin. Boy, was that therapeutic. And as I pressed dough into the baking pan in front of me, I was reminded of how lucky I am. Because not only do I work in a job I love, but I have another love that I foster here at home and share with you. And it’s not at all accidental that this love lets me crush things with my hands from time to time. Better than a punching bag, y’all.
Caramelizing smoked almonds is really easy. All you do is melt some butter, add brown sugar, and wait until it gets nice and bubbly. Then you stir in the almonds, and poof! Crack in a skillet, people. And it goes so unbelievably well with chocolate.
If you’ve never had a toffee bar, then I should probably explain that there is no actually toffee in them. You can add Heath bits, but that’s not traditional. It would taste good, mind you. But I honestly have no idea how toffee bars got their name. If you know, please enlighten me. My nerd self wants to know.
If you’re into baking desserts that will literally leap off the plate and into people’s mouths with astonishing rapidity, this is it. Just beware: it might be hard to stop. But that’s the joy of baking, isn’t it? Creating wonderful treats that are impossible to resist. And I can tell you, it has a heckuva lot more soul than red tape.
Smoky Salted Almond Toffee Bars
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (separate from butter below for almonds)
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed (separate from brown sugar below for almonds)
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 oz. smoked almonds, partially chopped (instructions below)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
- Preheat the oven to 350. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough to hang over the sides. Coat with cooking spray.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the margarine and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolk and extracts and mix again. Gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated.
- Pat the cookie dough onto the prepared pan evenly. Bake for 20 minutes.
- While the dough is baking, make the caramelized almonds. In a medium nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and stir. When the mixture becomes bubbly, stir for one more minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the smoked almonds. Spread the hot almonds out on a big plate or piece of waxed paper to cool.
- Remove the square pan from the oven and sprinkle on the chocolate chips. Wait five minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Using an offset spatula or knife, spread the melted chocolate evenly over the surface of the bars. Sprinkle on the almonds and let the chocolate set. If you’d like to speed up the chocolate hardening, put the pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Cut into squares and serve!