Cheat Day [cheet dey] – noun: The one day of the week where diet minded fitness freaks throw caution to the wind and indulge only on the most tantalizing, ridiculously calorie dense foods known to man. Often associated with the term, “carb hangover,” which occurs the morning after a particularly fruitful cheat day. Synonyms: Free Day, Fun Day, Fat Day

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Caramel Blondies

So it's September.  It's football season.  It's officially too cold to wear shorts and tank tops.  Most people are busy getting all depressed and sad that their days of drinking beer by the pool are coming to a close, and scantily clad ladies will no longer be roaming the streets.  But I, as a baker and a glutton, couldn't be more stoked.

My family had a gathering last weekend, and I got to bring the desserts.  And due to all the reasons stated above, I decided I needed to bring "fall" treats.  I wanted my house to smell like cinnamon and spice after baking...whatever it is I was going to bake.  I wanted to grab a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks and sit down and enjoy a little bit of autumn.  So, I made two different bars- Pumpkin Pie Bars and Cinnamon Sugar Caramel Blondies.  They were both good, but I'll write about the blondies first.

I showed up with giant tray of amazingness to contribute to the festivities.  (What can I say.  I'm nothing if not modest!)   How my husbands family does get togethers is pretty epic to begin with, and this was the just the icing on the metaphorical cake.  But instead of cake, these treats topped off an atery clogging day of fried deliciousness.  I'm talking fried fish, fried chicken wings, cheese balls, jalapeno poppers, doughtnuts- you name it, these people will deep fat fry it.  God, I love my family.  

Oh- and they also make their own wine.  I use the term wine loosely.  I think "wine flavored everclear" more accurately describes this stuff.  Did I mention that I love my family?

Anywhoo- after mowing down on all this fried goodness, I broke out the dessert tray.  Despite being not hungry in the slightest, I think I ate like 9 bars throughout the course of the day.  Then I sat around immobile/watched people shoot things until dinner time rolled around.  Most normal people would skip dinner at this point, or have a salad or something lame like that.  We are not normal.  We heated the oil up and threw in more food.  Seriously- I LOVE MY FAMILY!

So then I came home, ate more bars, and prayed that I could somehow learn to digest faster due to the massive food baby that had reached full term somewhere between my 5th serving of fried cheese and my last caramel bar.

Oh yeah, the caramel bars.  Holy cow- these are good.  Hands down my favorite bar I've ever made.  Sweet, a little salty, and wonderfully flavorful.  Soft, gooey, happy- and they made my house smell beautiful.  I <3 them.  Make them.  Before winter rolls around and you are forced to embrace all that is peppermint.

Cinnamon Sugar Caramel Blondies
Recipe adapted from:

2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (plus one tsp, optional)
1 14 oz bag of caramels unwrapped

1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan; set aside.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla. Beat, scraping the bowl, until thoroughly combined. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until just combined. Give the dough a final stir with a spatula or wooden spoon to make sure the flour is incorporated.  Spread half of  the dough evenly into the pan (It is going to be a thick batter so you may need  greased spatula...or greased hands... to help with this).

Heat the caramels, cream and a tsp of vanilla (optional) in a saucepan over medium-high heat until thick and melted. Pour the caramel sauce over the batter.

Distribute the remaining batter as evenly as possible over the caramel. (I grabbed small handfuls, pressed them flat, and pieced them on top of the caramel.  If it isn't perfect, that's ok!)  Combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the surface springs back when gently pressed (They may look a little brown- but that's only due to the cinnamon- it's OK!)  Cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container.

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