Soft bites and chewy edging. Perfection. Butter meets caramel meets powdery crumb topping. The flavor expanded and spread over every taste bud and then I was hit, mentally, by a shot of satisfaction and I smiled.
I meant to save some of these edges for Josh. I’m not sure what happened.
Rewind, rewind, rewind.
She’s gotten too smart for me. No more holding my breath while putting her down for a nap, to exhale upon my feet hitting the cold kitchen floor. After she graduated from naps, I used to try to bake while she painted or set up her princess figurines, but she couldn’t go at it for very long before needing me to squirt more paint or change Tiana’s dress.
(I did let her refill her palate once. Notice I said once.)
I would level off a measuring cup or separate an egg, run to Sophie, change the dress, run back and before I could find my place in the recipe, I would be summoned once again.
I gave it up. But I found that I couldn’t give up on baking. So we work together. Note the shower caps. She likes us to wear “hats.” Oh and don’t note the dishes. I did get to those. Eventually.
I wear the orange apron and she wears the green one. I weigh and measure the ingredients and she throws them in. We may lose a touch of flour this way, but mother and daughter are not losing their minds. If the recipe is complicated, she runs off after a few steps and I finish up on my own. We’re both happy with this set-up. I get to bake and she gets to make. Yes, I said make. “Can I make with you?” Sophie asks. And she’s right. It’s never just baking or cooking, It’s a lot more.
Today we made Caramel Crumb Bars from Nick Malgieri’s The Modern Baker. This book is just right. I love what it features—pies, tarts, cakes, cookies, bars, pastry, and even savory tarts, pies, and breads. The photography is complimentary and I have faith that each recipe will give me a delightful product.
I chose this recipe because 1) I have the ingredients and 2) I was able to make it with a three year old. (Don’t attempt puff pastry with a toddler as your sous chef.)
We were happy with the results. And the recipe was fairly simple. And I like the idea of cookie bars. They’re rustic and pleasing and almost always appropriate. And a baker can be somewhat experimental with bars. Experimenting with different nuts and fillings and crumbs and toppings can be exhilarating. Trust me.
Caramel Crumb Bars
2 sticks of butter 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened, condensed milk
1. Butter and line a 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan with buttered parchment paper.
2. Preheat the oven to 350.
3. Beat the butter with the sugar and salt at medium speed for 3 minutes.
4. Beat in 2 1/4 cup flour at the lowest speed. Scrape down the bowl a few times in the process.
5. Take 1/4 of the dough and press it into the pan. Chill the pan.
6. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour into the rest of the dough and make crumbs by rubbing the dough with the flour between your fingers.
7. Make the filling by simmering the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, and condensed milk in a medium saucepan. Stir often and cook for about 10 minutes. Pour mixture into a stainless-steel bowl and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.
8. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and pour the filling on top, spreading it evenly with a small spatula. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top.
9. Bake for about 30 minutes.
10. Place the pan on a rack and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Cut it into bars before it cools completely.