Most of the time we’re trying to keep squirrels out of our yard; those pesky critters are always digging up our flowers and plants to bury their stash of nuts and goodies. In this case, we’re willing to make an exception, because these particular nutty treats are exclusively for humans, and we can guarantee you’ll relate to the squirrel on one level: the desire to hide snacks so no one else can eat them! Once these show up on our kitchen counter, everyone starts to act a little “squirrely” as they try to sneak off with a bar (or two!).
These are super easy to make, and come with a sweet and salty combination of flavors that we absolutely go nuts for! A crisp cookie base is covered with a chewy filling, and that chewy filling is topped with a delightfully delicious swirl of caramel and nuts. Our secret here is to toast the nuts before they go on top of the bars. Toasting really brings out that nutty flavor and makes the cookie taste a little more decadent and rich than it would otherwise.
This is the type of treat that we love to have in our recipe arsenal; it’s great at any time of year, for bake sales, fundraisers, potlucks, and for holiday cookie exchanges. Nutty squirrel bars will stand out from the usual cookie fare and are downright irresistible. Salted caramel, if you’ve not tried it, is the perfect combination of salty and sweet, and we love the crunch factor that comes from both the nuts and cookie base. We love all the layers of flavor! Try these with walnuts, pecans, peanuts…almost any nut will do; we prefer to use unsalted so that the dessert isn’t overwhelmed with salty flavor. Our squirrel bars are sweet, chewy, salty, nutty – we think that’s a recipe for success!
Chewy Nutty Squirrel Bars
40 minutes to prepare 24-32 bars
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and divided
1 cup powdered sugar
1 ¼ cup flour
⅓ cup cocoa powder
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup caramel baking chips
½ cup chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
Set aside 2 tablespoons of butter.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat sugar and 1 ¾ sticks butter until fluffy. Slowly add cocoa powder and flour and mix until well incorporated.
Transfer batter to baking dish. Press to spread around baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes.
In a medium saucepan on low heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter with sweetened condensed milk. Stir until thickened, remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour sauce over top of baked crust. Return to oven and bake until golden brown, 8-10 minutes.
Toast nuts in a dry pan until fragrant. Cool slightly then rough chop and set aside.
Melt caramel chips in microwave with 4 tablespoons heavy cream; 30 second intervals, stirring each time, for 2 minutes. Fold nuts and salt into caramel sauce, and pour over top and spread out to edges. Cool completely before cutting into bars.
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