Salted Caramel Bars have a rich flavor and chewy texture with decadent drizzle. I made them in two 8-by-8 glass pans for thicker bars, but you can also use a shallow half sheet baking pan (about 1-by-13-by-18-inches) for thinner bars. Expect to have more of the rum-flavored caramel sauce than you will need. Refrigerate the extra for topping oatmeal, ice cream, chocolate cake or anything else that benefits from a touch of salted caramel. Smucker’s Salted Caramel Topping can be substituted for the homemade sauce to save time. You will find it in 11.5-ounce jars with the ice cream toppings in supermarkets. If you decide to create a shortcut with a packaged blondie mix (I won’t tell), you will have a denser bar.
Salted Caramel Bars
Yield: 24 servings
Butter for greasing pan
1 box vanilla cake mix
1/3 cup salted butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
2 large eggs
1 cup toffee bits
Coarse ground sea salt to taste
Salted caramel sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup spiced rum
1/2 cup whipping cream
Coarse ground sea salt
1. For the sauce, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix sugar, 1/3 cup water, and the lemon juice. Heat over medium-high until bubbles form on the surface and mixture is simmering. Gently stir (do not aggressively mix) occasionally to incorporate all ingredients. Sugar should begin to caramelize in about 10 minutes, do not stir. Simmer until mixture is a rich, dark amber color. Remove pan from heat. Very carefully, stir in rum. Add whipping cream and coarsely ground sea salt to taste; stirring to combine. Cook over medium-low about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat; set aside.
2. Heat oven to 325F for dark or nonstick metal pans, 350F for glass baking dish or shiny metal pan. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan with foil or parchment paper, letting extra hang over the sides to make removing bars from pan easier. Lightly butter sides and bottom of pan.
3. In large bowl, combine the cake mix, melted butter, 2 tablespoons water and the eggs. Fold in toffee bits. Spread mixture evenly in baking pan.
4. Lightly sprinkle sea salt over the top of the batter. With a fork, drizzle some of the caramel sauce over the batter.
5. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown and a pick inserted 2 inches in from the sides comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack. Use the parchment or foil over hangs as handles to lift bars from the pan onto a cutting board.
6. Before serving, drizzle additional sauce over bars. (You may not use all of the sauce. See intro for other uses.) Let bars stand about 30 minutes or until caramel is set.