Sesame Cashew Bars

img_0763It seems I unexpectedly took a sabbatical from blogging…  Don’t worry, I’ve still been cooking/baking (although less than normal…)!  Life just got a bit hectic to fit photographing and blogging into the mix!

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The past 6 months have been a bit of a whirlwind with work, fellowship interviews all over the country, a month-long elective in NYC, new photography jobs, a quick trip to Iceland and everyday life.  I’ve managed to do some cooking and baking here and there…and obviously a lot of eating!

I’ve actually been meaning to post about these Sesame Cashew Bars from Sofra for a few months.  Have you ever purchased a cookbook just for one recipe?  These bars are that recipe!  It was love at first taste for me…salty, roasted cashews paired with smooth, silky caramel and buttery shortbread all together in one scrumptious bite.  I bought them one day while strolling through the Boston Public Market and meandering through the produce at Sienna Farms (run by the team behind Sofra and Oleana).  They called out to me inside their glistening cellophane packaging.  One bite was all it took and I was hooked.  I tried to save the rest of the bars by freezing them but it was a futile attempt.  Last summer I tried to recreate them by making these caramel cashew bars; they were very good but not as good as the Sofra version.

Lucky for me (and my friends), Sofra recently published a cookbook, Soframiz, featuring 100 recipes from Sofra…including these sesame cashew bars!!! I immediately bought the cookbook and made my first batch…and soon a second.   They were just as heavenly as I remembered!  They are relatively easy to make with only a handful of ingredients- just remember they need to be made the day before you are going to eat them so they can cool.

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Sesame Cashew Bars (From Soframiz)

Ingredients
For The Crust:
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1¾ sticks (7 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • ⅔ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

For The Filling:

  • 3½ cups salted cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup raw honey
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
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Instructions:
  1. Line a 13 by 9-inch pan with aluminum foil, making sure it extends over the sides (or else caramel seeps in between the foil and pan and makes it hard to get out…you might want to double layer). Very lightly spray or butter the foil. (see note below)
  2. Make The Crust: Combine the flour, butter, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until the butter forms pieces the size of small pebbles, 20-30 seconds. Pour the crust crumbs into the prepared pan and press down to form an even layer. Cover and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake the crust until golden, about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Make The Filling: While the crust is cooling, make the filling. Combine the cashews, sesame seeds, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  5. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and honey, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves and begins to turn to caramel, forming large bubbles and thickening, or reaches 240ºF on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream and vanilla. Add cashew mixture to the pot. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cashew mixture into the caramel until well combined.
  6. Pour the filling on top of the baked crust in an even layer. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the caramel bubbles along the sides of the pan only and the center is still liquid, 26 to 28 minutes. The filling will appear unbaked. It is very important not to over-bake. The filling will set up as it cools.
  7. Set aside to cool completely and then cover and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Lift the foil out of the pan to remove the bars in one large block. Cut into thirty-six 1½-inch squares.
  9. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  They taste best when allowed to come to room temperature for 30 min to an hour.
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