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Salted Nut Bars Make the Grade for Graduation

Salted Nut Bars Make the Grade for Graduation

By Liz
April 23, 2012
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nuts, bars, saucepan

It’s graduation time, and my youngest daughter is graduating from her K-8 school this spring. The school holds a ceremony and provides a cake, and the parents fill in the dessert buffet with other treats and snacks. Salted Nut Bars are always a favorite, especially because they are easily cut into fun, small shapes so the recipe makes lots of bars. They are easy to handle and eat without a fork, so they’re perfect for a stand-around event like Zoey’s graduation.
They are one of my favorite treats to make for events, and they’re incredibly easy to make, too. Start by preparing the pan by lining it with foil and spraying with cooking spray. This is an important step that makes cutting and serving a breeze.

spray, pan, aluminum foil

Next, make the shortbread crust. My husband, who is totally addicted to these bars and requests them all the time, says they should be called "Salted Nut Shortbreads" because the crust is so excellent it really must be mentioned in the name.

It’s also very easy! Measure the flour by spooning it into the measuring cup and leveling with a knife or flat edge. This ensures the flour isn’t packed too tightly, which can make the shortbread dry and crumbly.

flour, measure, level

Put the measured flour into the mixing bowl and add all the other crust ingredients.

flour, crust, ingredients

Beat at low speed, scraping often if necessary, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. It’s best if the butter is softened but not mushy—I took mine out about 20 minutes before I needed it, unwrapped it and cut it into chunks to soften and it worked well.

butter, coarse crumbs, mix

When the crust mixture is ready, simply press it into the prepared pan. Try your best to even it out and press firmly.

press, crust, pan

Don’t worry about getting it totally flat—that won’t matter in the finished bars. You can see finger marks in my crust as it gets ready to bake for 10 minutes.

baked, crust, pan

As the bars are baking, make the topping. Again, it’s so easy! Just put the topping ingredients of light corn syrup, butterscotch chips, butter, water and salt into a medium saucepan.

saucepan, heat, nuts

Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until the mixture is melted and smooth.

melted, topping, saucepan

Then, add the mixed nuts. I like to make sure I have a generous amount so I can cover the whole crust—if the mix has fewer peanuts you will need slightly more nuts to cover the crust. I add an extra 1/8 cup just to be sure.

nuts, topping, bars

Get the nuts well coated with the butterscotch mixture. About this time, the crust should be coming out of the oven. Pour the nut mixture onto the hot crust.

nut, crust, spread

You want to work quickly and gently, because the mixture will spread easiest when it is hot. Don’t push the nuts too hard into the crust; just spread them to the edges using light pressure. Don’t worry about slight unevenness—the butterscotch will melt in the oven as it bakes for another 10-12 minutes.

nut, bars, pan

Beautiful! This will smell like that favorite candy bar, but get ready—it is so much better! You need to let it cool completely in the pan, and then you are ready to cut it into bars. Because the pan is lined with foil that overlaps the edges, it’s easy to lift the whole pan of bars out and onto a cutting surface.

lift, pan, foil

Once the bars are on the flat cutting surface, pull the foil off of the edges—but there’s no need to remove the bars entirely from the foil before cutting.

remove, foil, bars

I use the guide in the Test Kitchen tips to remind me how to cut triangles; you can find it here. Follow the picture if you want to cut the bars into triangles or diamonds, but of course you can cut them into squares or rectangles if you prefer. I start by cutting diagonal strips.

cut, diamonds, bars

Next, cut rows down.

cut, diamonds, bars

I like to serve triangles because it makes more pieces, so I cut the diamond shapes in half according to the guide.

triangle, bars, cut

I’m not quite sure how well I followed the guide this time—I had to sample one corner that didn’t work very well (!)—but they sure looked nice when I removed them to a tray. I never have any trouble finding takers for the pieces that didn’t turn out quite right, and I don’t mind if the pieces vary in size.

nut, bars, plate

I actually made these for two different events this month—here’s another trayful I sent to my older daughter’s school for the teachers to enjoy during parent-teacher conferences. I wondered if they would go over well among all the other store-bought and bakery offerings, and was happy to hear they were a clear favorite and everyone loved them.

nut, bars, tray

Every time I make these, at least one person wants the recipe! It’s fun to go on the site and email it to them using the "share" link. You’ll find it above the recipe name.

The real trick with this Salted Nut Bars recipe is getting them out the door to the event without them disappearing! (Really, I’m not kidding. My always-looking-for-a-snack teenagers love these.) You should definitely try them; they’re perfect for an event, but also great for a neighbor, an afternoon snack or anytime. Let me know if you love them, too, and if you found them easy to make.

Check back in a few days when Emily shares a quick, weeknight meal idea.

Liz is paid to write for the Land O'Lakes Recipe Buzz® Blog.

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