13 August 2012

Baby Ruth Cookie Bars

I don't eat many candy bars.  Since I make desserts all the time I usually get all the sweets I want (or need) without buying any additional sugary stuff.  Once a year or so I get a mad craving one specific candy bar, though.  Last year it was Payday.  Two years ago it was Snickers.  This year it is Baby Ruth.  Lately I haven't been able to get enough of 'em.  

This isn't exactly a Baby Ruth candy bar, since it is a cookie at its base.  On the other hand, it is a Baby Ruth because this cookie has all the components of a Baby Ruth smeared on top of the cookie base.  It's close enough that I have satisfied my annual candy bar craving.

a big ol' pile of cookies
If you aren't familiar or haven't had a Baby Ruth in a while, here's what they are made of:  caramel flavored nougat, caramel, peanuts, and milk chocolate.  I fancied mine up slightly with semisweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate, salted peanuts, and cajeta (goat's milk caramel you can buy at most Hispanic grocery stores).  You can use regular old caramel sauce in place of the cajeta -- it's what I happened to have in the pantry.  Cajeta has a deeper, slightly tangier flavor than regular caramel sauce.  It's a relatively subtle difference.  You can also use milk chocolate if you would like.  I happen to prefer semisweet chocolate. 

I cheated a little, too, and used a packaged sugar cookie mix rather than making the cookie base from scratch.  By all means, make it from scratch if you feel like it.  I wanted to shave off some time in the kitchen.  This recipes does require a little multitasking in that you have to go back and forth between the components a couple of times.  It's nothing extreme, so don't be intimidated.  Just get out all your ingredients before you start and read the recipe all the way through before you get cooking.

Baby Ruth Cookie Bars
makes about 60 cookies
baby ruth bars ready to be cut
Sugar Cookie Base
1 pkg sugar cookie mix 

One 310g jar cajeta or caramel sauce

Caramel Nougat
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup caramel sauce 
2 T light corn syrup
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided

1 cup salted peanuts
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

To make the cookie base:  Prepare the sugar cookie mix as directed on the package.  Press the dough into the bottom of a jelly roll pan that has been lined with foil.  Bake according to the package directions.  The time may vary just slightly from making individual cookies.  Pull the pan out of the oven when the base is nice and golden.

Meanwhile, make the nougat:  Combine the half and half, caramel sauce, corn syrup, and butter in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Stir constantly until the butter melts, then stir in 1 1/4 cups of the powdered sugar.  Clip on the candy thermometer and cook the mixture to 234°, stirring occasionally.
Once the mixture reaches the desired temperature, turn off the heat.  After a minute, whisk in the remaining 1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar.  Keep whisking until the mixture starts to thicken up and becomes a nice spreading consistency (about the same consistency as peanut butter), but is still quite warm.
close up of the baby ruth cookie layers

While you are cooking the nougat, and only having to stir occasionally, spread the cajeta over the sugar cookie layer (You will have to microwave the cajeta for a minute or so to soften it up enough to spread it.)  Sprinkle the peanuts evenly over the cajeta, pressing on them lightly to stick them to the cajeta.  

As soon as the nougat is ready, spread it evenly over the peanuts.  Immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the nougat.  Wait a couple of minutes for the chocolate chips to melt, then spread the chocolate out, evenly coating the cookie bars.  Let cool completely, then cut into bars.  Serve at room temperature.

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