Miso Butterscotch Bars

By • January 31, 2014 8 Comments

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Author Notes: I remember falling in love with butterscotch: It was 1976 and I had just finished my first est for Children Seminar (if you haven't heard of est, it's also known as the Forum or Landmark and back in the 70s they had est training for children. That's even weirder considering that a friend of a friend of mine was in my est group and, via Facebook, got in touch with me 30 years later). After a grueling day of getting to know myself and raising my consciousness, I was provided sustenance via a Dixie cup filled with salted peanuts, raisins, and butterscotch chips. [To be fair we had lunch too: cold fried chicken (yum) and salad with black olives and mealy tomatoes. I cried when I didn't want to eat the olives, but since I already informed them I was allergic to tomatoes I had to eat the olives -- it's very est-like not to let you get away with stuff like not eating olives because they are "hairy."] OH MAN those butterscotch chips! As awful as that day was, I was happy to go back the next day, just so I could have more of those salty-creamy-sweet-toasty-flavored yummy bits again... I lived in a world where treats were either made from a combination of carrots, zucchini, carob, and honey or were relentlessly Jewish, like poppyseed hamentashen. Butterscotch was so foreign, so deliciously WASP-y like American cheese or white bread, that I was hooked and later became somewhat addicted to Butter Rum Lifesavers.

Flash forward a lifetime or two to last year's Polarpocalypse or whatever and...We had not shown so much as a modicum of restraint during the holidays (there was a day where we had cheeseburgers for breakfast for goodness sake!). So because we didn't want to have to buy all new clothes or, like, die, we were trying to rein it in a bit. But the need to bake prevails..plus it was -5° F outside. I had just gotten back from the accountant and I wanted something warm and sugary and found a recipe on the King Arthur Flour website for butterscotch blondies. Because I can't let things be, I decided to kick them up a bit both with a glop of miso for flavor and, for extra crunchy crunch (I tried to fool myself into thinking I was adding protein in the form of good fats), I thought to add walnuts but I had no walnuts so I subbed flax seed meal, which worked well. I have since upgraded to chopped Marcona almonds because really flax seed has no place in a luscious butterscotch brownie.

These are SOOOOO delicious -- very sweet and kinda salty -- and they pack up and ship very nicely. (They also make great ice cream sandwiches).

Food52 Review: WHO: Aliwaks lives in Brunswick, Maine with her husband and their 3 cats.
WHAT: A butterscotch bar that sets the bar high.
HOW: Heat butter with vanilla and miso paste. Wait patiently for the butter to brown, then use it to make a batter with your standard ingredients (eggs, flour) and a few wildcards (ground almonds, Scotch, apple cider vinegar). Mix in the butterscotch chips and bake.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Blondies? Zzzzz. Brownies? Sigh. Lemon bars? We’ve seen it before. But butterscotch bars with miso? Wonderfully strange and surprisingly savory, they’re weird enough to impress your friends as gifts, yet delicious enough that you’ll want to keep a few for yourself.
The Editors

Serves one or many :)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean (scraped)
  • 1 tablespoon (heaping) light yellow or blonde miso paste
  • 1.75 cups dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Scotch or bourbon (the smokier the better)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely ground Marcona almonds (or toasted blanched almonds)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cups white whole-wheat flour (I used King Arthur brand)
  • 1/2 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 teaspoon or so smoked or regular flaked sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and butter a 9- x 13-inch baking pan.
  2. Put butter, vanilla bean, and miso paste over a low flame to brown. (This takes a while. To give an idea of what a while means: During this time I got all my other ingredients measured out, then I swept my kitchen, then I vacuumed the bathroom because I have cats, then I remembered reading that Kerry Washington gives all her friends Dyson Vacuums as presents, and just as I was imagining being friends with Kerry Washington and talking to her about my amazing new vacuum, that's when my kitchen suddenly smelled like nutty deliciousness and the butter had browned.)
  3. Add the brown sugar to the warm butter and stir around to combine
  4. Scrape the mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer and, using a paddle attachment on medium speed, mix it around for a few minutes until it lightens in color.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, pausing in between each addition to allow them to fully incorporate. (I wish I knew why this is good but I don't, probably something to do with air.)
  6. Add the vinegar and the scotch and get them all mixed in. (Vinegar and scotch sounds like it probably was a cure for something like an earache or an amputated arm in Scotland sometime around 1750: "Aye Lass, just warm a wee dram of Vinegare and a punt a Scotch whiskey in a sheep bladder 'til warm as 'twas a living thing." OOPS I digress again, but wasn't it just Robbie Burns Night or something?)
  7. Whisk the almonds, baking powder, and salt into the whole-wheat flour. Lower the speed of your mixer to like 1 (I cannot tell you how important this is, but I can show you a picture of the bit of cocoa powder on my wall that I could only reach enough to make an ugly smear) and add the dry ingredients in about 3 to 4 batches, pausing to incorporate each time (again, why mess with a good thing?).
  8. Give a few more mixes on medium speed to fully incorporate. At this point, you can mix in the butterscotch chips and pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top with a offset spatula OR you can make a butterscotch top (see the second to last step).
  9. Bake until it just pulls away from the pan, still a bit sticky-wicky in the center. [Editors' note: We started checking the bars around 30 minutes.]
  10. Sprinkle the chips (if using) over the warm lusciousness and spread so as to make a glaze-ish topping, then sprinkle with salt. You could also use very dark chocolate in place of butterscotch chips, because who knows what's really in those things... someone should make nice ones without chemicals.
  11. Let cool, then cut into neat squares with a knife set in hot water. I know it's hard to wait because the whole house smells like butterscotch, and lord knows you could have already gotten into the scotch, you naughty kitty you, also not much is better than hot gooey cake...and if you don't care about nice pretty edges, get a bowl and a spoon and some vanilla ice cream or some barely sweetened whipped cream and go nuts! Here's a secret: You can do that with a part of it and let the other part cool so that you can cut it into nice squares -- no one ever has to know you a had a warm butterscotch party in your mouth.

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