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A Candy-Cookie Hybrid Your Dentist Won't Approve Of (But Your Friends Will)

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Extra ingredients—like a half-jar of tomato paste, or a discarded rind of Parmesan—and a combination of various recipes can give rise to innovative dishes.

Chocolate Caramel Walnut Bars
Chocolate Caramel Walnut Bars

Like these chocolate caramel walnut bars, born from a spare cup of walnuts I found in the freezer and two recipes I'd been eyeing. They're a delicious hybrid of a butter pecan turtle bar and a walnut square—a candy and cookie at once.

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The base of the bar is a thick batter studded with chopped walnuts, originally a recipe from the Diamond walnut bag in the '80s. Because it yielded a more praline-type confection and I wanted something chewier and more blondie-like, I added graham cracker crumbs and some butter.

Photo by Posie Harwood

For the topping, I borrowed some inspiration from chocolate pecan turtle bars—an over-the-top, three-layer cookie with blondie, sticky caramel, and chocolate—from an old Land O’Lakes box. The classics stick around for a reason!

Whip up a quick faux caramel by boiling together brown sugar and butter, then pour that over the walnut batter and bake until puffed and set. The caramel will sink into the bars while they bake, adding a gooey sweetness that contrasts nicely with the more humble base.

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Then, as soon as you take the pan out of the oven, top it with a few handfuls of chocolate chips while it's still hot so that they melt into a gooey layer.

Your dentist will surely not approve. But your friends, coworkers, children, boyfriends, girlfriends, and so on will be happy.

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Chocolate Caramel Walnut Bars

1e4d7b52 fd4f 4798 ae19 d0f715768358  ry 400 Posie Harwood
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Makes one 8-inch square pan

For the base:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs, finely crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

For the topping:

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I like a mix of semisweet and milk)

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Tags: dessert, baking, bars, chocolate, bar cookies, blondies, walnuts, caramel