You really can’t beat these Walnut Pecan Caramel Bars! They have a light, crumbly shortbread base with a touch of ground almonds for extra sweetness and a decadent sweet caramel layers crammed with crunchy, buttery pecans and walnuts. I like to add a small amount of espresso powder to the caramel to temper the sweetness slightly and sprinkle them with flaky sea salt to finish. I have to confess these are too tempting to resist!
As some of you may know, my fiancé isn’t a fan of chocolate, so these seemed like the perfect alternative for a Millionaire’s Shortbread-style bake without that sweet topping. These Walnut Pecan Caramel Bars are also eggless and can be made with plant-based butter instead – making them entirely vegan. While these are excellent during the festive season, they’re really a bake that stands the test of time and can be enjoyed throughout the year whenever you need a sweet pick-me-up.
Ingredients and alternatives:
These Walnut Pecan Caramel Bars are a simple recipe that requires very little effort or ingredients. Here’s why some of them are crucial to your bake, and others you can swap out…
For the shortbread base:
- http://thomasgull.com/help.php Ground almonds. I like adding these to the shortbread to give it a softer texture. It also avoids them becoming too sweet with too much sugar but if you’d rather omit them, simply up your sugar to 100g. Prefer to swap in something else? Semolina is a great option instead of the almonds which will give your shortbread that signature gritty texture.
- Nyangao Butter. Always choose unsalted butter for the best results, especially since these Walnut Pecan Caramel Bars have the addition of flaky sea salt anyway.
- Flour. This is super important as it’ll help avoid any sticking. If you let the cake cool too much in the pan, the sugar-fruit mixture will harden and your cake will stick. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then remove from your tin immediately for the perfect release.
- Sugar. My personal favourite for this recipe is light brown sugar, but caster sugar is also a great alternative as is golden caster sugar for its warmer, more caramel-like flavour.
For the caramel topping:
- Caramel or dulce de leche. An easy store-bought option is Nestlé Carnation’s ready-made tinned caramel, but if you’re feeling fancy you can pick up a jar or delicious dulce de leche from your local deli or whole foods store.
- Golden syrup. An ingredient that I personally always have in the back of my kitchen cupboard, golden syrup is perfect in these Walnut Pecan Caramel Bars. If you prefer to use honey, choose one that is more amber in colour for a richer flavour.
- Espresso powder. I use Nescafé Azera in these bars, but any form of espresso powder mixed with 1tsp of boiling water will do.
- Flaky sea salt. Essential! This finishes these bars off in the most perfect way. I like Maldon or Cornish Sea Salt.
What makes the Walnut Pecan Caramel Bars so delicious?
- They’ve got the rich balance of textures: soft, buttery base and chewy, crunchy topping.
- They’re perfect for gifting in cellophane or paper bags, tied with ribbons.
- The combination of whole and roughly chopped nuts is a wonderful combination.
Can I prepare these ahead of time?
If you prefer to make them in two batches, so to speak, you definitely can. This recipe really takes no time at all, so making them in one go is always better in my opinion. If you’re short on time however, here’s how to execute it:
Make the shortbread first
You can make the shortbread, prick it all over with a fork and keep it in the fridge for 48 hours before baking. Otherwise, you can chill and bake it at the suggested temperature, and keep them covered (once cool) for up to 3 days.
Then make the caramel
The caramel will need time to set, so making these and leaving it to properly firm up overnight is key. Once you’ve done this, your bars are ready!
How can I adapt these Walnut Pecan Caramel Bars?
I personally love these as they are but if you really want to jazz them up, here are my best suggestions:
1. Add a chocolate topping. Whether it’s white, dark, milk, or a mixture of all three, adding a beautiful chocolate topping will make these feel more luxurious for the festive season.
2. Switch up the nuts. Prefer peanuts? Then add these instead. Macadamias and whole almonds are also a great alternative.
3. Allergic to nuts? Cereals like cornflakes, Rice Krispie or even Cinnamon Crunch would be perfect for creating that beautiful contrast of textures without the addition of nuts.
See how I made these over on Instagram!
Walnut Pecan Caramel Bars
For the shortbread
- 150 g unsalted butter chilled and cubed
- 75 g light brown sugar
- 75 g ground almonds
- 150 g plain flour
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the caramel topping
- 1 can Nestlé Carnation Caramel or dulce de leche
- 100 g unsalted butter
- 100 g light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 100 g pecans (50g of these, chopped)
- 100 g walnuts (50g of these, chopped)
- Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin, then place all the ingredients for the shortbread in a food processor and whiz to a dough. Alternatively, add all ingredients to a bowl and use your fingertips to rub the butter into the mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then continue to bring together until it forms a dough.
- Press the shortbread mixture into the base, prick with a fork and then loosely cover with clingfilm and chill for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan and bake the shortbread for 25-35 minutes or until very lightly coloured, then leave it to cool.
- If you haven't already, chop 50g of your pecans and 50g of your walnuts. Leave the remaining nuts whole.
- Place all the ingredients for the caramel in a large wide nonstick saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring until melted and amalgamated. Reduce the heat slightly so the top is still bubbling nicely all over and cook for 8-9 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour the caramel over the shortbread base.
- Scatter the top with the chopped and whole nuts, then place in the fridge for at least an hour until set.
- Use a square cookie cutter and a sharp knife to cut bars from your traybake and enjoy!
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