I took a break from my recent obsession with bread making. I found myself suddenly sick of bread flour, yeast, and the hours spent in resting the dough. And what better way to shake off my bread-making doldrums than a fast and effortless recipe for butterscotch?
Butterscotch is one of the more popular treats from my hometown. Tourists who visit Negros and Panay can often be seen carrying boxes of it in the plane.
There was a very sweet old lady from church who would randomly bring butterscotch bars (butterscotch blondies to be exact, but more on this detail later) to share. Her daughter, who baked and sold pastries for a living, made those delicious bars.
I was terribly upset when the old lady passed away unexpectedly; I believe I was eating a bar from the last batch she gave when we heard the news about her passing.
After she passed away, the only way I could eat butterscotch bars was to buy them from the pastry and souvenir shops that littered the city. However, I was a little put off by the utter sweetness of the butterscotch bars that were sold in those shops. Even as a self-confessed lover of all things sugary, their sickening sweetness made me shy away from eating them often.
So why this recipe for butterscotch? Simple. I refused to give up on this one-time childhood favorite.
What is butterscotch?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, butterscotch is –
a hard, light-brown colored sweet food made from boiling butter and sugar together
Strictly speaking, it’s a type of candy that needs to be scotched (read: scored, lightly cut) before it hardens for easier cutting later. However, convention has expanded butterscotch to mean any type of dessert that is made with butter and brown sugar (i.e. blondies, puddings, sauces).
We don’t worry about such distinctions in the Philippines. For most Filipinos, butterscotch means butterscotch blondies. Blondies are the paler cousins of brownies. Blondies lack the chocolate or cocoa that gives brownies their eponymous dark brown color. Other than that, they are eaten and served the same way.
I haven’t made any research on how we came up with our own Filipino version but I’ll hazard a guess that we took the American recipe and added a local flair (aka chopped cashew nuts). The ingredients are simple and pretty straight-forward — flour, butter, brown sugar, and chopped nuts being the usual suspects.
I wanted to address my biggest gripe against butterscotch — its sweetness. My earlier attempts last year (following common recipes found on the net) yielded exactly the opposite of what I had wanted. I tried adding more flour while reducing the amount of sugar but the butterscotch turned out unexceptional and virtually identical to all the other butterscotch that I’ve tasted.
It wasn’t until this month when I thought of digging up my butterscotch recipe and reworking it. I first researched on similar recipes on the Internet. There was one recipe from the New York Times that I quite liked; it was akin to what I originally had but the clincher was browning the butter. Yep, not just melting it, but actually waiting for it to clear up and smell like toasted nuts. Wow, that improved the taste incredibly. I actually used less butter than my previous attempt but the taste was more pronounced and it was less greasy.
Another thing that I changed from my old recipe was toasting the cashew nuts rather than just adding them to the batter. To do this, you take all of the nuts and put them in a pan and toast them for a few minutes until they turn brown. You can also use the oven to toast them, but I was impatient to wait for a long period of time. Once the nuts are toasted, you can then chop, slice or pound them. I put mine in a Ziploc bag and used the bottom of a bowl to pound them. Do note that you may end up with some finer, almost powdery nuts if you use this method.
The usual flour to sugar ratio used in the recipes is 1:1 and that was much too sweet for me. I had to double the amount of flour that I used compared to before and lessened the amount of brown sugar in the recipe a bit to combat the extra sweetness. I used the ratio of 2:1.25 (sorry, I suck at Math, I can’t simplify it or something hehe).
By the way, I used dark brown sugar in my recipe. Not washed sugar or light brown sugar or golden sugar and not the muscovado kind either. The taste would not be exactly the same if you use a different kind of sugar. I’ll post a picture of what kind of sugar I use once I get the chance to take a photo of it.
I took a pan of butterscotch to the office one day and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive! This recipe is a keeper. 😁
Here’s a quick and easy recipe for buttery butterscotch bars. Browned butter and toasted cashew nuts make this recipe a keeper. You can substitute other kinds of nuts if you like.
170 grams butter (1 1/2 sticks)
275 grams brown sugar (1 1/4 cups)
2 eggs, large
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
240 grams flour (2 cups)
100 grams cashew nuts, toasted and chopped
- Line an 8×8 baking pan with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
- Sift baking powder and flour together.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter until it bubbles and starts to clear up. Continue to cook while stirring with a spatula until it starts to smell toasty and nutty. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.
- Add the brown sugar, vanilla, and salt to the butter. Whisk until smooth.
- Add the eggs one at a time, whisking to mix after each addition.
- Fold in the flour and cashew until no flour streaks is visible. Do not over mix the batter.
- Pour onto the prepared baking pan and bake for 20-27 mins. For fudgy butterscotch bars, remove after 20-22 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cool cutting.
- I baked mine until 27 minutes but they were still soft but not so fudgy.
- Put the cooled butterscotch in the fridge for 1-2 hours before slicing. This makes it easier to cut up in squares.
- If you want thicker butterscotch bars, use a smaller baking pan.
- You can use other types of nuts like walnuts, pecans, and pistachios.
Keywords: butterscotch, butterscotch bars
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