Is there anything better than butter and rum? I think not. I don’t have them often but Hot Buttered Rum toddy’s are quite fantastic, especially on an cold day. Hmmm … I think I’m going to make a batch for Christmas this year. In fact, a hot toddy sounds quite wonderful right now and it’s only 8am. ‘Tis the season, right? Take that butter and rum and combine it with caramel and a crispy shortbread, and there’s a combination I cannot resist. It is always the cookie I’m going for first.
Today, Day 3 of the 12 Days of Cookies, I turn that combination into a helluva bar cookie. I start with that basic butter cookie dough and press it into a baking pan. Bake until its lightly golden but not any more. Too much time in oven and it becomes unpleasantly crunchy and crumbles everywhere. It’s a mess.
An easy stovetop caramel with brown sugar, butter and cream comes together quickly but do yourself a favor and get candy thermometer. The original recipe came from Mark Bittman in the New York Times and he has you boil the mixture for 8-10 minutes but I found that to be wildly inconsistent. My caramel was far too hard with this method. Instead, cook it to 245°F and it’s perfect every time. I know, it’s the exacting pastry chef in me but why chance it? During this busy season, nobody has time for easily avoidable mistakes.
Whatever you do, don’t forget the sprinkle of salt on top. A big, flaky salt like Maldon makes these special. Buttery, crunchy, creamy, salty … it’s all there. If you’re adding these to cookie boxes or platters, add them last. The topping can be a touch sticky and the last thing you want, after all your hard work, is to find your cookies in one big, messy clump.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: SWEET PERFECTION. These are deceptively simple; layered cookies always are and even more so if you’ve got that base dough ready to go. There’s a combination of textures and a mixture of flavors that all combine into one buttery, delicious bite. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
2015 12 Days of Cookies: Pretzel Caramel Shortbread, Fig Mezzaluna, Dutch Windmills, Bourbon Peach Rugelah, Chai Spiced Meringue Kisses, Almond Joy Bars, Swedish Kringla, Chile Lime Macaroons, Orange Cranberry Cornmeal Shortbread, Eggnog Buttons, Ginger Palmiers, Rainbow Cookies
seven years ago: Pumpkin Bundt Cake
six years ago: Bacon Cheddar Gougeres
five years ago: Southern Cheese Straws
four years ago: Kale & Squash Salad
three years ago: Pumpkin Spice Granola
two years ago: Cider Apple Pie
last year: Caldo Verde
BUTTER RUM BARS – adapted from this Mark Bittman recipe
makes one 9”x9” pan, approximately about 64 1” squares
¼ batch basic butter cookie dough, room temperature
½ cup heavy cream
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ Tablespoon dark rum
flaky salt, such as Maldon
- For the base: line a 9”x9” baking pan with a criss-cross of parchment paper and press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan, as evenly as possible. The easiest way to do this, as the parchment has an annoying tendency to slide about, is to put the dough into the pan in several pieces and smoosh it together, making sure to get into the corners. To make the top nice and smooth, place a scrap piece of parchment paper on top on the dough and with your fingers, press and smooth the dough.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes until firm (or freeze until you’re ready to bake).
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake for 20 minutes, until very lightly golden, the edges are slighty firm and the center is just barely set. Do not overbake.
- Let cool completely.
- For the topping: In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the cream, butter, brown sugar and kosher salt over medium heat, stirring frequently.
- Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently, and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture is shiny and coats the back of a spoon, 6-8 minutes to firm ball stage, 245°F on a candy thermometer. Watch carefully toward the end of cooking so the mixture does not burn.
- Off the heat, stir in the rum; taking care as it will spatter violently.
- Pour the mixture over the cooled cookie layer, spread evenly by tilting the pan.
- Sprinkle the top evenly with flaky salt.
- Refrigerate until set, then cut into squares and serve. The cookies are easiest to handle when chilled.
- Cookies keep best refrigerated and are good for up to a week at room temperature.