Browned Butter Caramel and Butterscotch Bars are a perfect dense, comforting, and rich treat and easy-to-make.
I was craving something rich, buttery, and comforting but didn’t know exactly what to make. When I saw a half-used bag of dark brown sugar in the cupboard, I knew I had use it. Dark brown sugar imparts a richer and more complex sweetness than light brown sugar, thanks to the greater amount of molasses in it. Tis the season for dark and earthy molasses goodies, even if the molasses comes via dark brown sugar.
I brought a big bag of caramels with us to Aruba, mostly to eat on the plane and remarkably, we didn’t mow through them. Even after the Marshmallow Caramel Oreo Cookie S’mores Bars, I had some caramels and they’re a fitting partner for dark brown sugar.
I spied butterscotch chips in the freezer, and yes I keep all my baking chips in the freezer or they melt, and I knew their pop of sweet intensity would be perfect with the other ingredients.
I used browned butter in these bars and although you could make them by simply melting butter, I recommended going browned and dark. The resulting bars have layers of richness and flavors that can’t otherwise be achieved. It adds such depth of flavor to everything it touches, including these bars.
Brown the butter by placing one stick in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-low to medium heat. The butter will melt and it will also crackle, sputter, hiss, and make plenty of noise as it bubbles. Noisy butter is normal. Whisk the bubbling butter nearly continuously for the two to four minutes it takes for the butter to brown. Watch for little brown specks in the butter and you’ll likely smell a very nutty and rich aroma at the same time they appear. This is crunch time.
After seeing the browned specks, immediately remove the pan from the heat, and continue to whisk for another thirty seconds or so. The butter will be prone to burning after the little brown specks appear, and it can go from browned to burned in less than one minute, so keep a watchful eye. Transfer the browned butter into a medium mixing bowl so it doesn’t continue to cook and allow it to cool for a couple minutes before adding the dark brown sugar to it. The dark brown sugar and browned butter mixture resembles melted chocolate because it’s so dark in color and it smells divine.
Add one egg, vanilla, flour, salt, butterscotch chips, and bake the bars for about fifteen to twenty minutes. While the bars bake, unwrap and quarter ten caramels, and if the cellophane wrappers on your caramels are as stubborn as mine, it’ll take fifteen minutes just to unwrap them.
After the bars have baked for fifteen to twenty minutes and the top surface has just begun to set up and the bars are about ninety percent done, remove the pan from the oven. Baking times vary based on ovens, climates, and how well done you like things, and for me that’s very gooey, plus my oven runs hot here. In my San Diego oven, it would take twenty minutes, but in Aruba, it takes fifteen. The pan will be returned to the oven for another five minutes so it’s okay, and preferred, they’re a bit underdone.
Even sprinkle the caramels over the surface of the bars, and then lightly press the caramels just past the surface of the bars with your fingers or lightly tap them down with a spatula. Although the surface has set up, it offers little resistance to the rich and creamy caramels being wedged into it. Puncturing the tender surface with caramel bits was strangely satisfying. Although it appears that puddles of whole caramels are floating on the surface, it’s an optical illusion. Each puddle is really just one-quarter of a caramel square. It’s amazing how much they spread.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for about five minutes, or until the caramels have melted and the top has just set. The bars will firm up as the cool, and I prefer to keep these gooey. Overbaking will result in drier bars and the caramel will melt into one giant puddle on the surface, rather than many cute little brown tidepools, or it will burn.
Allow the bars to set up for at least two hours before slicing them because slicing into liquid caramel would be a real hot mess. If you’re impatient, placing the pan in the refrigerator to expedite the cooling is fine.
The bars are the brunette version of a blondie in terms of texture, and I adapted my go-to blondie recipe because it never lets me down and the batter whisks together in minutes. The robust dark brown sugar is complemented by aromatic, nutty, browned butter.
If they were a brownie, they’d be a very fudgy one, with no hints of cakiness. I don’t like cakey-textured anything, and didn’t use any chemical leaveners such as baking powder or soda, so they stay flat, dense, and intense.
The butterscotch chips suspended with the dark brown and buttery dough add unique sweetness, like only butterscotch can and they also provide a bit of texture.
I especially enjoyed the smooth, buttery, creamy caramel pools that float on top of the dark beauties. The caramel adds remarkable chewiness to the bars and I’ve never met a Caramel Sauce or Carmel S’Mores that I could resist.
It’s a good thing that the batch size is just nine bars.
Pin This Recipe
Browned Butter Caramel and Butterscotch Bars
Nutty and aromatic browned butter is paired with dark brown sugar, sweet butterscotch chips, and creamy caramel to create a dense, comforting, and rich treat. The bars are moist and packed with an incredible depth of flavor. Between the butterscotch chips and the caramels, there's plenty of texture in these easy-to-make, buttery bars.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed (light may be substituted but dark is preferred_
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
- 1 cup butterscotch chips
- 10 caramels, unwrapped and diced into quarters
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
- Place butter in a medium sauce pan and heat over medium-low to medium heat. Butter will melt, begin to bubble, foam, hiss, sputter, and brown specks will form in the bottom of the pan; this process takes approximately 2 to 4 minutes, give or take. During the process whisk frequently or nearly continuously and keep an extremely watchful eye on the butter. Brown it long enough to see browned bits and specks, but don't burn it. Butter can go from browned and nutty-smelling to burnt and inedible in less than one minute.Watch for the brown specks and once you see them, remove the pan from the burner, continuing to whisk for another 30 seconds or so. Transfer butter into large mixing bowl and allow it to cool for a few minutes.
- To the melted butter, add the brown sugar and whisk to combine. Add the egg, vanilla, and stir to combine. Add the flour, salt, and stir until just combined, taking care not to over-mix or the blondies will be tough. Fold in the butterscotch chips. Ppour batter into prepared pan, smoothing it lightly with a spatula or offset knife.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until bars are about 90 to 95% done. The center should just barely be setting up and edges will be slightly pulling away from sides of pan. Remove pan from oven and evenly sprinkle caramel pieces over the bars. Lightly and carefully break the surface of the bars with the caramel pieces, poking them in past the surface layer and pressing down lightly; use caution so you don't burn your fingers. Return pan to oven for 3 to 6 minutes, or until caramels melt and turn into puddles and top surface of bars is set. Allow bars to cool for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving. Bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To keep gluten-free, use your favorite gluten-free flour blend.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 373Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 118mgCarbohydrates: 52gFiber: 0gSugar: 40gProtein: 3g
Banana Bread with Vanilla Browned Butter Glaze – My go-to banana bread recipe and both the bread and glaze can be made with browned butter for a rich and easy loaf
Magic Eight Bars – A twist on Seven Layer Bars, or Hello Dolly Bars, and they’re full of both chocolate chips and butterscotch chips
Coconut Oatmeal Toffee Cookies – A quick, small-batch recipe for cookies that are chewy and full of texture from the oats and coconut, with butterscotch chips incorporated
Double Chocolate Caramel Corn & Cocoa Rice Krispies Candy Bars (No-Bake with Vegan & GF options) – If you have odds and ends from holiday baking such as multiple bags of baking chips with minimal amounts in any of them, or marshmallows, nuts, candy, or boxes of opened cereal, these bars help thin out the pantry stash
Samoas Bars (Vegan & GF options) – The best part of being a Girl Scout was eating the Samoas, or Thin Mints. I created Samoas in cookie-bar form, with butterscotch chips woven through the bars
Caramel and Chocolate Gooey Bars (GF with Vegan adaptation) – Packed with chocolate and caramel, dense from the oats, rich, and very gooey
Are you a fan of browned butter, dark brown sugar, butterscotch chips?
Tell me about your favorite recipes and feel free to link them.
Thanks for The Cravory Cookie Giveaway and the Holidah Chocolate Tower of Giveaway entries – winners announced next post
So many nice bars, Averie. Thank you and Happy Easter!
Have a wonderful Easter as well, Liz!
Oh my, Averie, your photos are killing me! I just discovered browned butter and have just made browned butter brownies, but your combination with dark brown sugar and caramel sounds simply divine! Cant wait to try, i am forgetting the waistline just this once lol! Thanks for sharing this recipe.
And I actually have 2 browned butter recipes coming up in the next week! One on Friday, actually!
Hahaha. More bars that look like fudge! You and I would get along just love-ily in the kitchen.
I am a HUGE butterscotch lover. I only have a few bags that I brought back with me to Germany so I have to ration them. That means eating them plain and not baking with them. But when I go to the US in June, with empty suitcases, I am going to fill them up with butterscotch chips. And butterscotch pudding mix. And more chips!
And browned butter… yum!
We have a place here in Aruba and come for a couple months a year and as much as I love it, food & grocery shopping for my *food* blog is a bit..ahem.. interesting. I know you can relate! Certain things you see, then never again. Or maybe again in a year. Or that you stockpile up on b/c you think you have to, only to realize okay, that’s actually always available. Pudding mix of any kind, i.e. Jello instant is always in super short supply here, or just sold out period!
Butterscotch morsels are by far my favorite type of baking chip (though I have to admit I eat plenty just straight out of the bag, too!). And the browned butter in these? Eek, just heaven, Averie! I love everything you make, and your photos are always so gorgeous!
I love butterscotch chips, too! Bags of them I have to ‘forget about’ and keep in the freezer!
Ah! Caramel and butterscotch = match made in heaven! Love that you used browned butter too, I’ve got to try these!
Averie, these bars look incredible! I just want to take a huge bite right now! Nothing better than caramel AND brown butter! Yum.
They’re one of the best things Ive made in awhile. The flavors are so rich and intense! And I keep thinking of those cookies you made!
I usually use golden brown sugar, so I don’t know if I’ve had any desserts made with the dark stuff. I always wonder when a recipe calls for brown sugar if I should be using the dark stuff or not …
I do like butterscotch chips but haven’t baked bars or cookies with them before that I can remember. I used to make chocolates that had a few different kinds of chocolate chips (PB, butterscotch and chocolate I believe) and then ripple potato chips. They sound weird, but they are good!
In general, I tend to think most recipes mean light, rather than dark brown sugar. Unless they say it, I think it’s assumed light should be used. Just like 1 cup sugar usually means granulated/white sugar but one can never be too detailed when writing recipes to avoid the confusion!
when i saw these on foodgawker, i immediately knew they were yours because they look SO GOOD!
That’s too funny – I have people tell me they can ‘recognize’ my photos and I can do the same with others sometimes, too. I think it’s like handwriting, although you can change the way you shoot/edit/stage/what you make, there’s just a style that is the way it is. Thanks for the sweet comment :)http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.php#comments-form
these look amazing! almost too good to eat :)
I use brown butter whenever I can in recipes, it makes all the difference in the world!
Anything butterscotch and I am sold on it. Then you add in caramel and I am running to my pantry to whip up a batch of these!
I totally prefer dark brown sugar to light brown as well, and I do like my blackstrap molasses. I’m a molasses kind of gal. I’m still thinking about how tasty your molasses cookies were. I’m going to have to bake up another batch of those once we finish off our third chocolate coconut pie. I had to bake it 3x so I could get a shot I liked.
Three times? Wow…that’s called dedication! I bet your family loved it though :)
Oh my goodness – I’m just about to head to bed and I see this. I’m sure this is what I’ll be dreaming tonight. Then I’ll have to call in sick to work and make this and have my browned butter caramel butterscotch fix.
Oh wow. I think I have died and went to dessert heaven. This looks too good!!
A brunette blondie?! Finally! :D They look deliciously rich! And thanks for the brown butter tips. I didn’t know that it should be stirred even after removing the pan from the heat…that must be why I always need to strain mine- it always has dark brown specks and bits.
P.S. I’ve been using my skillet almost every morning to make scrambled eggs and omelettes! (I’d take photos but breakfast food doesn’t look very appealing through the lens of a point & shoot camera.) I love Moody Blue!! :D
“it always has dark brown specks and bits” — that’s what you WANT! You just don’t want it to stay in a hot pan with carryover heat and continue to cook, unwatched or unstirred as sometimes it could go from nutty and toasty to burned if the pan was screaming hot or it was already on the edge of over-done. Keeping it moving or just into another heat-safe container will solve that. But those bits and specks are what you’re going for.
I love that you’re using your skillet all the time – and I have a few egg recipes to blog about using my skillet. But the pics are on another memory stick – 5000 miles away :)
These look AMAZING!
Wow, as the saying goes you learn something new every day! I didn’t know the baking bits lasted for years! Thanks for the info. These bars with all the puddles of caramel is making my mouth water! Next you’ll probably be making some bars with coconut on top. The kind that’s creamy like in the Russell Stover eggs! Lol. It’s just a thought. Another one of my weaknesses!
Well to each her own comfort level with food safety and shelf life but really I have had random bits of baking chips in the freezer for at least a couple years and have used them with success but of course, common sense should prevail.
“The kind that’s creamy like in the Russell Stover eggs” <--- see these below, with the first two being my #1 and #2 top fave bar recipes on my entire site: http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/2012/03/coconut-peanut-butter-magic-cake-bars.html
OOPS I just remembered I have butterscotch chips in the freezer! I’m afraid they’re too many years old though. How long is too long? LOL
Anyways, now I am craving these beautiful caramel-puddle-full bars!
Honestly they keep for YEARS! I know this because, well, I know this :) I think you’re probably safe!
OH MY GOSH, whyyyyyy. Why do I look at 9pm LOL. Looks amazing.
Those pools of caramel look dangerously yummy. And always the gooey-er the better!
I agree about butterscotch in recipes, if done right they are so good.
I’ve seen them in some recipes that are just too sweet and the butterscotch gets lost. You know?
Butterscotch is so sweet that pairing it with something more hearty and robust, i.e. brown butter! is a nice touch.
I think I’m going to faint. Brunette blondies–I LOVE it! The caramel, the butterscotch… the brown butter… oh man. Averie, you’re my favorite for over-the-top AMAZING desserts.
I think this is so you – the caramel & butterscotch and browned butter. If I could have worked this into a 7 Layer bar, I would have :)
Browned butter is my favorite thing ever…I need to use it more. Like, in these. :)
WOW!!! I am all about these. Browned butter anything is perfect in my book.
I think this is your type of dessert – rich and buttery. And although it’s sweet, it’s not crazy sweet. Hope things are good for you :)
Sometimes I feel like I need an encyklopedia off all things sweets when I read your recipe. I know, I know… That’s what happens when you don’t shop in sweet aisle: I use to skip this section all together. Now I am discovering a new products on a shopping map. Funny, my kids know more than me about that department. I wonder if they do shopping by themselves, and for themselves… :) Those bars do look pretty, I would even try that small chipped piece on photo #3 from the top… :) Baby steps do count too!
Yes, baby steps :)
Ooh, how exciting! Brown butter AND caramel?? I am so IN! Need to try these for sure. Love your sunny pictures!!
The irony is that the lighting in my house here is awful. It’s either wash-out glare city, or dim as all get out. There’s no middle ground and I have to either over/under edit based on what lighting malady comes my way :)
when I see carmel recipes I think how much my dentist is going to hate me…lol…but does that stop me NO…I have carmels leftover from another recipe so can’t wait to try this one..and boy am I loving browned butter…it is the thing in all recipes lately. SO good.
My dad used to say that about caramel and the dentist…ahhh, memories :)
Oh man, you probably already know this, but I LOVE these!!
These were the ones that I was thinking about you the whole time and then I commented on Shelly’s brown sugar cookie post yesterday just minutes after you did and was like yep, they are so Cassie. And before we came to Aruba, I wanted to make cookies like that (or yours)… will do in January!
hello, lovelies. Come climb into my belly…
These look so good, and I love the ‘animal print’ look, so chic!
Animal print – you’re right!
OMG this looks absolutely amazing! It looks so rich with flavor. I love browned butter. I just posted a vegan pumpkin ravioli recipe with a brown “butter” sauce that still blows my mind. The bext part about it is that a little goes a long way!
A little DOES go a long way – and your vegan ‘butter’ sounds awesome!
You know my love of browned butter – these bars look incredible! :)
And thanks for the pin – I know you’re a big browned butter girl too!
I am in total love with this!
I think i would have one of those and be done for the night! That is not a negative thing…it would just be awesome…
I have had one as a nightcap the past two nights but since the pan only makes 9 bars, (each of the three of us had 3, over a few days) – now they’re gone. Sniff! They made a great nightcap!
O-M-G. I could not love these more. I feel like saying what I said yesterday… it’s just so true: you are the queen of bars! Perfect.
You’re so sweet, Ashley! Part of it is by design when I’m here because I don’t have a good mixer and my oven is temperamental so cookies are out!
Holy Crap! My mouth is watering and it’s 8am:)
What an indulgent treat! Molasses is one of my favorite flavors around the holidays too, and now that you’ve added both butterscotch AND caramel, these truly must be over the top. OH, and there’s browned butter. Holidays: no holding back. Love it!
Thanks Erin, and the praline squash that you made looks awesome – bet those flavors are great too! I love robust flavors like praline, toffee, browned butter – I’m all about them!
These look ooey and gooey and sinfully sweet. How on earth do you come up with so many recipes all the time? And knock it out of the park delicious ones at that? Bravo.
Part of it is by design when I’m here because I don’t have a good mixer and my oven is temperamental so cookies are out! Thanks for the sweet compliments :)
Oh mah gosh… oh mah gosh… one more time… oh mah gosh… If you were Santa, I would ask for 5 dozen of these!
Girl I have been seeing your stuff ALL OVER pinterest and the foodie sites lately – congrats and just beautiful recipes!
I love caramel. Not sure about browned butter – I’m sure I’ve had it but just can’t recall a specific dish…so maybe I haven’t. Either way love caramel and butterscotch ;-)
Oh you’d LOVE it! It’s rich and nutty and dark and knowing what I know about you, it would be a flavor you’d love!
I’m a brunette who loves caramel and butterscotch. I’m so intrigued by the dark brown sugar and browned butter in the base….it sounds delicious! I’m playing a song with my guitar instructor in a Christmas recital tonight, so I seriously think I need one of these as a treat when I get home. I have the rest of the week off, so making a little batch of these is a perfect way to start my vacation!
Good luck on your recital tonight and have fun! And yes, this would be a great treat for when you came home and for the rest of the week. LMK if you try them – toaster oven and all til your oven arrives!
You are killing me one recipe at a time. And I like it. :)
I absolutely LOVE butterscotch chips! These look absolutely delicious!
While it doesn’t use butterscotch chips, my favorite butterscotch-y dessert is butterscotch pot de creme… love this recipe: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/12/food/la-fo-gjelina-rec1-20110512
butterscotch pot de creme sounds like heaven! thanks for the link!
Oh girl, you had me at brown butter! And then cemented the deal with butterscotch chips. I can count on you for whenever I need to fulfill a sweet craving!
LOVE LOVE LOVE butterscotch chips – especially in blondies :)
And these are like a dark brown and sultry form of a blondie, a brunette-ie :)
Averie, I simply adore all of the flavors going into today’s “brunette” blondie bars. The rich, deep browned butter flavor is unbeatable in certainly any baked recipe I’ve ever made. You simply cannot top such an easy step for the unmatched taste browned butter brings. The butterscotch. You KNOW I am a huge fan of butterscotch – perhaps my favorite type of morsel. I made butterscotch blondies just like these, but did not add caramel to them. What a nice touch! “If they were a brownie, they’d be a very fudgy one, with no hints of cakiness.” – ha! I love this sentence. Your clever description is spot on, as I can imagine (just by the photos) how incredibly dense these are. You nailed it today! Now I gotta try me some of those Samoas bars…. ;)
There were so many reasons I thought of you the whole recipe – the dark brown sugar, the browned butter, the caramel, and the butterscotch. It really all reminded me of you! I’m glad you like my sentences and descriptions of things. Sometimes when I write it’s hard to really convey exactly what it’s like and I make so many bars, I want to try to really adequately describe them all and give them all their due. Thanks as always for actually reading my posts :)