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butterscotch squares

Sometimes, the tastiest things in life are also the most simple. Like sipping a hot cup of coffee on a chilly October morning, enjoying a crusty baguette with a slice of savory cheese, or eating your favorite fruit, freshly-picked from the tree. Some things just don’t need amending and are perfect in their purest form, like a majestic rainbow, or a dreamy sunset… or these heavenly butterscotch squares! With an easy prep and just seven ingredients, these deliciously decadent treats are sweet and ultra-chewy with irresistibly crisp edges and an intense butterscotch flavor. There are no bells and whistles here, since these rich and buttery delights are so good on their own that they don’t need any additives like nuts, marshmallows, or shredded coconut interfering with their simple, pure butterscotch perfection.

This luxurious dessert is perfect for unexpected guests or a sudden afternoon craving, as it is made up of common kitchen ingredients and doesn’t require any planning. Like all traditional butterscotch recipes, this one begins with brown sugar and butter simmering on the stove, filling your kitchen with the comforting fragrance of rich caramel and sweet vanilla. This warm, bubbly mixture is then blended with just a few basic ingredients—an egg, some flour, salt, and baking powder—then baked until golden brown with its dense, crunchy edges and astoundingly chewy center.

Unlike blondies, which have a thicker, brownie-like appearance, these bars contain very little flour and eggs, giving them an extra moist, fudge-like texture. And because they are thinner and more delicate, using parchment paper to make a sling makes it effortless to get the bars out of the pan. There are instructions below how to do this, and it is definitely worth it. This is great finger-food for your Fall party: you can slice these into nine individual servings (as pictured here) or sixteen smaller, bite-sized pieces. If you really want to impress, serve them hot from the oven when they are soft, warm, and melted on the inside. If you or your lucky guests are feeling sweet-and-savory, top the squares with a pinch of flaky sea salt for an exceptionally entertaining combination. Whichever you decide, whether sliced into nine or sixteen, salted or not, served cold or hot, at a party or picnic spot, this crowd-pleasing butterscotch dessert is one of the tastiest things and also the most simple.

Butterscotch Squares
makes 9 large or 16 smaller servings

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
a few pinches of flaky sea salt (optional garnish)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides an 8-inch square baking pan. Cut two strips of parchment paper the width of the bottom of the pan, with enough length to go up the sides of the pan and hang over the top slightly. Lay one piece of parchment in the pan, pressing it into the bottom and sides firmly so it stays in place. Grease the parchment paper, then lay the other piece across it perpendicularly, pressing it down firmly up the opposite sides of the pan. Grease this paper, and now you are done creating a parchment paper “sling” which you will use later to transfer the bars onto a cutting board.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then set aside. In a large bowl, beat the egg briefly to break it up, and set that aside as well. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and then stir in the brown sugar. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat slightly to reduce to a simmer, cook for one more minute, then remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Add a spoonful of the brown sugar mixture to the egg and stir it to temper the egg. Then add the rest of the mixture and stir until blended. Add the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges look slightly browned and crispy. Using the parchment sling, lift the bars out of the pan and onto a cutting board, and cut while still warm. Cut into 9 pieces for larger servings, or 16 for more bite-sized treats. If desired, sprinkle each bar with a small pinch of flaky sea salt, and enjoy!