Please, Stare at Me Ucomfortably

Chocolate Cherry Bars

Chocolate Cherry Salted Caramel Squares

I should have stayed home and played with the kittens. The night would have been more satisfying. But, instead of staying put, I shaved my legs, whitened my teeth, and switched glasses for contacts – all for another dud of a date.

Isn’t it the rule on a first date that each person is mutually responsible for maintaining the conversation? Instead, I sat with someone who answered my questions willingly, but only asked one question after fielding ten of mine. For me, the gift of gab does not come easily on a first meeting, yet I was solely responsible for the mind-numbing conversation (can I even call it a conversation?). Otherwise, we would have found ourselves blinking, mute, with nothing to break the tedium. He divulged the intricacies of his family’s various residences, his kid’s ages and hobbies, where he’s traveled, and what his younger brother likes, does and where he currently lives. Two questions were asked of me in kind.

The effort to keep the conversation moving was beyond my skills. At one point, towards the end of the lackluster night, he remarked that I appeared ‘distracted.’ I’m afraid he caught me daydreaming about my escape.

Next (again)…

Chocolate Cherry Salted Caramel Squares (because I deserve it!)

150 gr.  butter (softened)
50 gr.    sugar
25 gr.    brown sugar
½ t.      salt
½ t.      vanilla
1          egg yolk
185 gr.  All- purpose flour

227 g.  Salted Caramel Sauce **
170 gr.  Tart Dried Cherries
Cherry Juice or Cranberry Juice
57 gr.    sliced almonds
85 gr.   dark chocolate, chopped

Make Shortbread Crust
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 8×8 baking pan with two layers aluminum foil with an overhang to help remove the cookies. Grease foil with cooking spray. Cream butter and sugars to form a paste (not until pale and fluffy). Add salt and vanilla and combine. Add egg yolk and combine. Scrape down as needed. Add flour and mix until dough just comes together. Do not over-mix or too much gluten will form and base will be tough. Press into bottom of baking pan and just slightly up the side (to stop filling from oozing). Bake for 15 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges.

Make Topping
Cover dried cherries with juice and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Let rest 5 minutes to soften cherries. Drain juice and roughly chop cherries. Pour salted caramel over baked crust. Do not allow caramel to overflow down the sides of the pan or you will have difficulty removing the cookies. Sprinkle softened and chopped cherries over caramel. Sprinkle almonds over cherries and return cookies to oven. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until crust is light brown, caramel is bubbling, and almonds are slightly toasted.   Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped chocolate.

Rest cookies on counter for 10-15 minutes to allow chocolate to melt and then cool completely (I put my pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes). Remove cookies from pan using foil. Cut into 16 squares.

** While store-bought salted caramel sauce will do in a pinch, David Lebovitz’s Salted Butter Caramel Sauce is worth it. His recipe makes 1.5 cups, more than you need. I usually eat the remainder straight from the pan.

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