Chewy Nutty Squirrel Bars

Most of the time we’re trying to keep squirrels out of our yard; those pesky critters are always digging up our flowers and plants to bury their stash of nuts and goodies. In this case, we’re willing to make an exception, because these particular nutty treats are exclusively for humans, and we can guarantee you’ll relate to the squirrel on one level: the desire to hide snacks so no one else can eat them! Once these show up on our kitchen counter, everyone starts to act a little “squirrely” as they try to sneak off with a bar (or two!).

INGREDIENTS
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and divided
1 cup powdered sugar
1 ¼ cup flour
⅓ cup cocoa powder
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup caramel baking chips
½ cup chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt

PREPARATION
Set aside 2 tablespoons of butter.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat sugar and 1 ¾ sticks butter until fluffy. Slowly add cocoa powder and flour and mix until well incorporated.
Transfer batter to baking dish. Press to spread around baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes.
In a medium saucepan on low heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter with sweetened condensed milk. Stir until thickened, remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour sauce over top of baked crust. Return to oven and bake until golden brown, 8-10 minutes.
Toast nuts in a dry pan until fragrant. Cool slightly then rough chop and set aside.
Melt caramel chips in microwave with 4 tablespoons heavy cream; 30 second intervals, stirring each time, for 2 minutes. Fold nuts and salt into caramel sauce, and pour over top and spread out to edges. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Recipe adapted from Fork Knife Spoon

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