I know I say it about far too many recipes, but these are a real favorite. In fact, I seldom bake them much in advance of serving them because I can’t be trusted around them—they are that addictively good. This is loosely based on a recipe shared by my old friend Jayne Sutton, who’s been attending my classes for over 30 years. Light toasting brings out the flavor in almonds. Just be careful to toast them very lightly—they’ll be in the oven again for 30 minutes or more and will continue to toast then.
Makes twenty-four square cookies
One batch Sweet Pastry Dough, below, chilled
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup or golden syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 1/2 cups slivered almonds, lightly toasted
One 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan lined with buttered parchment paper
Place the dough on a floured surface and gently knead it until it is pliable and slightly softened. Form the dough into a rectangle and flour the work surface and the dough again. Roll the dough, occasionally adding pinches of flour under and on it, to a 12 x 16-inch rectangle. Gently fold the dough into quarters and line up the folded corner with the center of the pan. Unfold the dough into the pan and gently ease it down into the pan. Use your fingertips to make sure that the dough molds to the angle between the bottom and side of the pan and into the corners. Trim away all but about 1 1/2 inches of dough on the sides of the pan. Chill while preparing the filling.
For the topping, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup one at a time, stirring to combine between additions. Add the salt and bring the mixture to a full boil, stirring occasionally. At the boil, add the cream a little at a time (the mixture will bubble up). Continue cooking for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Most of the water in the cream should evaporate. Stir in the almonds and scrape the mixture into a buttered bowl to cool slightly.
Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350˚F.
Use a large kitchen spoon to deposit mounds of the topping all over the chilled crust. Then use the point of a spoon to join the mounds and make a fairly even layer of topping. Concentrate on distributing the almonds evenly; the syrupy part of the topping will come to a boil while the bars are baking and even itself out.
Bake until the dough is baked through and the topping is gently bubbling, 25 to 35 minutes.
Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour.
To unmold and cut the bars, cover the pan with another rack and invert. Lift off the pan and peel away the paper. Place a cutting board on the back of the bars and invert the whole stack. Lift off the top rack. Neatly trim away the sides of the bars and use a ruler to mark, then cut, 2-inch squares.
Sweet Pastry Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 10 pieces
2 large eggs
To mix the dough by hand, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and stir well to combine.
Cut each piece of butter into 4 or 5 smaller pieces and add all of them to the bowl.
Use both hands, palms upward, to reach under the dry ingredients to the bottom of the bowl, and lift them up through the contents of the bowl several times to distribute the pieces of butter evenly among the dry ingredients.
Use your fingertips to pinch the pieces of butter into smaller pieces, alternating with rubbing the mixture between the palms of your hands and occasionally repeating step 3. Continue rubbing in the butter until no visible pieces remain and the whole mixture is cool and powdery.
Add the eggs and use a fork to break them up. Use one hand to move the bowl back and forth across the work surface in a straight line while you stir up from the bottom with the fork until the dough is almost completely mixed.
Invert the dough to a floured work surface and gently knead it into a consistent mass.
Divide the dough in half, then flatten each half into a disk. Use immediately or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days.