Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri

Tan Fingers

This intriguing bar cookie was shared by my friend Thea Cvijanovich – the recipe comes from her sister Evi Abplanalp who lives in New Zealand.

Twenty-four 2-inch squares


14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)


5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
One 7-ounce can sweetened, condensed milk

One 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan, buttered and lined, bottom and sides, with buttered parchment or foil

  1. Set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. For the dough, beat the butter with the sugar and salt in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed, until soft and light, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Beat in the vanilla.
  4. On lowest speed, beat in the flour, scraping bowl and beater with a rubber spatula and continuing to mix until the dough is smooth.
  5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape 3/4 of the dough into the prepared pan. Use the palm of your hand to press the dough down evenly, without compressing it any more than necessary. Chill the dough-lined pan and reserve the remaining dough at room temperature.
  6. For the filling, bring the butter, corn syrup, and sweetened, condensed milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally. Allow the mixture to boil gently until it starts to thicken and becomes a very light caramel color. Pour the filling into a stainless steel bowl and let it cool for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the dough-lined pan from the refrigerator and scrape the filling onto the dough, using a small offset spatula to spread the filling evenly over the dough. Use the remaining dough to make a crumbly topping: With your fingertips, separate the dough into medium crumbs and evenly scatter them on the caramel filling.
  8. Bake until the filling is a deep caramel color and the dough and crumb topping are baked through, about 30 minutes.
  9. Cool in the pan on a rack. Lift the slab of baked dough out of the pan to a cutting board before it has cooled completely, about 10 minutes and cut the slab into 2-inch squares. (Cut these right on the paper rather than hassling with pulling off the paper first.)

Storage: Keep these at room temperature if you are serving them within a day. If not, wrap and freeze them, and make sure to defrost and bring them to room temperature before serving.