Honey-flavored caramel mixed with loads of almonds top a cinnamon shortbread crust in these Honey Cinnamon Almond Squares.
Over the holidays, I baked ALOT of cookies and bars. Every December, I participate in a cookie exchange with several of my food stylist friends and receive a multitude of amazing cookies and bars to take home. It’s one of my favorite holiday activities! These Honey Cinnamon Almond Squares are what I have made for the past couple years as they always get rave reviews.
Bars are actually one of my favorite things to make for several reasons. One, there are SO many varieties of flavor combinations. Chocolate, fruit-flavored, nuts, layered…the possibilities are endless. The second reason is that bars usually take less time to make than a batch of cookies, because the whole recipe goes in a pan, into the oven, all at one time. So, bar recipes are a good thing to have in your collection for whenever you need a sweet-treat in a hurry. Finally, bars can add variety to your cookie tray, because they can be cut in various shapes. Squares, rectangles, triangles and diamonds are all options.
I found this recipe in my mom’s recipe collection, but the original comes from Land O’Lakes. These almond-studded bars start with a shortbread crust that uses powdered sugar, butter, almond extract and cinnamon. Using powdered sugar makes your shortbread have a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth texture with a very tender crumb. And butter….well there is no substitute for butter in baking. Your cookies, bars, cakes and quick breads always taste better with butter. The other two crust ingredients, cinnamon and almond extract, bring these bars to the next level. I love almond extract! Go for the pure variety, not the imitation…it tastes so much better!
While the crust is baking, you are going to make a velvety, honey-caramel for the topping that’s made with more butter (yum!), brown sugar, honey and whipping cream. You cook these ingredients in a saucepan until they reach soft-ball stage, which is 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Ideally, you should use a candy thermometer, but if you don’t have one, you can do the cold water test. When you are getting close to the end of the cooking time, drop a little of the caramel mixture into a small bowl of ice water. If the caramel forms a ball that you can squish with you fingers, it’s done. If the caramel doesn’t form a ball, keep cooking and do it again in another minute or so.
When the honey caramel is done, you will stir in the sliced almonds, pour it over the partially baked crust and pop it bake in the oven for a bit. These need to cool completely before cutting, so be sure to allow time for that. Butter..more butter..brown sugar..honey..cinnamon..whipping cream and almonds, now that’s a flavor combination that will have everyone requesting your recipe for Honey Cinnamon Almond Squares. Happy Baking!
Yields 24 bars
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- 1 3/4 cups sliced almonds
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with foil, allowing edges to overhang. Spray bottom and sides with cooking spray.
- In medium bowl, combine all crust ingredients; mix at low speed until mixture is crumbly. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 18-22 minutes, until crust is set and edges are beginning to brown.
- While crust is baking, combine all topping ingredients EXCEPT almonds. If using, clip candy thermometer to side of pan. If not using a thermometer, get a small bowl of ice water ready.
- Cook brown sugar mixture over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture begins to boil, about 4 minutes. Continue cooking 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until temperature reaches 240 degrees F or small amount of caramel dropped in ice water forms a soft ball you can squish with your fingers.
- Remove from heat and stir in almonds. Spoon mixture over partially baked crust, spreading evenly to cover crust.
- Bake at 350 degrees F.for 12-15 minutes, until bubbly and nuts are beginning to brown. Cool completely.
- When cool, use foil overhang to lift bars from pan and cut into squares.