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The idea for this dessert happened in stages. I knew I wanted to do a beer caramel sauce, and while I have a great caramel sauce recipe, I wasn’t quite sure what amount of beer to incorporate. I went online and found a beer orange caramel sauce on foodnetwork.com that also had cardamom in it. I left out the orange and cardamom, but otherwise followed that recipe exactly. But, I didn’t want to just do a caramel sauce. So, I started thinking about things to put caramel with, and decided to make my go-to blondies, swirl in the caramel, and add some pretzel pieces. They turned out great; make some this weekend!
---Karly

BEER & CARAMEL SWIRL BLONDIES

For the beer caramel sauce:
1 bottle beer (I used Sam Adams Summer Ale)
1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of sea salt

For the blondies:
2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter (about 11 tablespoons)
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ to 1 cup pretzels, broken in pieces
½ cup beer caramel sauce

First, you need to make the caramel sauce. Put the beer in a large saucepan and heat to a boil over medium heat. Let it simmer while stirring for 10 minutes, until it’s reduced to one cup. (I accidentally let mine reduce down to ¾ cup, and the caramel was still divine. And yes, I measured to be sure.) Add the sugar and butter and stir over medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken and get syrupy, about 10-12 minutes. You want it to get to the soft-ball stage. I used a candy thermometer to be on the safe side, but if you don’t have one, you can test it by dropping a drop of the caramel into some cold water; if it forms a soft ball, it’s ready. Also, I noticed that it really seemed to bubble up a lot and get noticeably thicker. At this point, CAREFULLY add the cream (it could spatter, that’s why you want to use a large pot and pour the cream slowly). Then, let it cook, stirring, for about 5 more minutes, until it thickens a little bit. Take it off the heat, stir in the vanilla and a pinch of sea salt. As it cools, it will thicken up a bit more. It will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.

After you’ve made the caramel sauce (and if you’re like me, eaten several spoonfuls once it’s cooled enough to eat), make the blondies. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stir in the brown sugar until dissolved, and then turn off the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside. Beat the eggs into the butter mixture, one at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and beat until well incorporated. Stir in the pretzel pieces. Spread out the batter (it will be thick) in a greased 13x9 pan, then pour the caramel evenly over the top. Take a knife and swirl it around the batter to swirl in the caramel. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the edges have pulled away from the pan a bit.

Now, for the hard part….let the blondies cool completely. They really are better once they’ve cooled and set. Once they are cool, cut into squares, put some on a plate, drizzle or pour some more caramel sauce over them and enjoy!!

NOTE: The caramel sauce is so very, very good, and you will have plenty left over, so use it for ice cream, over brownies, or just eat it by itself with a spoon!!

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