Squirrel bars: an old-fashioned classic that is perfect for all who adore chewy bars that are loaded with nuts!
These bars are the perfect treat and will last for a long time in the fridge, if you can refrain from eating them all at once, that is!
Squirrel bars have their name for a good reason: they are filled with nuts (enough to tempt any self-respecting squirrel). And in addition, they have a delicious caramel-like sweet layer. Yum!
Squirrel bars are a mix of cookie goodness and a chewy filling. The cookie base is covered with a sort of caramel made with sweetened condensed milk and nuts and has a loads of quality ingredients that make this dessert into a gourmet treat.
It’s enough to make you hungry just talking about it! So let’s get baking.
Which Nuts to Choose
Not all nuts are the same, as you already know.
Every person has a favorite. Some like peanuts, some like cashew nuts, while I personally love a mix of almonds and walnuts.
This recipe can be used with any type of nuts you want to try. Your squirrel bars will be successful every time.
Still if you have any doubts or aren’t used to eating nuts enough to know what you may prefer, here are the characteristics of some of the most popular types:
- Almonds: Almonds are the first choice for many people. Raw almonds have a more neutral nutty taste. That is why the can be paired with almost any dish, sweet or savory. They are typically fair in price and can be found in almost any store to boot.
- Peanuts: Peanuts are not technically a type of nuts, but rather part of the legume family. (While other types of nuts grown on a tree, the peanuts grow in pods that grow in pods that grow underground.) In terms of taste, raw peanuts have a legume-like flavor. That is why peanuts are usually roasted or toasted to get their flavor just the right as we know it – salty, wood-like and earthy aroma, and with some hints of sweetness. The flavor is so good, however, that we won’t judge if you swap true nuts for these legumes on your squirrel bars instead.
- Cashew Nuts: Just like almonds, cashews have a relatively mild flavor, but they still have a bit of that nutty taste. Their flavor is a bit lighter than almonds, making for a more temperate note in your treats. Cashews also become more fragrant with toasting.
- Hazelnuts: Hazelnuts can have two flavors depending on how you use them. You can use them unpeeled or blanched. The paper-thin skin that goes around the hazelnut has a great impact on the flavor; if the skin is left on you may taste some of the bitterness, while blanched hazelnuts will lack that bitterness. I personally like my hazelnuts with the skin on because it gives them a slightly bolder aroma, but everyone has their favorite. Hazelnuts in general are nutty, toasted, and with slight notes of musty and earthy.
- Pistachio Nuts: Although pistachios are often used in lighter, airier types of desserts, like the mouse cake, ice cream, or less sugary cookies, you can use them for squirrel bars, too. Pistachios are often on the higher end of the price range than other nuts, but they are so, so worth it. These little emerald-green gems have a mild flavor, that can be sometimes sweet, and with a hints of pine and wood. They taste like the luxury they are.
- Pecans: Pecans are the key ingredients of many pies and desserts, and they really do deserve to be used more and more in the recipes. Pecans are my second favorite type of nuts (just after walnuts) because they have such a perfect crunchy texture, but also have that sweet, nutty, and buttery flavor.
- Walnuts: As already mentioned, walnuts are my favorite type of nuts. For me, walnuts are the most complex type of nut among them all. Walnuts, in general, are very mild in flavor, but their thin skin is what gives them that well-known mild bitterness and complexity. Walnuts are mild, earthy, and little bit tangy and as with any nut, you can roast or toast them to get those extra flavors out.
What Else is There Besides the Nuts?
Yes, good question! I have been talking so much about nuts I almost forgot about the rest of the ingredients.
As mentioned, the squirrel bars have a cookie-like base and are made out of butter, flour, and cocoa powder.
The caramel layer is made with condensed milk, and you already know about the nuts on top of everything
All in all, it is a very easy recipe to make but has astonishing results.
Can You Substitute Condensed Milk?
Yes, you can make this recipe even more interesting by substituting the condensed milk with cream of coconut.
Do not confuse it with the coconut cream, as these are two different products! Use true cream of coconut in the same proportion as the condensed milk. It will give the squirrel bars an exotic twist.
How To Make Squirrel Bars
Preheat oven to 350F.
Reserve 2 tbsp of butter. Cream the rest of the butter with powdered sugar.
Fold in the flour and cacao powder.
Stir until dough comes together.
Press the dough into a parchment paper-lined 8-inch baking pan.
Prick the dough with a fork and bake for 8 minutes. This makes the cookie base or crust.
In the meantime, toast the nuts in a dry skillet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and allow them to cool. Chop roughly.
In a saucepot, combine condensed milk and butter. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened.
Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. At this point you can add salt, or sprinkle it over the condensed milk.
Remove the cookie crust from the oven. Pour the condensed milk mixture over the crust.
Continue baking for another 3 minutes.
Remove from the oven again, and cover with nuts. Bake for 2 minutes.
Cool completely before cutting into bars.
These bars are so sinfully good you definitely won't let the squirrels get to them!
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp cacao powder
- 14oz. can condensed milk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1/3 cup mixed nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, or desired nuts)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Reserve 2 tbsp of butter. Cream the rest of the butter with the powdered sugar.
- Fold in the flour and cacao powder.
- Stir until dough comes together. Press the dough into parchment paper lined 8-inch baking pan.
- Prick the dough with a fork and bake for 8 minutes. This makes the cookie base or crust.
- In the meantime, toast the nuts in a dry skillet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer on a cutting board and allow them to cool. Chop roughly.
- In a saucepot, combine condensed milk and butter. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened.
- Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. At this point you can add salt, or sprinkle it over the condensed milk.
- Remove the cookie crust from the oven. Pour the condensed milk mixture over the crust.
- Continue baking for another 3 minutes.
- Remove from the oven again, and cover with nuts. Bake for 2 minutes.
- Cool completely before cutting into bars.
Although you normally use baking soda with cacao powder, you don't need to here. The baking soda helps you achieve a fluffy, cake-like texture, but that's not what we're going for with these bars.
You can also substitute cocoa powder for the cacao powder. Just be sure to adjust the amount of liquid ingredients (by using a little less), as cacao powder absorbs liquid better.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 bar
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 267Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 90mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 1gSugar: 22gProtein: 4g
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