I will say that the flavor of these squares are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! They seriously might be one of the tastiest desserts I've ever eaten, and trust me I've eaten an embarassing amount of desserts in my 26 years! However, my creation is one of the ugliest things I've ever seen. I know the problem lies in the dulce de leche.
You see after my attempt at making the DDL failed, I relied on being able to find it in a store in Florence, SC (which is a good bit bigger than my hometown). Unfortunately the closest thing I could find was a caramel spread. I thought it may work because the first ingredient listed was sweetened condensed milk, so I though it may be close to DDL. I guess the difference was that this spread just refused to actually set up. So after cutting into squares the caramel/DDL substitute just ran everywhere (this was after being in the freezer for at least an hour). The two squares in the above picture just happened to not run as much as the others. So they definitely don't look as tasty as they actually are. Luckily I stopped cutting at about half the pan so I have some non-spread out squares to bring to work tomorrow.
For full disclosure (haha) here is a picture of the bars that I attempted to remove from the pan:
So anyway, I'm very happy that I completed the challenge. I'm quite pleased with the taste so I can guarantee that I will be trying this again by making my own dulce de leche using one of the recipes that the some of the other TWD bakers used!
Here's the recipe (I nearly forgot it):
For the Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 TBSP powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
For the Filling:
½ cup sugar
3 TBSP water
1 ½ cups salted peanuts
About 1 ½ cups store-bought dulce de leche
For the Topping:
7 ounces bittersweet, coarsely chopped
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 8 inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.
To Make the Crust:
Toss the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds-stop before the dough comes together in a ball.Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven.Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.
To Make the Filling:
Have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet at the ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon and a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. Toss the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white—keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet., using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature.When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in biggish pieces for the filling, and finely chop the other half for the topping. Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base and sprinkle over the whole candied nuts.
To Make the Topping:
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate.Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, then sprinkle over the rest of the peanuts. Slide the pan into the fridge to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you’d like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting.
Cut into 16 bars.