- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Well, if you're Angelina Gonzalez, an alumnus of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, and now the Solano County's 4-H SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) Program representative, sometimes practice makes perfect, and sometimes perfect doesn't need practice.
Gonzalez's salted caramel butter bars swept all five awards in the adult baked goods section of the 2014 Solano County Fair. Judges first awarded the bars a blue ribbon, and then best-of-division, followed by the sweepstakes award and the coveted best-of-show.
"I've been entering cookies in the adult baked foods department for the past few years and have done well in the past," Gonzalez said. "I love baking and cookies are my specialty. This year, I attempted a recipe that I had never made before. It was a bit of a risk, but I wanted to try something new rather than another cookie recipe. I'm glad I did."
Its origin? Gonzalez selected the recipe on the Internet. (Shelly, the person who posted it several years ago, describes herself as "an addict of the buttercream sort.")
"Although I never took a 4-H food project, I am thankful to 4-H for everything that I have learned through it," Gonzalez said. "I started 4-H when I was nine years old and quickly learned that I loved it. The following years, I became an active member our Sherwood Forest 4-H Club as historian, treasurer, vice president, and president."
She enrolled in many different projects, including arts and crafts, ceramics, rabbits, dogs, dairy goats, horses, and leadership, receiving multiple awards at fairs. Among them: first place in novice and senior showmanship and various best-of-show awards and outstanding 4-H exhibitor awards.
"I would definitely say that 4-H gave me confidence and life skills for the future," said Gonzalez, who holds a master's degree in sociology from Sacramento State University. "After aging out of the program and a year off, I came back to 4-H (Sherwood Forest 4-H Club) as an arts and crafts project leader."
She just completed her seventh year as a project leader. Her work is much appreciated; she recently received the Solano County 4-H Alumni Award. "I love 4-H and look forward to where it takes me next," she said.
4-H'ers celebrate National 4-H Week every October. Youths and adult volunteers who want to sign up for the youth development program should contact their county 4-H program or the statewide office for more information.Here's the prize-winning recipe, not only perfect for the holidays but for any occasion.
Salted Caramel Butter Bars
For the Crust:
- 1 lb. salted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla (or use Princess Cake Emulsion)
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 bag (14 oz.) caramel candies (about 50 individual caramels), unwrapped
- 1/3 cup milk or cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt (optional) (*see No. 7 below)
- Preheat oven to 325°
- In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using mixer on medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms.
- Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Wrap remaining dough in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator.
- Bake crust until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown approximately 20 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes.
- While the bottom crust is baking and the remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling. Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the cream. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth.
- Once the caramel is melted, add in your 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and stir until combined.
- Pour the caramel filling over the crust. If you are going to salt the caramel, sprinkle it on caramel layer now.
- Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel.
- Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.
- Let cool before cutting into squares.
Next step? Enjoy! P.S.: There will be no leftovers.