Peanut Butter Pretzel Caramel Chocolate Bars


There is a lot going on in these delicious peanut butter pretzel caramel chocolate bars, and they are absolutely, 100% worth it! So many favorite flavors rolled up into one bar!

peanut butter pretzel caramel chocolate bar on piece of white parchment paper with bite taken out

These bars are the culmination of every happy thing in my life.

Chocolate. Peanut butter. Pretzels. Caramel. And more chocolate. 

Not only are all of those flavors out of this world delicious, but the contrasting crunchy + chewy + creamy textures make the bars next level good.

peanut butter pretzel caramel chocolate bar square on piece of white parchment paper

Chocolate Shortbread

The base of these peanut butter pretzel caramel chocolate bars is a nifty little chocolate shortbread layer. 

And it’s super easy. You stir melted butter into a few dry ingredients and press it all into a 9X13-inch pan. 

However, upon further contemplation, I think these bars would also be fantastic and amazing with a brownie base in place of the shortbread. 

Perhaps a half batch of these one-bowl fudgy brownies? Yes, I like that idea very much.

chocolate shortbread dough in glass bowl

Pretzel Caramel

Not just pretzels. And not just caramel. It’s “pretzel caramel.” 

It’s a thing. And it’s so good. 

It is also not rocket science. Melt caramels. Add chopped pretzels. And you’re done.

I like to stir the pretzels into the caramel, but if the thought of doing that and then taking that chewy, clumpy mixture and spreading it across the shortbread gives you fits, I give you permission to simplify.

Just spread the melted caramel over the shortbread and then sprinkle with pretzels. 

pretzel sticks mixed with caramel in glass bowl

Peanut Butter Fluff

This creamy, luscious peanut butter layer isn’t really frosting as much as it is a fluffy layer of soft peanut butter goodness. 

But you can call it frosting if you like. It doesn’t really matter as long as it makes it on to the pretzel caramel layer. 

And once you taste a little, you’ll realize what a risk that actually is. It’s so light and creamy and yummy. 

peanut butter frosting in glass bowl

Assembling the PBPCC Bars

It’s easy! 

  • chocolate shortbread (bake it until just set)
  • pretzel caramel (don’t curse if it goes on a little dodgy and even pulls up some of the chocolate base; it’s all good)
  • peanut butter fluff (remember, don’t taste it or it may not make it onto the bars)
  • chocolate ganache (because chocolate ganache is always welcome at the party)
9X13-inch pan with chocolate shortbread crust, pretzel caramel, peanut butter frosting, chocolate ganache

Once the bars are assembled, I let them chill in the refrigerator until set and then I cut them into squares with a bench knife. 

I’m just going to be honest with you, they are kind of a pain to cut. But the end result is so worth it; we can do hard things. 

A few tips:

  • lining the baking pan with a parchment overhang is helpful so you can lift the bars out to cut
  • I like to wipe the knife/bench knife clean between cuts
  • cut them while they are chilled or partially chilled

After they are cut, I chill them again. Because, these bars are phenomenal eaten cold. 

peanut butter pretzel caramel chocolate bar square on piece of white parchment paper

In closing, I would like to give us one more peek at that ridiculously salty, chewy, crunchy pretzel caramel layer. 

And also tell you that these bars should, at some point, become part of your world. You will not regret it. 

They have me thinking I should find a way to incorporate pretzels and caramel and peanut butter fluff into everything I make for the rest of forever. 

pretzel caramel on top of chocolate shortbread in 9X13-inch pan

FAQs for these bars:

My caramel seems really thick after melting. Thoughts?

Different brands of soft caramels will melt with varying consistencies. If the caramel seems thick like it won’t spread very well, try adding a few tablespoons more heavy cream and heating on low and stirring until combined. I usually use Trader Joe’s soft caramels, but those aren’t widely available to everyone, so Peter’s caramel or Kraft or Brachs should work, too. Homemade is also an option!

I don’t have pretzel sticks, can I sub in another kind of pretzel?

Feel free to experiment! I think pretzel sticks give the best texture (without disintegrating into salty dust) to that pretzel caramel layer.

Why is the ganache so thin?

Ganache (chocolate + heavy cream) can often seem thin right after making. It should thicken as it cools. Also, the type of heavy cream can make a difference, too. The higher the fat percentage in the heavy cream, the thicker the ganache will be.

Can these bars be frozen?

I haven’t tried freezing them, but I’m not sure they’ll be a great candidate for freezing. The pretzels may get a bit soft/soggy after thawing.

One Year Ago: Homemade Dulce de Leche Twix Bars {Shortbread + Caramel + Chocolate}
Two Years Ago: Easy Peanut Butter Chocolate Graham Cracker Toffee
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Blossom Cookies
Four Years Ago: Overnight Creme Brûlée French Toast Bake
Five Years Ago: Soft Eggnog Sugar Cookies with Whipped Eggnog Frosting
Six Years Ago: Chocolate Pudding Pretzel Pie
Seven Years Ago: Roasted Cauliflower and White Cheddar Soup 
Eight Years Ago: Toffee Crunch Cupcakes

Yield:
15-20 bars

Prep Time:
45 minutes

Cook Time:
12 minutes

Additional Time:
2 hours

Total Time:
2 hours 57 minutes

peanut butter pretzel caramel chocolate bar on piece of white parchment paper with bite taken out

Ingredients

Chocolate Shortbread:

  • 1 1/4 cups (6.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup (2.75 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup (1.5 ounces) natural unsweetened or Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces, 16 tablespoons) butter, melted (I use salted)

Caramel Layer:

  • 14 ounces soft caramels, unwrapped (see note)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (4 to 4.5 ounces) lightly crushed or broken pretzel sticks

Peanut Butter Layer:

  • 1 cup (9 ounces) creamy peanut butter (see note)
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons, 2 ounces) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. For the shortbread layer: preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking pan (can also line with parchment paper). Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir in the melted butter until a soft dough forms. Bake for 10-12 minutes until set (I like the crust slightly under baked so it’s not dry and crumbly). Cool completely.
  3. For the pretzel caramel layer: in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the caramels and cream and microwave in 1-minute intervals, stirring in between, until smooth and melted. Option 1: spread caramel over the cooled chocolate shortbread layer and sprinkle with crushed pretzels. Option 2: stir the pretzels into the warm caramel and dollop across chocolate shortbread layer, pressing into an even layer with greased hands.
  4. For the peanut butter layer: in a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar, and vainlla, and beat with an electric mixer until creamy and fluffy, 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Spread over the pretzel caramel layer. Refrigerate while making the chocolate ganache.
  5. For the chocolate ganache: add the chocolate chips to a medium bowl. Microwave or heat the cream on the stovetop until just below a simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Let sit for 2-3 minutes. Stir to combine until glossy and smooth. Let cool for a few minutes until no longer warm. Spread over the peanut butter layer.
  6. Refrigerate the bars until set, at least 20 minutes but up to 24 hours. If refrigerated longer than an hour or so, take the bars out 15-20 minutes before cutting and serving so the caramel layer softens just a bit.

Notes

Caramels: I usually use Trader Joe’s soft vanilla caramels. Other brands (such as Kraft or Brach’s) should work as well. The consistency of the melted caramel will vary based on brand.

Peanut Butter: I have only ever made these bars with traditional creamy peanut butter (not natural peanut butter or crunchy peanut butter).

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Recipe Source: adapted from Taste of Home

Posted on December 10, 2020 by Mel



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