Salted Caramel Pretzel Crunch Bars
There’s gotta be dessert on Friday, though I may have been eating way over my limit all week. I just got back from Phoenix last night. One of my fave spots was Citizen Public House in Scottsdale. They gave us a platter of nearly every single dessert on the menu and one of them happened to be a semifreddo peanut butter PUSH POP with chocolate brownie stuffed inside. Um, yes. Did you see that on my insta story or Snapchat? (Can’t remember which one I freaked out over that on!) And it was better than it even sounds.
But since it’s the weekend and I know you’ll be baking (we’re kindred spirits), here’s a new dessert to try. I may have freaked out over these as much as the peanut butter push pop ordeal. Imagine that.
Think of these salted caramel pretzel crunch bars as a homemade twix bar but with crunchy pretzels stuffed inside. And the caramel is salted. And the chocolate is semi-sweet. And there’s sea salt on top. So really this is a homemade candy bar skyrocketing into the same top-notch delicious land that only apple pie and carrot cake reside in.
Here are the layers we’re working with:
- Homemade shortbread-like crust
- 4 ingredient salted caramel, homemade of course
- Melted chocolate + sea salt
The shortbread-ish crust is just like shortbread, but with an egg yolk added. The egg yolk helps prevent any sandiness texture and really helps create a solid (and soft) base for the layers on top. It’s really easy and while you’re mixing, it will be super crumbly. If you get your hands in there, it will all come together like pie crust or dough. See above left (crumbly) and right (togetherness).
You’ll press broken pretzel pieces into the top of the shortbread dough and bake for about 20 minutes. This is the only bake time for these bars. Next? The salted caramel. Easily the best part of these salty sweet bars. Have you ever tried my salted caramel sauce before? I hardly talk about it. Sense the sarcasm. I love the stuff!
The salted caramel is just sugar, butter, cream, and salt. Takes a few minutes on the stove. It’s surprisingly simple; just make sure you don’t walk away from the pan while you’re *supposed* to be stirring. Your sugar will burn, smoke, resemble tar, and set off the fire alarm. This exact scene didn’t happen in my kitchen last weekend or anything.
Feeling these pour shots!
The chocolate is the easiest part. Melt it with some coconut oil on the stovetop or in the microwave. The coconut oil keeps the chocolate on the softer side so the bars are easier to cut. I like to use pure chocolate baking bars (found in the baking aisle) but chocolate chips work too– see my recipe note. You can even melt down chocolate chips with a little peanut butter to truly make this the best dessert to ever grace any of our kitchens.
The one thing about this recipe? You have to wait for each layer to cool before adding the next. Hot caramel will melt the baked crust. And melted chocolate poured on hot caramel will create a mess too. You won’t be able to spread it and the two layers will morph together. Still tasty, but not what we’re going for! All I do is place the layers in the fridge for 45 minutes as I go. Do something else around the house, come back, etc. You can even start the night before– see my make ahead tip. 🙂
For clean cuts, use a super sharp knife and wipe it off with a paper towel between cuts. Slice the bars as large or small as you want. I liked a smaller bite-size version as I was testing this recipe. Because you can fit the whole thing in your mouth and grab 4 more in your hand as you exit the kitchen. This exact scene also didn’t happen last weekend or anything.
Not feeling the pretzels? Add nuts instead. I’m thinking pecans for a turtle-like dessert experience. Enjoy!
Salted Caramel Pretzel Crunch Bars
- 10 Tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 Tbsp or 145g) unsalted butter, slightly soft (see important note!)1
- 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (141g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (240ml) salted caramel sauce (the full recipe)
- 1 cup (50-60g) chopped pretzels
- 6 ounces chopped semi-sweet chocolate (or 1 cup (180g) semi-sweet chocolate chips)2
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil
- optional: sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper with enough overhang on the sides to easily remove the bars from the pan. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the flour, sugar, salt, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until crumbly. Get your hands in there to make the dough come together. Press tightly into prepared pan. Press pretzel pieces evenly on top. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before adding the caramel (I stick it in the refrigerator to speed this up).
- Prepare caramel and wait for it to cool until it slightly thickens. Pour/spoon over crust. Allow to cool and set completely before topping with chocolate. Again, I stick it in the refrigerator to speed it up.
- Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave in 15 second increments, stopping and stirring until completely melted. Pour over cooled caramel. Top with sea salt. Stick in the refrigerator to cool completely.
- Lift the parchment paper out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
Make ahead tip: There are many ways to start ahead on this recipe. You can prepare and bake the crust through step 2 a day or 2 ahead of time. Store in the refrigerator until ready for the caramel. You can also prepare the caramel a day or 2 ahead of time. Warm it just until it is spreadable (but not totally liquid), then pour over crust and allow to set. Continue with step 4. Prepared bars can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then bring to room temperature before enjoying.
- Butter that is too soft could ruin the crust. I always let butter sit out of the refrigerator for only about 10 minutes when making this crust. It's still a little firm and cold, but that is what you want for a shortbread-like crust.
- If using chocolate chips in the chocolate layer, melt down with 1 teaspoon of oil so it thins out and is easy to pour and spread. Careful melting in the microwave. Stop every 15 seconds to stir until melted. You can even melt it down with 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter for an extra dose of delicious.
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