For a treat that's irresistibly salty-sweet try these bars which feature a layer of peanut butter, crunchy salted caramel and dark chocolate topped with pretzels and peanuts.
Peanut butter shortbread:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
Salted crunchy caramel:
2 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
12 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups crispy rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
8 ounces dark chocolate
3/4 to 1 cup small pretzel knots
Flaky sea salt
1/4 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
For the peanut butter shortbread: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and peanut butter. Beat on medium speed until completely creamy and combined. Add the sugar and cream together until light and fluffy, another 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Turn speed to low, add the flour and salt and continue mixing until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill until the dough is firm. Heat oven to 300 degrees.
Bake the shortbread for 30 to 35 minutes until firm and just lightly golden brown. Cool completely.
For the salted crunchy caramel: In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and corn syrup, and cook, while stirring, over medium heat until it reaches a golden brown caramel color. Turn off heat, stir in butter, cream, salt and vanilla and stir until combined. The mixture will sputter and bubble up so be very careful as this is very hot. Stir in the rice cereal. Pour mixture over the shortbread, using a spatula to smooth over the top. Allow to set at room temperature for at least 1 to 2 hours.
For the dark chocolate topping: Put the chocolate in a bowl, then melt over a saucepan of just simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the bowl).
Add chocolate to a small piping bag or a zip top bag and snip the end off. Pipe dark chocolate stripes across the top of the set caramel, using about two-thirds of the chocolate. Quickly place the pretzels over the top, then pipe the remaining chocolate over the top. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and the chopped peanuts. Let chocolate set completely before slicing into squares.
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