A confession: I REALLY like coffee and I frequent Starbucks. If you haven’t been there lately, they have a new treat. One is a chocolate muffin with a carmel center and the second is a carmel pretzel bar. After looking at this for a few weeks I decided to try it. It was HUGE. Which worked out well for sharing with all the kids in the car. The bar was actually a little much for me, so I started thinking about how I could remake the bar at home. Here is what I came up with:
The bottom is a shortbread crust. Then I made a homemade carmel, added crushed pretzels and peanuts, then put it bake into the oven till it was bubbly. Let it rest and cool, but into bars. I didn’t really want to share this one!
SALTED CARMEL PRETZEL NUT BARS
FOR THE SHORTBREAD:
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup softened butter
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
FOR THE CARAMEL TOPPING:
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1¼ cups light brown sugar
¼ cup honey
¼ cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp. salt
1 cup heavy cream
6 cups (about 9 oz.) small pretzel twists, lightly broken up
1. Make the shortbread: Preheat to 350°. Line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar at medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla, change speed to low, and add the flour-salt mixture. Mix until crumbly, 10-15 seconds. Pat the dough evenly into the bottom of the parchment-lined pan, (I press it in with the bottom of a glass). Bake 15-18 minutes, until just golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
2. Make the caramel: In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, vanilla and salt. Stir regularly until mixture is foamy and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add cream (watch out! it will boil up quick) and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer inserted into the caramel registers 240°F (soft ball stage), about 8 minutes. You will notice a consistency change in th carmel. STIR CONSTANTLY and don’t let it burn. Add the crushed pretzels and peanuts and quickly incorporate into the caramel.
3. Pour the pretzel-peanut- caramel mixture over the baked shortbread, spreading the mixture evenly. Return to the oven until the topping is bubbling, 10- 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Remove from the baking pan by lifting the edges of the parchment paper; unfold the paper and slice into bars.