I have dreamed about making these Chocolate Caramel Crunch Bars for a while. All I needed was the excuse of the holidays to make it happen. I will admit that they didn't turn out the way my dream intended them to be. To be honest though, I was by no means disappointed.
My original plan was to make a cookie bar similar to a Take Five bar. As my family knows very well, Take Five bars are my absolute favorite candy bar. I am very picky when it comes to chocolate and nothing but the best will do. However, I have a guilty pleasure of deeming these Take Five Bars to be the very best concoction of all things glorious stuffed into two little chocolate pieces of heaven. You have the chocolate, the caramel, the peanuts, the pretzels, the peanut butter. Take five and stuff your face. Oh, have another because they come two to a pack. Sweet and salty. It's all there and it's all good. You deserve a break.
So, my intention was to make a cookie bar filled with all the goodness found in a Take Five except layered on top of a shortbread cookie. I got it all together: a brown sugar cookie base, a layer of peanut pieces and pretzel pieces, smothered in creamy, buttery caramel, and topped with a layer of ganache. What's not to love?
Well, the Chocolate Caramel Crunch Bars didn't quite taste like a Take Five, but geez, Louise! Goodness gracious! These bars were so good. The crunch from the cookie and the rich chocolate were perfectly balanced with the chewy-soft caramel. Adding the salty peanuts and pretzels were the final touch. The only thing missing was the peanut butter layer, which I might try the next time I make these. Maybe adding it to the dough? A shortbread peanut butter? I've got to get back in the kitchen and taste test those babies. You might be seeing those soon so stay tuned.
These bars do take preparation in stages. There are three steps and each one has a cooling time before adding the next layer so plan ahead. They keep very well in a container with a tight lid. If you're planning on giving these Chocolate Caramel Crunch Bars as gifts, you can refrigerate until ready to package them up. They keep well at room temperature for up to a week. You can even freeze them until ready to use.
Chocolate Caramel Crunch Bars
A layered shortbread bar with gooey caramel, rich chocolate, and filled with salty peanuts and pretzels. Crunch and chew, sweet and salty. What more could you want?
- 20 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup golden syrup
- 2 oz., finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 cup, chopped salted peanuts
- 1 cup, broken into small pieces salted thin pretzels
For the shortbread crust:
1. Line a 13x9 baking pan with foil, leaving enough overhang to make the finished bars easy to lift from pan. Light coat the foil with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 325.
2. Melt 12 Tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan, cool until just warm. In a medium bowl, stir the butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt together until well-mixed. Stir in the flour to form a thick dough. Press the dough into the baking pan evenly. Prick the dough all over with a fork to keep the shortbread from puffing up while baking. Freeze the dough in the pan for 10 minutes.
3. Bake the dough for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden all over and set. Set aside to cool while you make the caramel.
4. Sprinkle the peanut and pretzel pieces evenly over the crust.
For the caramel topping:
5. Cut 1/2 cup butter into chunks. In a medium saucepan add the chunks, 1 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup heavy cream,1/2 cup golden syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until all of the ingredients have melted. Let the mixture continue to boil until it reaches a temperature of 240 degrees (using a candy thermometer). Do NOT let it go over or it will burn. It should take around 6 minutes.
6. Turn off the heat and carefully pour the caramel mixture over the peanuts and pretzel pieces. You can tilt the pan to make sure it spreads evenly. Let the bars cool completely for about two hours before adding the ganache.
For the ganache:
7. In a small saucepan, bring 1/4 cup of heavy cream to a boil. Add in the chocolate pieces. Stir until the mixture is smooth. You'll think it will never turn chocolatey and will look strange at first. Keep stirring. The magic will happen. Pour the chocolate over the caramel and use an inverted spatula to spread evenly. Let it set for 30 minutes.
8. Carefully lift the bars from the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut the bars into 1 1/2 inch squares. They will keep at room temperature for 1 week.