Salted Caramel Pretzel Bars

November 15, 2020

Chewy salted caramel pretzel bars are the perfect decadent treat with a cookie base and smothered in chocolate, homemade caramel, and even more pretzels!

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Salted Caramel Pretzel Bars on parchment paper

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bars

Cookie bars are quickly becoming one of my favorite treats! I love every chewy bite, and how many different ways they can be made!

This salted caramel pretzel bar has a pretzel cookie base and is topped with melted chocolate and then covered in delicious homemade caramel sauce!

Who knew that our salted caramel shortbread bars would inspire so many other recipes! It’s what we used for our homemade caramel popcorn balls! Once you master the art of making your own homemade caramel, I think you will find so many different ways to use it!

Try: 1 ingredient caramel sauce using sweetened condensed milk

Homemade caramel sauce is easier than you’d think! It does take a little patience and a watchful eye.

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bars on parchment paper
Butter & sugar melting in large pot for caramel sauce

Tips for making homemade caramel sauce:

Caramel sauce is made by caramelizing sugar. Often times water, butter, cream or corn syrup is added (known as the wet method). 

The secret to a good caramel sauce is temperature, whisking, and the proper sized pot.

If you consider yourself a seasoned cook, you may not need a thermometer. Or, if you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can definitely make caramel sauce without one. 

In my experience with caramel, the “still chewy, yet firm” stage (240 F) happens in the blink of an eye. You’ll know it’s at the perfect point when it begins to pull away from the sides of your pot. You’ll know it when it happens, it is very obvious. 

That 10 degree difference from 230 F to 240 F happens slowly and quickly all at the same time! At 230 F you’ve probably been whisking for what feels like forever, you’re starting to see the caramel thicken, so it’s tempting to stop there. This is where you can go wrong – the caramel will be too runny and won’t set on your dessert. Make sure to power through whisking for that extra minute or two (if hoping to have a caramel that “sets”). 

It is also important to continuously whisk the caramel the entire time it is coming to temperature. Butter and sugar burn very easily, and if you stop whisking even for 15 seconds, you will probably not love the results! 

Lastly, be sure to have a large enough pot to whisk whisk whisk! The caramel will bubble and is incredibly hot. A large pot will ensure that the caramel doesn’t bubble up over the sides!

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bars on parchment paper

This recipe is essentially my chewy chocolate chip cookie bars less the chocolate chips and salt. It’s the perfect chewy base for the caramel and chocolate topping in these caramel pretzel bars!

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Start by creaming the butter & sugar using an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy.
  3. Then add the egg and vanilla extract, again beating until light & fluffy.
  4. Next, add the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and baking soda. I skip the salt because the added pretzel brings enough salty flavor in. Mix until *just* combined, do not over mix.
  5. Place a couple handfuls of pretzels in a small baggie and use a rolling pin to crush them up. Measure 3/4 cup crushed pretzel and stir it into the dough. Reserve the remaining crushed pretzels for the topping! :)
  6. Use a piece of parchment paper to line a 9×13 baking dish, and press the dough into the dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350, checking at 15 minutes for doneness.
  7. It is important not to over-bake the cookie base! You want it to *just* be golden on top – remove at the point that you think, “oh, that could use just one or two more minutes“. That’s when it’s ready :).
  8. Immediately upon removing the cookie base from the oven, sprinkle 2 cups of chocolate chips over the top. The chocolate chips will melt from the heat of the dish within 1-2 minutes (if they aren’t melting, place the dish back in the OFF but warm oven) for a minute or two. Use a spatula to evenly spread the chocolate over the cookie base. Place in the refrigerator or freezer to chill while you prepare the caramel.

How to prepare the caramel topping:

  1. In a medium pot, melt 3/4 cup butter over low heat. Once the butter is melted, add 3/4 cup sugar. Whisk vigorously to fully dissolve.
  2. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn heat to high, and pour in the 14 oz. of sweetened condensed milk and 3 tablespoons light corn syrup.
  3. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that DOES NOT CEASE when stirred (this is an important step). 
  4. Once the mixture reaches that point, reduce the heat to a simmering level (medium-low heat).
  5. Whisk the mixture at a simmer for 10-15 minutes – or until it reaches a caramel color. It is important to continuously whisk to prevent burning (happens quickly!). You will know the mixture is ready once it begins to pull away from the sides of the pot (when it reaches 240 F if you have a candy thermometer). Do not remove from the heat early because your caramel will not “set” and it will be too gooey.
  6. Remove from heat, and finish the bars up.

Finish the salted caramel pretzel bars:

  1. Working quickly, remove the chilling bars and drizzle the hot caramel over the top. Use a spatula to carefully spread the caramel over the top of the dish. The caramel is super hot, so take care not to burn yourself.
  2. The hot caramel may melt some of the chocolate, so try to spread the caramel carefully without marbling it too much. Although it won’t affect the taste, it just won’t be quite as pretty. Don’t worry, the crushed pretzels on top mask any imperfections.
  3. Once all of the caramel is spread over the top, sprinkle the remaining crushed pretzels over the top and gently press into the hot caramel with the back of your hand (be careful, the caramel may still be hot).
  4. Chill for 30 minutes before slicing into small squares.
Salted Caramel Pretzel Bars on parchment paper
Yield: 20

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bars

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bars on parchment paper

Salty, chewy, sweet, and delicious! Salted caramel pretzel bars are the perfect decadent treat!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • Cookie Base:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) room-temperature unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg (room-temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup crushed pretzels
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Caramel:
  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 3/4 sugar (granulated or brown)
  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • Topping:
  • 1 1/2 cup crushed pretzels

Instructions

    Preheat oven to 350 F.

    Start by crushing up the pretzels: place a couple of handfuls of pretzels in a baggie and using a rolling pin, crush into small pieces. Set aside.

    Start the cookie base by creaming the butter & sugar: this step is incredibly important! Make sure the butter is room temperature, not melted. Combine the butter & sugars in a large mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer cream them together until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.

    Add the egg and vanilla extract: once the butter and sugar is creamed together, add the egg and vanilla extract. Again, use an electric mixer to cream the ingredients until light and fluffy.

    Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the: flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Do not over-mix! Over-mixing can cause the bars to deflate in the middle after baking.

    Stir in 3/4 cup crushed pretzels until combined.

    Press the dough into a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Using a 9"×13" pan will produce the best results.

    Bake until golden: bake the cookie bars for 15-18 minutes at 350 F. Remove the cookies when they are *just* golden on top. Do not over-bake these cookie bars, you want them to be chewy and delicious, rather than crispy.

    Immediately upon removing the bars from the oven, sprinkle 2 cups chocolate chips over the top. The heat from the dish will melt the chocolate after 1-2 minutes, use a spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the top. If the chocolate chips do not melt, place the dish back in the OFF but warm oven for another minute or two. Once the chocolate is melted and spread, chill the bars in the freezer and prepare the caramel.

    While the cookie chill, prepare the caramel sauce: In a medium pot, melt 3/4 cup butter over low heat. Once the butter is melted, add 3/4 cup sugar. Whisk vigorously to fully dissolve.

    After the sugar has dissolved, turn heat to high, and pour in the 14 oz. of sweetened condensed milk and 3 tablespoons light corn syrup.

    Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that DOES NOT CEASE when stirred (this is an important step).

    Once the mixture reaches that point, reduce the heat to a simmering level (medium-low heat).

    Whisk the mixture at a simmer for 10-15 minutes - or until it reaches a caramel color. It is important to continuously whisk to prevent burning (happens quickly!). You will know the mixture is ready once it begins to pull away from the sides of the pot. Do not remove from the heat early because your caramel will not "set".

    Once the caramel is ready, remove from heat and remove the cookies from the freezer. Immediately drizzle the hot caramel sauce over the bars and use a spatula to evenly spread over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining crushed pretzels and gently press into the caramel. Chill for at least 30 minutes and slice into small squares.

Notes

It is important not to over-bake the cookie base! You want it to *just* be golden on top – remove at the point that you think: “oh, that could use just one or two more minutes“. That’s when it’s ready.

The hot caramel may melt some of the chocolate, so try to spread the caramel carefully without marbling it too much. Although it won’t affect the taste, it just won’t be quite as pretty. Don’t worry, the crushed pretzels on top mask any imperfections.

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