This is the ultimate sweet and savory treat. Chocolate and caramel is a classic duo; but the salty pretzels and shortbread crust give the whole bar a crunchy, indulgent texture. These are great to stash in your refrigerator for up to five days or freezer for up to two months and enjoy in a moment’s notice. There are no plates or utensils required, which is my kind of treat to serve to a crowd. Give these chocolate caramel pretzel shortbread bars a try to curb your sweet tooth for days to come!
How to make homemade caramel
Homemade caramel can be intimidating; it requires a very specific cook time. I recommend you use a ceramic pot to prevent scratching the bottom of a metal pan if the caramel gets difficult to work with. As the sugar warms up in the pot, the sugar crystals will dissolve into a liquid. Be sure to whisk the sugar constantly during this time; once some of the crystals start to dissolve, they will all turn to a liquid very fast. Once you have pure liquid, whisk in the cold butter and let the entire mixture simmer for about five minutes. The mixture will slowly darken in color. Be careful not to let it get any darker than a bronze/amber color, otherwise it will burn!
When you whisk in the heavy cream, the entire mixture will start to boil and that is okay. Just keeping whisking quickly so that the heavy cream fully incorporates into the butter and sugar. Finally, you’ll add the vanilla extract and sea salt after the mixture stops boiling and you’ve removed it from heat. The caramel will start to thicken as it sets, and will thicken even more as it cools in the refrigerator.
My favorite part about these delicious bars are the salty crunch topping and buttery crust bottom that sandwich the caramel and chocolate. I use the same shortbread crust for my lemon bars; it’s such a versatile bottom for many treats! Hope you enjoy this sweet and savory bar! 🙂
Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Shortbread BarsPrint Recipe
- For the shortbread crust:
- 1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted
- butter, melted
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- For the caramel:
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- A pinch of sea salt
- For the chocolate:
- 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels
- For the pretzels:
- 3 cups coarsely chopped pretzels
Prepare the shortbread crust. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and position the top rack to be in the middle of the oven. Line a 9-inch x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Make sure there is enough lining to overhang from the top (this will make it easier to remove the square later). Grease the parchment paper or foil with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the crust ingredients. Once the mixture becomes thick, use a spatula to continue mixing it all until it forms a ball. Gently press the dough into the bottom of the baking pan, spreading it evenly throughout. Bake for 10 minutes, then let cool for about 10 minutes before layering with everything else.
Prepare the caramel. In a medium sauce pot (preferable ceramic) over medium heat, melt the sugar and bring it to a boil, whisking constantly. Whisk in the butter and let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes over medium heat until the liquid turns to an amber brown color. Remove from heat, then whisk in the heavy cream - it will boil, but keep whisking! Once the mixture stops bubbling, remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and sea salt. Allow the mixture to cool for five minutes before pouring into a heat-proof container and setting for about 15 minutes.
Now it's time to assemble all of the layers. With the shortbread still in the baking pan, pour the caramel on top of the shortbread and use a spatula to spread and disperse it evenly. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and let the caramel set for 10 minutes.
While that is setting, melt the semi-sweet chocolate morsels in a microwave-safe container in 30-second increments, stirring in between each increment until the mixture is melted. Have your pretzels handy.
Pour the melted chocolate evenly over top of the caramel shortbread. Immediately spread the pretzels on top of the chocolate and gently press them into the chocolate to secure them. Transfer the pan back to the refrigerator and let the chocolate set for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Slice the bars into 16 equal squares and serve the bars cold fresh out of the refrigerator. These will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about 5 days!