Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Caramel Pretzel Bars

by Susan on February 12, 2017

chocolate, peanut butter & caramel pretzel bars

There’s something about a snow day that calls for baking. I felt a little bit like I was cheating, then, when I whipped these no-bake babies the other day when I was snowed in with the kids. Since all of the layers take a bit of time to chill and firm up, though, it was actually a very appropriate treat to make with some time on my hands.

When I do anything with nut butter it’s usually almond, an expensive (but delicious and healthy!) habit I picked up during my strict paleo days. My son loves his peanut butter, though, and ever so often I cave and buy a jar of natural and organic peanut butter. While he loves it just paired with bananas, I decided to kick it up a notch and work it into a dessert treat.

He and I thought these turned out ridiculously amazing. His big sister and my husband are NOT peanut butter fans (insert gasp), so both thought they’d taste better without the nutty aspect. You could certainly skip adding it to the chocolate, or use sunflower seed butter if you have a nut allergy. You could also use almond meal or ground flaxseed in the crust if you’d prefer a different option than the oatmeal.

The original recipe I adapted from Natural Sweet Recipes called for protein powder in the pretzel crust, but I didn’t find that was a necessary addition at all. I also cut down a little bit on the added sweetener in the chocolate peanut butter layer and found it was plenty sweet.

These definitely need to be kept chilled to stay firm; I love keeping them in the freezer for texture.

If you make these with the appropriate chocolate they’re not only gluten-free but dairy-free as well.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Caramel Pretzel Bars
adapted from Natural Sweet Recipes

pretzel crust:
1 cup gluten-free pretzels
1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1/4 cup palm sugar
1/2 cup Earth Balance butter spread, soft

peanut butter fudge layer:
1 cup Enjoy Life or other dairy-free chocolate chips/chunks
1 tbs. coconut oil
1/4 cup palm sugar
1 cup natural, organic peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder

pretzel layer:
3-6 tbs. crushed gluten-free pretzels

caramel topping:
1 tsp. coconut oil
1/4 cup palm sugar
1 tbs. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Line a 8 by 8 baking dish with parchment paper.

In a food processor, process oats until just starting to become a flour. Add pretzels and pulse until fine. In a mixing bowl, combine the oat flour, pretzels and palm sugar. Add the soft butter and mix to combine. Transfer the dough to prepared pan and press firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan. Freeze while you make the fudge, or for about 10 minutes.

In a microwave-safe bowl, add the chocolate, palm sugar and coconut oil. Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or until all the chocolate and coconut is melted and combined.

While the chocolate is warm combine with the peanut butter. Allow the mixture to cool slightly and add the vanilla and cocoa and mix well. Pour the warm fudge mixture over the chilled base and return to the freezer to chill for about 2 minutes. Remove from freezer to sprinkle the pretzel mixture on top, then return to the freezer.

Next, make the caramel topping by combining the coconut oil and palm sugar with 1 tbs. of water in a microwave safe bowl. Stir well and microwave for about 2 minutes while stirring every 8-10 seconds. Keep microwaving, pausing to stir every 8 seconds or so. Do this for at least 4 or 5 times or until you have a thickened, smooth caramel sauce. Be careful to watch it after 3 or 4 stirs so it doesn’t burn.

Drizzle the caramel sauce over the bars and return to the freezer to harden and completely set (about 1 hour). Cut into bars once set and store any leftovers in the fridge or freezer.

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