Candy bars are definitely not just for Halloween, but Halloween is a great excuse to eat them! And these bars have it all. Peanut butter. Caramel. Shortbread. Peanuts. Chocolate. Um, YES PLEASE! The best way that I can describe these candy bars is... If a Twix bar and a Snicker's bar had a baby, it would be these bad boys.
Everything you need to make these bars
Since these bars have multiple layers, they will take a bit of time to make. But I promise you-- it's worth every second!
For the shortbread base layer, here's what you'll need:
• All-purpose flour
• Softened, unsalted butter
• Granulated sugar
• Vanilla extract
You'll want to make the shortbread crust layer first. Once baked, it needs to cool completely before adding the next layer on top. Once baked, cooled, and ready to go, it's onto the dreamy peanut butter caramel layer.
For this layer, you will need:
• Unsalted butter
• Brown sugar
• Sweetened condensed milk
• Peanut butter
• Vanilla extract
• Dry roasted peanuts
For this layer, you're going to be making a super decadent and thick caramel. It starts by melting down the butter and brown sugar until the sugar granules are dissolved, and the mixture is just starting to thicken. You'll then add in peanut butter, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Once thickened, turn off heat and fold in the peanuts. Then pour it over the shortbread crust and spread into an even layer.
Now, pop that in the fridge and forget about it for at least an hour. After chilled, pop them out of the pan and cut into 1 ½ inch strips. Melt down some milk chocolate (and coconut oil, optional) and pour over the top of the bars. Pop back into the fridge for about 30 more minutes to allow the chocolate to set. And now they're ready to eat!!
Equipment and Helpful Tools
• Parchment paper. Parchment paper is going to be your best friend when making these bars. Even after you grease your pan at the beginning of this recipe, it is extremely helpful to also line the pan with parchment paper. I usually line it cutting the parchment paper width-length and letting the extra slightly drape over the top edge of the pan, so you can grab it. This will make getting the finished bars out of the pan SO much easier.
• A sharp knife. Shortbread can sometimes be delicate. Using a sharp knife to cut these bars will help prevent the shortbread layer from cracking. A dull knife could leave you with uneven cuts and crumbling shortbread.
Tips, Substitutions, and Questions
1. Can I make these gluten-free? Yes! I actually tested these once with King Arthur's gluten-free flour, and the shortbread crust turned out almost identical to the all-purpose flour ones.
2. You can also make them dairy-free!
Butter: You can definitely use dairy-free butter-- there are tons of great brands out there.
Sweetened Condensed Milk: Nestlé La Lechera has a lactose-free SCM that can be used. You can also use a sweetened condensed coconut milk as well (usually at health food stores).
Chocolate: You can use a dairy-free "milk" chocolate alternative, like Enjoy Life. Really, any dairy-free chocolate will work.
3. Store these in the refrigerator. They will last a bit longer, and it will prevent the chocolate or caramel filling from getting too soft from sitting at room temperature.