When I became pregnant with my son, I had been more or less eating very healthy for three years. I had maybe one candy bar a year and that decision was always made with a great deal of consideration, weighing potential options, alternatives, and consequences (um, what happened?). One night in the middle of my second trimester, my husband and I were driving home at about 9:00 pm when we drove past a gas station. I ordered him to immediately pull into the parking lot. He obliged because he learned not to mess with pregnant me after the time I came home from Arby’s and discovered they had forgotten my curly fries and a lot of yelling, cupboard-slamming, and swearing ensued. He was scared.
Anyway, I’m sure he thought that the gas station stop had something to do with some form of pregnant lady bodily function. Imagine his surprise when I came out with a whole bunch of Twix bars. Yep, after years of healthy eating, Twix bars were my downfall. To me, they’re like those toxic boyfriends you keep going back to–we can’t be around each other without things ending in some kind of self-loathing.
Which is why, when presented with the opportunity, I made a whole pan of homemade Twix bars. Only to make matters worse, I topped them off with melted Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (my other ultimate weakness) instead of regular chocolate. Just call me Chelsea from Teen Mom 2… (for going back to my toxic “boyfriend”; I’m not implying that she eats a lot of Twix bars).
While it does take some time to make these, they’re actually super easy; most of the time is letting things cool down and set up. You’ll need softened salted butter, flour, powdered sugar, vanilla, caramels, cream, and mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. And just FYI, I’m pretty sure if I made up my own version of “My Favorite Things,” it would probably involve everything in that ingredients list.
Preheat your oven to 300. Then spray a 9×13″ pan with non-stick cooking spray and set it aside.
In a large bowl (or the bowl of a heavy duty mixer), combine the flour, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla. Mix until it is combined–it may start out stiff, but it will all come together. Gently press it into the prepared pan
then prick the dough with a fork to prevent bubbles from forming while it’s baking.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the cookie crust is light golden. Remove it from the oven and let it cool completely. This can be done a day ahead of time.
When the crust is cool, place the caramels in a microwave-safe bowl.
Okay, I’ve modified the caramel directions from when I originally posted this recipe. I changed things because when I added 3 tablespoons of cream, the caramel melted everywhere, but it seems like a lot of people have run into hard caramel issues. So I recommend adding the 3 tablespoons with a warning that if you’re at a very low elevation, the caramel may end up being on the very soft side. So if you’re very worried about that (like if you’re bringing these to a bake sale and can’t keep them refrigerated), keep that in mind. But better too soft than breaking a tooth, right?
That’s right, if anyone asks you why you’re adding cream to your caramel, tell them you can get a note from your dentist that it’s totally necessary.
Melt the caramel in the microwave for 3-4 minutes or until smooth, stirring each minute.
Spread the caramel over the cookie crust and then place the pan in the fridge to help the caramel set up quickly.
When the caramel is solid, place the peanut butter cups in a microwave-safe bowl
Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until the chocolate layer is solid (you could also pop it in the freezer for less time to hurry things along).
When the chocolate is set up, carefully cut into bars. Eat one. Pour a glass of milk. Go back for more. Wonder if Chelsea will ever learn her lesson and kick Adam to the curb forever. The end.
Peanut Butter Cup Caramel Shortbread Bars
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour by Our Best Bites
1 c. salted butter at room temperature
1 c. powdered sugar
2 c. all-purpose flour, lightly spooned into measuring cups and leveled with a knife
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. caramels (1 14-oz. package Kraft caramel or 2 c. homemade caramel)
3 tablespoons cream (see notes above)
3 cups mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (about 1 1/2 11-oz. bags)
Preheat oven to 300. Spray a 9×13″ pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl or the bowl of your mixer, combine the butter, sugar, flour, and vanilla until the mixture comes together. Lightly press the shortbread dough into the pan. Prick with a fork to prevent the crust from bubbling. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from oven and run a knife around the edges of the bars. Allow to cool completely.
Combine the caramels and cream in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring each minute, until the mixture is smooth. Spread evenly over the cookie crust, then place the pan in the refrigerator and chill for 30-60 minutes or until the caramel is solid.
In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the unwrapped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups until melted and smooth, stirring each 45 seconds. Spread over the cooled caramel. Place in refrigerator for 1-2 hours or until the chocolate layer is solid. They can also be placed in the freezer for less time if you’re in a hurry. Cut into squares and serve. Store leftovers in a cool area or the refrigerator to prevent messy disasters.