What could be better than a buttery shortbread, smooth caramel, decadent chocolate, and crunchy pretzels? Literally not one single thing. These chocolate caramel pretzel shortbread bars have a thick and buttery shortbread crust, a smooth chocolate layer, and pretzels coated in caramel on top. They are so easy to make and are incredibly delicious.
Chocolate caramel pretzel shortbread bars
- Shortbread. The shortbread cookie layer is the bottom layer - it is buttery, rich, and provides the best contrast against the chocolate and caramel. Baked until it's golden brown, the shortbread has the best texture and incredible flavor.
- Chocolate. The chocolate layer is just chocolate and vegetable oil (you can also use another neutral oil if you prefer!). I used semi-sweet chocolate here, but you can also use dark chocolate. I personally think milk chocolate would make this dessert way too sweet, but if that is your jam, go ahead!
- Caramel pretzels. I am not normally a salty/sweet dessert person, but these bars may have me convinced. The caramel pretzels are the perfect salty/sweet combination. The smooth salted caramel and the crunchy pretzels is *mwah* chef's kiss!
- Sugar: granulated sugar is the sweetener in this dessert - it is used in both the shortbread and the salted caramel.
- Butter: we use both salted and unsalted butter in this recipe. The salted butter is used in the caramel to offset the sweetness, while the unsalted butter is used in the shortbread.
- Flour: all purpose flour is the flour of choice - it gives the shortbread the best texture.
- Heavy cream: heavy cream is used in the caramel. Make sure to use good quality!
- Pretzels: you can really use any pretzel shape in this recipe, as long as they are roughly chopped up. The pretzels get coated in the salted caramel and placed right on top of the melted chocolate for an amazing chocolate/caramel/pretzel situation.
- Chocolate: I like to use semi-sweet or dark chocolate in this recipe. Milk chocolate is a little too sweet for me when paired with the shortbread and caramel, but if you are a HUGE milk chocolate fan, feel free to go for it.
- Oil: to get the smoothest and shiniest chocolate, we melt it with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Feel free to use another neutral oil if you don't want to use vegetable!
- Make the shortbread base. Whisk together the sugar, melted butter, vanilla and salt. Fold in the flour until a thick dough forms. Press into the bottom of a 9 inch pan lined with parchment paper, and bake for about 30 minutes at 350F.
- Make the caramel. Heat the sugar in a large sauce pan until completely melted. Add the cubed butter and whisk vigorously until combined. Let boil for 30 seconds. Add the heavy cream and vigorously whisk until combined. Let boil for 30 seconds. Add the salt and vanilla and whisk to combine. Remove from the heat and toss with the roughly chopped pretzels until evenly coated.
- Melt the chocolate. Melt the chocolate and oil together until completely smooth. You can do this on the stovetop or in the microwave in 30 second increments.
- Assemble. Pour the melted chocolate on top of the baked shortbread and spread it into an even layer. Evenly top the chocolate with the caramel pretzels.
- Chill. Put the pan in the fridge to chill and set for 1 ½-2 hours.
- Slice and enjoy! Once the chocolate and caramel have set, slice with a sharp knife and enjoy. Store in an airtight container.
Why did my caramel burn/crystallize?
When the caramel burns, it is likely the stove/your pan was too hot. You want to use a heavy duty sauce pan - this will ensure the pan heats evenly so the sugar can melt evenly.
If your sugar crystallized, it is likely that you added in the butter too early. The sugar needs to be COMPLETELY melted - not even a single clump of sugar should be left. The sugar should be a smooth, amber-colored liquid.
Why did the chocolate seize?
The most common reason chocolate seizes is because it comes into contact with moisture. Make sure the bowl/pan you are melting the chocolate in is totally dry prior to using.
How do I get smooth cuts?
The best way to get those super smooth and clean cuts is to use a very sharp knife that was just run under hot water and wiped dry. The hot water will heat the knife enough so that it slices right through all of the layers. Clean the knife and repeat in between every cut.
How do I store this?
These stay fresh for 4-5 days when stored in an airtight container. You can keep them at room temperature unless you live in a warm place because the chocolate will melt. If that is the case, you can store them in the fridge.
Baking in grams
While I provide volume measurements for the recipes on my blog, I highly suggest baking these recipes using weight. It is the most standardized and accurate way to bake. I carefully recipe test all of my recipes using a kitchen scale, not by using cups, and therefore I cannot guarantee the success of my recipes when using volume measurements.
Other recipes you may like
- Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies (Two Ways!)
- Shortbread S'mores
- Chocolate Caramel Thumbprint Cookies
- No Bake Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bars
Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Shortbread Bars
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (250 grams) all purpose flour
Salted Caramel Pretzels
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) salted butter room temperature, cubed
- ½ cup (120 grams) heavy cream room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ cups (150 grams) pretzels roughly chopped, you can use any shape here!
- 8 oz (226 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chopped
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Preheat your oven to 350F and line a 9 inch pan with parchment paper with overhang on at least two sides. This will make it easier to remove the bars from the pan. Set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract, and salt until combined. Add the flour and fold together until a dough forms. Press the dough into an even layer into the bottom of your pan.
- Bake the shortbread crust for 28-32 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
Salted Caramel Pretzels
- While the shortbread is baking, make the salted caramel pretzels. Roughly chop the pretzels and set aside in a large bowl.
- Add the sugar to a medium-large sauce pan. Place the pan on the stove on low-medium heat while continuously stirring and moving the sugar around the pan. The sugar will clump up before it completely melts.
- Once the sugar completely melts, it will be a smooth amber/caramel colored liquid. It can take anywhere from 8-12 minutes to completely melt.
- Once completely melted, add the cubed butter. It will bubble up. Whisk vigorously until the butter is completely melted into the sugar and they are homogeneous. Let the mixture sit and bubble for 30 seconds to one minute without stirring.
- Slowly add in the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble up again. Whisk until the heavy cream is combined. Allow the mixture to boil for 30 seconds to one minute without stirring. During this time, it will rise in the pan - let it!
- Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract and salt and whisk to combine. Pour the caramel over the pretzels and use a rubber spatula to fold until the pretzels are evenly coated in the caramel. Set aside to cool and thicken.
- In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate and oil together in 30 second increments, stirring in between each increment until completely melted. You can also melt them together on the stove.
- Spread the melted chocolate in an even layer on top of the shortbread. Sprinkle the caramel pretzels evenly on top of the chocolate. Put in the fridge until the chocolate and caramel have set, about 1 ½ - 2 hours.
- Slice and enjoy! Store in an airtight container in the fridge or at room temperature (if your kitchen doesn't run hot otherwise the chocolate will melt).
Tried this recipe? Make sure to rate and review and tag @sturbridgebakery on Instagram!