Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookie Bars: Whew, that's a mouthful!

I have a new best friend, and his name is Spencer. Want to know how we became BFFs? It’s all about the magical break room upstairs at King Arthur Flour.

On days when you’re blogging or baking in the kitchen, it’s always a bit tricky to go into the break room upstairs next to the test kitchen.  Sometimes there are one or two folks getting coffee and, spying your apron, they’ll inevitably ask, “Whatcha makin’?”

It isn’t bad to explain your current project to one or two people, but often by the time you’re done sharing, a third and/or fourth person has wandered in, catching only part of the conversation, and they’ll ask you to start again.

The next thing you know, it’s 20 minutes later and your test kitchen teammates are wondering why you aren’t there to shut off your golblasted timer as your cake in the oven starts to wisp smoke.

Back to Spencer, though. I wish you could meet him. He’s a little shy, but has the best sense of humor, and lovely sparkling eyes. I’ve known him in passing for years, and we’ve had a few short conversations in the above-mentioned break room before. But this day was different.

Spencer and Molly, two key merchandising team members, were in the break room as I was headed to the freezer to get out a batch of cookies. As soon as the words “Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookie Bars” were out of my mouth, Spencer turned those big trusting eyes to me and said simply, “You are my new best friend.” It was like being on the playground again, when you offered to share your juice box, or your Matchbox cars. No muss, no fuss, just a genuine offer to be friends based on a mutual love of the good things in life.

How could I not be charmed? Once the bars were sliced I headed over to Spencer’s desk with the first piece on a plate. Despite the fact that there was a casual meeting going on I slipped in, handed Spence the plate, and bid my buddy enjoy. Don’t worry, there were plenty of other samples headed back to the break room, so no one in the meeting missed out.

As a group, we pretty much devoured the panful of these salty sweet goodies in just a few minutes. I’m always happy to share with my co-workers but for me, these cookie bars will always have a special place in my mind, a reminder of good food bringing folks together.

Ready to make a batch for your BFFs? Let’s make Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookie Bars. (Honestly, I think it take longer to say the name than to actually make the bars!)

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9″x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper. Leave a little overhang of paper to make “handles” so you can remove the bars more easily later.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl place 1 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar  and 3/4 cup ground hard pretzels, the snacking kind. I used the salted ones, but brushed off most of the salt.

Sift it through with your clean fingers, then pour in 1/2 cup melted butter, cooled. Use a spoon or your hands to mix everything together until you have a cohesive dough. It shouldn’t be too sticky, nor too dry. Think shortbread dough, which is what it really is.

If the mix is a little dry, add a few teaspoons of water or milk until it comes together.

Press into the prepared pan, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The crust won’t really brown, but will firm up a bit. Set aside to cool.

For the filling, melt 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave. Remember to stir frequently to avoid scorching.

Add 1 cup peanut butter to the melted chocolate. Doesn’t this look like the most glorious lava flow in the world? Or a choco-peanut-alanche.

Stir until velvety smooth.

Pour the chocolate-y goodness over the crust and spread evenly. Tapping the pan on the counter a few times will settle the filling and cause any bubbles to rise to the surface.

Sprinkle 1 cup coarsely crushed pretzels over the warm chocolate. Tap again to set them into the chocolate.

Place in the freezer for 45 to 60 minutes to firm up completely.

Use your parchment paper handles (aka sling)  to remove the entire tray full of bars from the pan. Use a very sharp knife to cut into squares, rectangles, or just random pieces.

Now, go give Spencer and me a call. We’ll be there with bells on to meet you, our new BFF. And if we can’t make it in person, you know we’ll be there in spirit.

Please make, rate, and review our recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookie Bars.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Jan

    Years ago I bought a 9″ x 13″ spring form pan to use for all my brownies and bar cookies. Lining it with parchment paper means I can easily slide the cookies onto a baking sheet for cutting and has the added bonus of being able to use the pan almost immediately for another batch or variety of cookies. It worked so well that I bought a 9″ x 9″ square pan too!

    Reply
  2. Skippy

    Just a report back–thanks for the tip about adding extra flour when using brown sugar. That made a lot of sense. I still had some initial trouble with the crust, though. I found myself flummoxed by the note in the recipe that we should aim for a “soft dough.” When I hear that term, I think of a dough that I can gather up into a smooth ball. Instead, I had a dough that I could pinch into clumps, but didn’t hang together as a whole (note: I’m a very experienced baker, but as is often the case in any art, it’s the things that seem simple which are often the most difficult). I added four tablespoons of milk, then finally thought I better just plow ahead and press it into the pan. And you know what? It came out all right–I didn’t have any trouble with crumbliness when I cut the bars. So the lesson may be add more liquid when in doubt, and bake the bare minimum time (I took them out at ten minutes exactly).

    And while I’m rambling on, some other thoughts. I felt there wasn’t much of a peanut buttery flavor, but I think that may be because I used some standard issue Jif, as that’s what the recipe recommended, but I’m used to eating natural peanut butter, and that has a stronger peanut taste. Maybe a blend of the two types would work?

    I also think that if I was making these again, I would try to add to the flavor by adding a layer of caramel onto the crust before putting on the chocolate-peanut butter mix. Or maybe I would use a peanut butter caramel with the chocolate instead of straight peanut butter.

    Some other advice (if anyone makes it this far): check for saltiness. I had a bad bag of pretzels, with plenty of barely salted sticks, so I ended up dusting the top with sea salt and that helped bring out the chocolate flavor. The salt really makes a difference here, so don’t skimp. Also, think about what size squares you want when you break up the pretzels for the topping; if you want to cut very small squares (these are pretty rich), make sure you break the pretzels into very small pieces, so you don’t find yourself trying to hack through too long pretzels when you’re cutting the bars.

    Finally, I should note that I made these for a friend to take to a party and she said they all disappeared very quickly and everyone loved them. So despite the musings above, I would say that it’s a pretty successful recipe as is and is an especially fine option for summer when you don’t want the oven on for long!

    Goodness! What a review, thank you! I love the idea of a peanut butter caramel. I also use a very good PB from Michigan (shout out to Koeze’s, they make brilliant peanut butter! CANNOT beat that flavor by a mile) and I think it makes all the difference, Skippy. And great note on the pretzel size: you’d think some things would be apparent and using smaller pieces would make sense for cutting practices, but the clear things can sometimes be all-too cloudy! We appreciate the in-depth words and hope the next batch+ caramel turns out the best! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  3. Skippy

    Could I use dark brown sugar instead of confectioners sugar? I love the flavor of brown sugar and try to sneak it into everything. Would I do a straight up swap or would I need to adjust the measurement? Thanks!!

    You can certainly give it a try, it is not something we have done before in this recipe. I would add a few (2-3) tsp of additional flour if you replace the full amount to make up for the excess moisture.-Jon

    Reply

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *