Thursday, January 23, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip & Peanut Butter Caramel Cookie Bars

If you've been reading my blog for the past few months then you know that I had to give up peanut butter for the last few months of my pregnancy.  For some of you that may not sound like much of a hardship, but for me it was really, really hard.

Now that peanut butter can be a part of my life again, I knew I wanted to make something over-the-top peanut buttery to celebrate.  These bars were inspired by the Pioneer Woman's Knock You Naked Brownies.  Instead of making brownies, I made my favorite peanut butter cookie dough.

Once the dough is mixed up, spread half of it in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and bake it for 10 minutes at 375.  Then set it aside.

To maximize the peanut butter flavor I combined peanut butter with an equal amount of salted caramel and melted it in the microwave until it was pourable.  I used the Trader Joe's fleur de sel caramel sauce.  You can make your own caramel or use any good caramel, but don't use the caramel flavored ice cream topping.  It's too thin.  All I can say about this peanut butter caramel is DO THIS!  Greatest. Idea. Ever.

Pour the peanut butter caramel over the par-baked cookie dough and spread it around leaving a small amount around the edge with no caramel to keep it easy to get out of the pan.  Then sprinkle on about a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

Take the other half of the cookie dough and use your hands to flatten it out and put it all over the top.  I just did a little bit at a time and pieced it together like a puzzle.  If it doesn't completely cover, don't worry about it.  The dough will spread out when it bakes.

Put it back in the oven and continue to bake for about 20 minutes more.  Then put the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.  These are very gooey so if you don't let them cool you will need a spoon to scoop them out (Not that there is anything wrong with that).

These peanut butter chocolate chip and peanut butter caramel cookie bars may be a mouthful to say, but they are an over-the-top, rich, peanut buttery treat.  You will definitely want a glass of milk with these.  They were everything I had been missing and really hit the spot.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip & Peanut Butter Caramel Cookie Bars

For the cookie dough:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  •  2 eggs
  • 1 tbls. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
For the center layer:
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup salted caramel  
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 and spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Beat butter and peanut butter in stand mixer (or use a bowl and hand mixer if you don't have one) on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the sugars and baking soda and beat until combined, scraping the bowl if needed.
  4. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.
  5. Beat in the flour and the salt. (I wrapped my bowl with plastic wrap to minimize mess.)
  6. Scrape the bowl and give it one more mix by hand, then stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared baking dish and bake for 10 minutes.  Then set aside.
  8. Put the 3/4 cup peanut butter in a glass measuring cup and microwave on high for about 30 seconds.  Add the salted caramel to the partly melted peanut butter and microwave another 30 seconds.  Stir it together really well then pour over the par-baked cookie dough layer spreading it around without going all the way to the edge.
  9. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup chocolate chips over the peanut butter caramel.
  10. Flatten out the other half of the cookie dough and lay it on top of the caramel and chocolate chips trying to cover as much of it as you can.  
  11. Bake 20 minutes.  Then cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.
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