I’ve been bitten, and I’ve been bitten bad. Not by any insect or animal, thankfully….but by a food trend bug. I’m usually not one to be a follower of said trends, being that I like to create my own path. But when the sweet & salty dance came into fruition, I became a slave to its taste. Everything I eat nowadays is sweet and salty. I cannot get enough. I’m talking every meal here. Peanut butter is my new best friend because it goes on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, salted caramel is heaven sent, and I’ve even succumbed to putting sriracha on my apples, and grapes. I know, it’s terrible.
Needless to say, when I saw this recipe for peanut and pretzel blondies I just went crazy. I am totally obsessed with pretzels, first of all, because I think they’re the perfect vehicle for mustard (another obsession) and they’re just so darn twisty, cute, salty, and crunchy. Perfect snacky peanuts, the predecessor of my love, peanut butter, are also delicious. These two, together, in all their salty glory, just yearn to be paired with something unctuously sweet.
So that’s what happened. They got mixed in with a homemade honey caramel sauce, and were generously spread on top of a brown butter brown sugar (!!!!) blondie. Ugh! It’s almost so bad I cannot handle it. Bad in the really really good way. Which I can always love and appreciate to its core.
I brought these to a Super Bowl gathering and to my delight, everyone loved them. I deemed them highly appropriate for such a snack-like event. Snacky, salty foods, taken to the next level….in the form of the sweetest saltiest butteriest combination ever. They were simply the best remedy to my bite.
Peanut & Pretzel Caramel Blondies
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2011
Notes: These blondies almost (almost!) got the best of me. Please make sure when you make the caramel that you don’t stir the sugar! Because my need to touch everything got the best of me, I stirred it, and my sugar did not caramelize. It just became harder and almost left me in tears. When you put your sugar in the pan leave it alone, only swirl the pan if necessary. It will work its magic on its own.
Also, after you pour the peanut pretzel toffee on top of the blondie layer, I’d suggest freezing it for a bit to let it solidify somewhat before you cut them. This will leave you with nice looking bars which will come back to room temperature (ideal eating temp) once they’re cut. When you do cut them, make sure you use a sharp, sharp knife and put some muscle into it.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For peanut & pretzel caramel layer
4 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups 1 1/2″-wide thin twisted pretzels, coarsely crushed, plus a few for decoration.
Make the blondie
Set the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13″ x 9″ x 2″ baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving a 1″ overhang on long sides of pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Stir butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until browned bits form at bottom of pan 7–8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add brown sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until well combined and mixture resembles wet sand, 2–3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until fluffy and well combined, about 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients; beat until smooth (batter will be thick). Using an offset or regular spatula, evenly spread batter in prepared pan.
Bake blondie until golden brown, edges pull away from sides of pan, and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 20–25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack and leave the oven on to roast the peanuts.
Make peanut & pretzel caramel
While the blondies cool, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread peanuts over sheet in an even layer. Bake in your set 350 degree oven, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, 5–7 minutes. Set aside.
Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring (!), occassionaly swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is deep amber, 12–15 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, wait until its at 350 degrees F). Add honey; return to a boil, stirring often, about 1 minute longer. Add butter; stir until blended. Add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously); whisk until smooth. Stir in peanuts and pretzels. Pour over cooled blondie. Press a few whole pretzels on top for decoration. Chill until cool, about 30 minutes.
Run a knife around short sides of pan to release blondie. Using parchment-paper overhang, lift from pan. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 10 bars. These keep for about one week in the fridge, but I don’t imagine that they would last that long.