I’m on the first of two back-to-back trips to Maine, but I’m popping in to tell you something important:You should make these Salty Pretzel Carmelitas ASAP. Like tomorrow. Or tonight. Or right now. Call in sick, go get yourself some pretzels and a bag of caramels, and get ready to fall in love.Okay, maybe don’t skip work, but definitely do make some time for these. Salty Pretzel Carmelitas are everything. I’m not exaggerating. They’re sweet and salty…crispy, crunchy…chewy, gooey…easy peasy bites of magic. Magic, I tell you.I really feel like I could just leave it at that, but perhaps you need a more convincing argument as to why you absolutely should make these this weekend.But if two layers of salted, brown sugary, pretzel- and chocolate chip-studded cookie…and stretchy, glossy caramel don’t have you running to the kitchen, I don’t know what will.
Salty Pretzel Carmelitas
makes one 8-inch square pan, about 9-16 bars
3 cups salted pretzels
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips + more for sprinkling (optional)
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies, unwrapped
6 tablespoons heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and grease with butter. Set aside.
Place pretzels in a large zip-top bag. Seal bag and place on a counter or other hard, durable surface. Use a rolling pin or heavy pan to crush pretzels until the largest pieces are no more than 1/2-inch in length. This should yield about 1-1 1/3 cups crushed pretzels.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and crushed pretzels. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in melted butter—mixture may be crumbly, but should hold together when pinched. Ensure that the dough is not too warm before folding in chocolate chips. Set aside.
Combine caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.
Firmly press half the dough (about 2 cups) into an even layer at the bottom of the prepared pan. Pour caramel over the top and smooth to the edges. Scatter remaining dough mixture over the top. Use the palms of your hands to gently pack it into a even layer, covering the caramel.
Bake full pan for 23 minutes, or until turning golden at the edges. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack (you can speed this up in the refrigerator).
Slice bars with a lightly greased chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Do not try to slice bars until they are completely room temperature. If you cooled them in the refrigerator, let them return to room temperature before slicing.
Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. Layer them with wax paper to keep them from sticking together.