If I could only make and eat one sweet treat for the rest of my days, it might just be this. I love salted caramel anything, but paired with dark chocolate and crunchy pretzels…oh, my! It’s one of those sneakily addictive things that I’m almost afraid to make, for fear I’ll gobble up the whole panful. Inspired in part by my favourite Caramel-Macadamia cheesecake recipe and also by these fantastic Festive Pretzel Bites, this no-bake treat is super easy to make; just be sure you have an accurate thermometer on hand so you don’t under- or over-cook the caramel. Skip the nuts if you’re worried about allergies and use gluten-free pretzels if you want to make those folks really, really happy too.
- 2 cups (500 mL) salted small pretzel twists (or other shapes)
- 1 cup (250 mL) white sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) water
- 1 cup (250 mL) butter
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup nuts (almonds, peanuts and macadamias are all good) – optional
- Line a 9 x 13 inch (22.5 x 32.5 cm) baking pan with parchment paper.
- Arrange the pretzels in a single layer, packed together as tightly as possible, on the bottom of the parchment-lined pan. Note that you might need a bit more or less than 2 cups depending upon the size of your pretzels. Place the pan on a wooden cutting board or other heatproof surface.
- If using nuts, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat until they are just beginning to brown. Pour the toasted nuts out onto a cutting board and let cool.
- Put the sugar, water and butter in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 10 – 15 minutes until the mixture has thickened, turned a deep amber colour, and registers 305F on an instant-read digital thermometer (or use a candy thermometer).
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla and sea salt.
- Quickly drizzle the very very very hot caramel over the pretzels. You want an even layer so drizzle it everywhere, then pick up the pan and tilt it as needed to fill in any gaps. It will harden very quickly, so work as fast as you can.
- Scatter the chocolate chips evenly over the hot caramel and pretzels. Place a clean baking tray over top of the parchment-lined pan so the chocolate will melt more quickly. Let sit 5 minutes.
- While chocolate is melting, chop the toasted nuts (if using).
- After the chocolate chips have melted, use a spatula to spread the chocolate in an even layer over the caramel and pretzels.
- Scatter chopped nuts over top (if using) and press lightly so they will stick to the chocolate.
- Let the bark cool completely (you can put the pan in the refrigerator to speed up this process) then break into pieces.
- Store in an airtight container.