I’ve been wanting to make three different bars for awhile, but they were all so similar, and I couldn’t decide which one to make.
So I rolled them into one. Nothing beats a layered combination bar.
Millionaire’s Shortbread Bars are a shortbread base, caramel middle, and chocolate topping, similar to Original Twix.
Tagalongs Girl Scout Cookies are a shortbread base, peanut butter middle, and chocolate topping, similar to Peanut Butter Twix.
Trying to choose between peanut butter and caramel, and which to keep and which to skip, is like trying to choose a favorite child. You just don’t. So I used them both.
My bars are a shortbread base, peanut butter layer, salted caramel layer, and chocolate topping. Four elements, whereas the others only have three.
The nice thing about the bars is that they’re almost no-bake, with only about 12 minutes of bake time for the crust. The remaining layers are just stirred together and poured on. No mixer needed, either.
Many times I read layered bar or layer cake recipes and I tune out because each layer has 10 ingredients, with a eggs needing to be separated and heavy cream whipped, and this bowl of ingredients folded into that, and before you know it, prep is 2 hours and you’ve got 17 bowls dirtied. There’s none of that here because I have a life. And I hate doing baking dishes.
They’re everything I could want in a bar. So many layers of flavors and diverse textures, with peanut butter being the most pronounced of all the flavors.
The shortbread is buttery and adapted from The Best Lemon Bars. One tablespoon of corn starch keeps it a bit softer and more tender than many shortbreads, which can be dry and dog biscuit-like. Although it has some snap, it’s not brittle. The last thing I wanted was this crust cracking upon slicing. I despise that.
But I loved this crust and I’m not usually a crust girl.
The peanut butter layer is dense yet fluffy, thanks to confectioners’ sugar stirred in, which adds sweetness and lightness. It also makes spreading this layer a royal pain. Just keep finessing it and take your time so you don’t rip up the shortbread layer, and it’ll all smooth out.
Little sacrifices in the name of peanut butter are always worth it.
I adore caramel for it’s rich, buttery, sweet ways and used Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce, which is what I used in the Salted Caramel Pretzel Blondies. I didn’t want to be bothered with unwrapping and melting caramels. You could make (Dark Rum) Caramel Sauce or 5-Minute Microwave Caramel Sauce.
Any thick, dense, good-quality caramel sauce will do. Don’t use a thin ice cream sundae topping, many of which aren’t even real caramel sauce. It will spread and run too much.
I just love the gooey factor the caramel lends as I’m biting through the layers. It makes the bars messy to slice, but the best things in life are often a little messy. Or a lot messy.
However, if you keep them refrigerated, there is very little caramel splooge-out, much less than what the photos show. We were having a fluke-ish 92F hot snap in San Diego the day I decided to make these and they were sitting in a very warm house for hours. I have a knack for making melt-prone desserts on the hottest of days.
The chocolate ties everything together and rounds out all the flavors. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, and although Twix are made with milk chocolate, I wanted something a bit darker than milk, just not too dark. Not the time for a 72% Pound Plus Bar.
I used a smidgeon of shortening with the chocolate chips, which helps prevent the chocolate from cracking when slicing. I never want a Nanaimo Bars cracked-top repeat.
The bars hit just about every note in the my Preferred Desserts Playbook. Buttery, snappy, creamy, smooth, peanut buttery, dense, rich, gooey, velvety, and chocolaty.
They’re like a marriage of Peanut Butter Twix and Tagalongs, in bar form.
My husband remarked, “Wow. Those things are deadly good” and they are. They’re also deeply satisfying and you can literally feel the richness hit your belly after just a couple bites.
Which is why I purposely kept the batch size small.
I combined three favorite recipes - Twix, Tagalongs Girl Scout Cookies, and Millionaire's Shortbread in this these nearly no-bake, easy, four-layer bars. There's buttery shortbread, rich and dense peanut butter, sweet and intense caramel, and smooth dark chocolate. They hit all my favorite elements of a dessert all in one. Buttery, snappy, creamy, smooth, peanut buttery, dense, rich, gooey, velvety, and chocolaty. They're like a marriage of Peanut Butter Twix and Tagalongs, in bar form, and they're irresistible!
Yield: one 8-by-8-inch pan, 9 to 12 generous squares
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 27 minutes
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil leaving overhang, spray with cooking spray; set aside. This is a messy recipe and I highly suggest lining your pan for easier cleanup.
Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, cutting in the butter with a pastry cutter, wooden spoon, or your fingers until until a sandy, crumbly mixture forms. Transfer crumbly mixture to prepared pan and using your fingertips, press crumbs down to form an even flat layer of crust. Pierce crust with a fork haphazardly in a dozen places so steam can escape while it bakes. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until crust has just barely set. It should not be golden or browned at all, it should still be white, but crusted over and set. While crust bakes, make the filling.
Melt the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl, about 1 minute. Add the 3 remaining ingredients and stir until smooth. Spread over crust. Crust does not have to be cool, and spreading it while crust is still warm is beneficial. The filling is thick and resists being spread, but take your time and either push it into place with your fingers, use a spatula, or knife, taking care not to rip the crust while spreading the filling.
Pour caramel sauce over peanut butter. It should smooth out on its own but if necessary, spread it into corners and sides of pan with a knife.
Combine the 2 ingredients in a medium microwave-safe bowl and heat to melt, about 1 minute. Stop to stir and heat in 15-second bursts until mixture can be stirred smooth. Pour chocolate over caramel layer and if desired, smooth it very, very lightly with an offset spatula or knife.
Cover pan with aluminum foil (to prevent fridge smells), and place pan in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or overnight, before lifting out with foil overhang, and slicing and serving. If bars have become very cold, allow them to come up to room temperature for a few minutes before slicing. I prefer to store the bars in the refrigerator, where they'll keep for at least 10 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Crust may lose some degree of snap and crunch if storing the bar for longer durations, but it's very liveable.
Recipe from Averie Cooks. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or simply link back to this post for the recipe. Thank you.
Caramel and Chocolate Gooey Bars (GF with Vegan adaptation)
Nutter Butter Special K Bars (No Bake)
Nanaimo Bars (No-Bake)
Twix fan? Peanut Butter or Original?
Tagalongs? Millionaire’s Shortbread?
I’m a huge fan of the whole family: shorbread crust, peanut butter, caramel, and chocolate, in any combination; preferably with all 4 components included. As you can see from my related recipes, I don’t lack for a shortage of bars using peanut butter, chocolate, or caramel.
And even after writing my first cookbook with 100+ Peanut Butter Recipes, Peanut Butter Comfort: Recipes for Breakfasts, Brownies, Cakes, Cookies, Candies, and Frozen Treats Featuring America’s Favorite Spread, I’m still not sick of peanut butter.
Book release is June 4. Thanks to everyone who’s pre-ordered your copy!