Caramel Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Gooey Bars
I’ve made so many bars over the years, but I have some favorites.
These are a hybrid of the ones that I especially love.
They’re fast and easy to make, use only one bowl, no mixer, and people go nuts for them. There’s something for everyone in these drippy delights.
The bars remind me most of Carmelitas because they’re just so gooey, soft and slightly chewy, and loaded with chocolate chips.
I made a peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk like I did in Coconut Peanut Butter Magic Cake Bars and in the Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Skillet Cookie. It’s like peanut butter met dulce de leche in the oven, so good, and totally calorie-free, I’m sure.
They’re also reminiscent of Seven Layer Bars, because of the layers, graham crackers, and sweet milk, but there’s no coconut or butterscotch. For anyone who doesn’t like coconut, you’re safe.
To make them, I mad a base layer that’s similar to a cake-mix base I used in both Cookie Butter Funfetti Triple Chip Bars and Coconut Peanut Butter Magic Cake Bars. I loved the later so much I included them in my cookbook. However, this is a from-scratch cake base. It provides a soft yet supportive foundation for the next layers.
To the base I added coarsely chopped graham cracker pieces, similar to Soft and Gooey Loaded Smores Bars. The graham crackers soften while baking and meld into the cake base, providing an extra level of chewiness.
Then there’s chocolate chips sprinkled like in Cookie Butter Funfetti Triple Chip Bars, and finally the peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk mixture is poured over the top. If you think sweetened condensed milk is good, try mixing it with peanut butter. Heavenly.
While baking, the top layer caramelizes a bit and turns slightly golden. If you’re an oven door-watcher, big air bubbles form while baking. Some of them pop, some don’t. Embrace the science experiment.
After baking, you must let the bars cool for at least 3 hours, overnight is better. If you try to slice them sooner, you’ll have a literal hot mess that falls apart. They need some time to firm up before you can dig in.
They’re heavy, dense, very filling, and rich.
They’re worth every last gooey bite.
Pass the napkins.
Caramel Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Gooey Bars
The bars are a hybrid of so many favorites. They’re fast and easy to make, use only one bowl, no mixer, and are drippy, gooey, soft and slightly chewy, and loaded with chocolate chips. A cake-like base layer is topped with graham cracker pieces, chocolate chips, and flooded with a sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter mixture. While baking, the top layer caramelizes and turns slightly golden. If you’re an oven door-watcher, big air bubbles form while baking, and some pop, some don’t. After baking, you must let the bars cool for at least 3 hours, overnight is better. Slicing sooner will result in a huge mess because they need time to set up. They’re dense, filling, very rich, and so good.
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 large egg
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt, optional and to taste
4 graham crackers (standard graham crackers, about 3-inches by 5-inches), chopped into 1/2-inch square pieces (about 1 heaping cup loosely piled pieces)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside. I strongly urge lining the pan with foil for easier cleanup.
- In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
- Wait momentarily before adding the egg so you don’t scramble it. Add the egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
- Add the flour, optional salt, and stir until just combined; don’t overmix. Batter will be thick.
- Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula and pushing it into the corners.
- Evenly sprinkle the graham cracker pieces over the top.
- Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top; set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl (same one you already used is fine), add the sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter, and whisk until smooth and combined (same whisk is fine).
- Slowly and evenly pour this liquid mixture over the bars, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula to disperse mixture into corners if necessary. If any graham cracker pieces have floated up or are jetting out, push them down so they don’t burn.
- Bake for about 28 to 31 minutes, or until top is set, slightly golden, and not jiggly. Be careful because bars will be prone to burning in the final moments of baking. A toothpick test won’t work because the interior stays gooey and moist, and the toothpick comes out looking wet, even when bars are done. Allow bars to cool in pan for at least 3 hours, but overnight is better (cover with a piece of foil and/or put pan in large Ziplock) before slicing and serving. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
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Peanut Butter Caramel Twix Bars (almost no-bake) – One of the favorite 2013 bars
Seven Layer Bars (Magic 8 Bars)