Reduced Sugar Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Bars.
Eight layers of salty sweet chocolate peanut butter gooey deliciousness: Peanut butter oatmeal cookie crust, peanut butter brownie, crushed peanuts and pretzels, chocolate brownie, more peanut butter brownie, more crushed peanuts and pretzels, caramel, and milk chocolate chips.
This was one of those recipes that took some tinkering. Which mostly means that we had versions of these chocolate peanut butter brownie bars around the house for a good two weeks straight.
My 16 year old daughter took one version to school and shared them with her Theater Troupe. They said I should call them "8 Layers of Heaven". With that kind of feedback, you think I would have been satisfied with the recipe. I was not.
In fact, I thought the bar concept was all wrong and these were meant to be a pie. My 19 year old daughter took one of those pies to work with her. It was devoured in earnest.
But... I still wasn't crazy about the pie version and went back to bars. Finally, last week, my husband and I dug into the version you see here and decided that the proportion of salt and sweet, of creamy, chewy, crunchy and gooey, was just about perfect and I should stop messing with them already.
These Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Bars could not be packed with any more goodies if you tried.
Every bite is a new combination of textures and salty sweet flavors. Let's break it down, shall we?
Layer #1: Peanut butter oatmeal cookie
Layer #2: Peanut butter brownie
Layer #3: Crushed peanuts and pretzels
Layer #4: Chocolate brownie
Layer #5: More peanut butter brownie
Layer #6: More crushed peanuts and pretzels
Layer #7: Caramel
Layer #8: Milk chocolate chips
All that, and they are even reduced sugar.
Did I say no sugar? No, I did not. There is some sugar in these yummy chocolate peanut butter bars.
But, there's a lot less than you might think because the layers of peanut butter oatmeal cookie, chocolate brownie and peanut butter brownie are made with Truvia Blend. That means that the only sugar in these bars comes from the caramel and chocolate chip topping.
Now, I wouldn't in a million years put these chocolate peanut butter bars in the category of health food. But, I figure that if there's an opportunity to add less sugar without sacrificing flavor, why wouldn't I? Replacing the sugar with Truvia Blend in the cookie and brownie layers doesn't affect the gooey texture or flavor one bit. They are still a rich, indulgent, candy bar like party in your mouth.
Also, you might think that anything with this many layers is super time consuming, but the hands on time for these cookie bars is less than 1 hour.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Bar Recipe Notes:
If you want to use regular sugar instead of Truvia Blend, go right ahead. However, Truvia is about twice as sweet as sugar. So, if you swap the Stevia Blend for sugar, double the amount.
In all my recipe tinkering, I discovered that the kind of caramels used for the caramel topping matters. I used Werther's Caramels in this recipe. Werther's makes two different kinds of caramels: soft caramels and chewy caramels. The chewy caramels work beautifully. The soft caramels, not so much. So, just pay attention to which bag you're throwing in your cart.
Other Recipes You might Like:
- Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
- Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Scones
- Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Topping
- Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies
Used in this Recipe:
8 Layer Reduced Sugar Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Bars
Eight layers of salty sweet chocolate peanut butter gooey deliciousness: Peanut butter oatmeal crust, peanut butter brownie, crushed peanuts and pretzels, chocolate brownie, more peanut butter brownie, more crushed peanuts and pretzels, caramel, and milk chocolate chips.
FOR THE PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL COOKIE LAYER:
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup old fashioned oatmeal
- ¼ cup Truvia Baking Blend
- 1 tbsp molasses
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp butter, softened
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 large egg
- ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
FOR THE CHOCOLATE BROWNIE LAYER:
- 3 oz unsweetened chocolate
- 5 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- ¾ cup Truvia Blend
- 1 tbsp molasses
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
FOR THE PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIE LAYER:
- 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¾ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 4 tbsp butter, melted
- ½ cup Truvia Blend
- 2 tbsp molasses
FOR THE ADDITIONAL LAYERS:
- 8 oz (about 1 ½ cups) salted peanuts
- 3 oz (about 2 cups) salted pretzels
- 9 oz bag Werther's Chewy Caramels
- 2 tbsp milk
- 6 oz (about 1 cup) milk chocolate chips
MAKE THE PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL COOKIE LAYER:
- Line a 9 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a couple of inches of extra foil hanging over two sides of the pan so you can use it to lift the bars from the pan. Spray lightly with non-stick baking spray.
- Dump all the peanut butter oatmeal cookie ingredients into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 20-30 seconds until blended. Press the dough in an even layer into the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate while making the peanut butter and chocolate brownie layers.
MAKE THE CHOCOLATE BROWNIE LAYER:
- Add the unsweetened chocolate, butter and vegetable oil to a small saucepan and heat over low, stirring frequently, to melt. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. (NOTE: While you wait for the chocolate to cool, you could go ahead and prepare the peanut butter brownie layer.)
- Whisk the egg and vanilla together to combine and then whisk into the chocolate mixture.
- In a small bowl, add the flour, salt and cocoa powder. Stir into the chocolate mixture just until all the dry ingredients are moistened.
MAKE THE PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIE LAYER:
- Beat the cream cheese and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium high speed for about 30 seconds to blend. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 20 seconds.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the melted butter, Truvia, and molasses. Beat until blended, about another 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
LAYER AND BAKE:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Add the peanuts and pretzels to a food processor and pulse 3-5 times to break them up a bit.
- Remove baking dish from the refrigerator. Uncover, and spread half of the peanut butter brownie dough over the peanut butter oatmeal cookie layer. Spread half of the peanuts and pretzels over the peanut butter brownie layer.
- Add dollops of the chocolate brownie mixture all over the peanuts and pretzels. Gently spread the chocolate brownie batter in an even layer to cover the peanuts and pretzels. Spread the remaining peanut butter brownie layer over the chocolate brownie layer.
- Bake the bars for 35-40 minutes until the center is set and the edges are beginning to brown. (NOTE: You might see some melted butter pooling on the top of the peanut butter brownie layer. Don't worry about it. It will settle into the brownies as they cool.)
- Allow the bars to cool to room temperature and then spread the rest of the peanuts and pretzels over the top.
- Unwrap the caramels and add them to a small bowl along with the milk. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir and microwave on high for another 45 seconds to 1 minute until the caramels are melted. Stir to combine the melted caramels and milk completely.
- Drizzle the caramel sauce over the top of the peanuts and pretzels.
- Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the caramel sauce layer.
- Pop the bars in the refrigerator to allow the caramel sauce to cool. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting the sides of the aluminum foil. Slice and serve.
NOTE: All those layers make these bars a bit challenging to cut. They might fall apart a bit as you cut them. Just use your fingers to press the cut bars together a bit and serve with a plate and a fork.
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