Peanut Butter Cup Caramel Brownies

Peanut Butter Cup Caramel Brownies

From the Thermador and Tastespotting Ultimate Recipe Contest

Submitted by: Jessica Woodworth    
http://www.chocoholicanonymous.com                       

These brownies appear on Laura's Christmas cookie trays every year and they are one of the first items to disappear! The only thing that can improve on the classic (and delicious) combination of chocolate and peanut butter is adding some caramel to the mix. Fudgy, chewy, decadent and absolutely delicious, these brownies are an absolute crowd favorite.


Makes 24 large or 48 small brownie bars.
    
For the brownies:

1 cup butter
12 oz bitter- or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz peanut butter cups (mini or chopped)

For the peanut butter caramel filling:
14 oz Kraft caramels
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

For the topping:
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
-or-
1 cup peanut butter milk chocolate swirl chips

Preheat oven to 350 F, line a 9x13 inch pan with foil and grease well.
Melt chopped chocolate and butter in a large microwave safe bowl until smooth.
Whisk in sugar, eggs, and vanilla until incorporated (Laura recommends whisking the eggs in one at a time until well combined for each).
Stir in the flour and salt until just combined.
Gently fold in the peanut butter cups.
Spread about half the batter in the bottom of the prepared pan, bake for about 12 minutes (the brownie layer should not be cooked through but should appear set at the very edges).
Remove from oven and let cool for at least 20 minutes.

To make the filling:
Melt the caramels, cream and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl until creamy and smooth. Do this in short intervals at med power, checking and stirring frequently to prevent burning.

Immediately spread the caramel mixture over the bottom brownie layer.
Place the pan in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes or so to allow the caramel layer to set.
Spread the remaining brownie batter evenly over the top of the caramel layer.
Sprinkle the milk chocolate and peanut butter chips over the top of the brownie batter.
Bake for 25 - 28 minutes, the top should look dry and set and the caramel may be bubbling around the edges.
Allow the brownies to cool completely before slicing, for easier slicing chill for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.