Salted Peanut Butter Caramel Twix Bars

 
For the shortbread crust
1 cup (2 sticks)butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
 
For the caramel layer
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
5 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
 
For the chocolate layer
3 cups of chopped dark or bittersweet chocolate
1 Tablespoon of butter (cut into about 4 pieces)
Sea Salt for sprinkling (optional)

Prepare the crust
Line a 9x13-inch pan with foil, spray or butter, and set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Gradually add the flour about 1/2 cup at a time, and beat/mix until the dough comes together.
Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan. Cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes
Preheat the oven to 300F. Prick the crust all over with a fork.
Bake the crust for 30-35 minuters or until the top is light golden in colour and the edges are browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Spread the peanut butter over the still-warm cool crust (I wanted the peanut butter to absorb into the crust, which is why I add it while it's still warm.) Set the crust aside and cool completely before adding the caramel.

Prepare the caramel
In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt. Over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil. Once it boils, stop stirring, and cook the mixture until it turns a golden caramel color. Depending on the intensity of the heat, this can take 10-20 minutes. If you are new to caramel, I would do this over a lower heat setting. It will take longer but you will be able to see the amazing process and are less likely to burn it. (Swirl the pan as needed so the caramel cooks evenly.) Remove from heat and carefully add the cream and vanilla. The mixture will bubble and spurt so don't stand too close to the pan. Once everything has settled down, stir until the caramel smooths out into a beautiful, rich sauce. Immediately pour the sauce over the cooled crust.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the caramel to set.

Prepare the chocolate layer
Place the chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (double-boiler style.) Stir the chocolate from time to time, until it's completely melted and smooth. Don't allow it to become too heated or it will separate.
Pour the chocolate over the hardened caramel layer. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

These are very difficult to cut into neat squares but it's slighty easier if you use a knife that has been run under hot water. The bars are deliciously messy and sticky, they should be enjoyed in any form you desire.