Payday Cookie Bars

Listen, I my 12 year old self feels uncool saying this. favorite candy bar is the Payday bar.

Happily, my 35 year old self feels a lot better about proudly declaring my Payday love with the world. But at 12, in a world where the biggest candy bar debate was Snickers v. Milky Way, I always felt like I should stay silent, preferring a non-chocolate containing candy bar like I did. 

Doubly happy: as an adult I have my own kitchen to make my own Payday-inspired concoctions. These cookie bars are made with a melange of caramel, marshmallow, peanut butter, and salty peanuts, which rest atop a shortbread-like base. They are wonderful. They are sweet, salty, gooey, and ridiculously satisfying. They are like a dream never realized by my 12 year old self, but that tastes perfect in my mid-30s. 

If you love Payday bars like I do, give these babies a try. You won't regret it! They're pretty darned easy to make.

Of course, if you're not a Payday fan, please leave this site and never come back. 

Payday Cookie Bars

Makes one 9x9-inch pan (you decide how many servings)

For the crust

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • pinch salt 

To top

  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used chunky but smooth would actually probably work better) 
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows 
  • 1 bag (11 ounces) caramel squares, unwrapped
  • 1 cup salted peanuts, divided
  • more salt, to top 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously (and I mean DO NOT BE SHY) grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan.

Make the crust. Cream the butter until nice and smooth; add the sugar and vanilla, and mix until fluffy. Add the flour and salt; mix until it comes together into a cohesive dough. Press into the bottom of that well greased pan.

Make the topping. In a large saucepan, combine the milk, peanut butter, mini marshmallows, and caramel candies. The mixture will first look monstrous.

Heat it over low-medium heat. It will continue to look awful for a while, but then will gradually melt into this.

Once melty, add in about half of the peanuts. 

Remove from heat, and spread evenly atop the cookie base. Scatter the remaining peanuts on top. Sprinkle with a little more salt on top if desired. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until it's looking bubbly and "set" on the edges and the bottom looks slightly browned (there's no egg though so no need to be insane about it).

Remove and let cool before slicing. I found that slicing is kind of difficult unless they are at the perfect temperature, which is slightly cool but not cold. Be sure to wash the knife between slices to keep things from getting mega messy. 

What was your favorite candy bar as a kid? How bout now?