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M&M Cashew Pretzel Bars
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M&M Cashew Pretzel Bars

Our whirlwind NYC tour would not have been complete without visiting a few famous bakeries! The two at the top of my list were Bouchon and Levain, so the first thing we did after checking into our hotel was head up to Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center right next to Central Park. I will probably never make it to The French Laundry or Per Se, so I was excited to sample a bit of Thomas Keller’s genius at Bouchon. We had a light lunch (I highly recommend the rich dark meat chicken veggie and herb dumpling soup!), so we still had room for double chocolate and Nutter Butter cookies, which were incredible! Bouchon was our favorite bakery and my mom actually kept suggesting we head back there for another meal during the remainder of our trip!

After lunch we headed up to the Upper West Side so we could sample the famous cookies at Levain. We got a chocolate chip walnut and dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookie and enjoyed them outside on a bench in front of the bakery. Both cookies were still warm with a crispy outside and gooey middle. They were really really good, but were they the best I’ve ever had? Probably not. But, I still think Levain is a bakery everyone should visit at least once!

Next up was Amy’s Bread, a cute bakery in Chelsea Market that features both breads and desserts. I had a butterscotch cashew bar, which was delicious, but the real highlight was meeting Emily (which I know you’re all super jealous about!), the gorgeous superstar blogger of Sugar Plum! I’ve been a huge fan of Emily’s blog for a long time now.  In fact, her blog was one of the ones that inspired me to start my own! She was also the first person to ever comment on my little blog. She’s just as sweet and funny as she comes across on her blog and I think we could have chatted all day!

I was also very excited that to meet up with my good friend Annika. She treated me to an amazing spread of sweets at Billy’s Bakery, which is around the corner from her apartment (lucky girl!). We reminisced about causing trouble in college and turning 30 and overdid it on a piece of ice box cake (which tasted like a huge Oreo – yum!), cheesecake, carrot cake cupcakes, and a stack of snickerdoodles!

The last sweet spot of our trip was a visit to M&Ms World in Times Square. My mom is a HUGE M&Ms fan and collects their dispensers. She picked out a couple things for her birthday and we both got cute matching measuring spoon sets (I seriously can never have too many, I swear all my 1/4 teaspoons are hiding out together in some random drawer because I can never find one when I need it!).

So, of course I had to come up with a recipe featuring M&Ms for this post! The cookies were inspired by the butterscotch cashew bars I had at Amy’s. To play with the salty and sweet contrast even more, I mixed chunks of pretzels into the dough. My original plan was to top the cookie bars with a homemade caramel sauce (which I’ve recently discovered is actually pretty easy to make), but I realized our cream had gone bad while I was heating the sugar, and using milk didn’t exactly work out. Anyway, you can never go wrong with chocolate, so I made a quick ganache instead and topped the bars with it and then sprinkled as many M&Ms and beautiful whole cashews on top that I could. The cookies themselves were really crunchy, so I had to be very careful getting them out of the pan. I actually lifted them all the way out (I think lining the pan with parchment paper would work really well) and then cut them on a cutting board with my chef’s knife. They are very tasty though and definitely worth this extra hassle!

M&M Cashew Pretzel Bars
Printable Recipe

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped pretzels (I used the honey wheat pretzel rods from Trader Joe’s cut into sixths)
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup whole cashews
1/2 cup M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Mix butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl until creamed. Stir in egg until smooth and then mix in flour and baking powder until smooth. Mix in chopped pretzels. Spread dough evenly into a greased 8×8-inch pan (or line the pan with parchment paper so the bars can be easily pulled out of the pan) and bake for 15 minutes at 350˚F or until lightly browned and set. Cool for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, microwave chocolate chips and heavy cream on High 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds; stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Spread ganache over cooled pretzel bars and top ganache evenly with cashews and M&Ms. Refrigerate for an hour or until ganache is set. Cut into 16 bars. Makes 16 servings.

Nutrition: 194 calories, 10.7g fat, 0.9g fiber, 2.2g protein per serving
Cost: $0.37 per serving

48 Responses to M&M Cashew Pretzel Bars

  1. Oh my family would absolutely love these bars!!!!! I love your stories about the bakeries! The cookie looks so gooey and delicious; I guess it’s good that it wasn’t the best you’ve ever had since you can’t get them often! That’s very exciting to meet your blog inspiration!

  2. Sounds like a fun trip and those bars look gorgeous. If you’re ever in the Napa valley area I really recommend Keller’s more affordable restaurant Ad Hoc. I went with my boyfriend last year and it was very, very good. I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to French Laundry either but it was a great taste of Keller’s cooking and the fact that it was only four courses or so made it a more reasonable amount of food. We had fried chicken there and I am normally not a chicken girl but it was unbelievable. So heavenly!

  3. Wow, those look incredible! I love how the M&M’s just pop out of the bar. I also liked how you paired the M&M’s with cashews. The honey wheat pretzels combined with the dark chocolate is a fab combo. But really, how do you go wrong with chocolate, nuts and pretzels? Your NYC trip sounded like so much fun. I really need to go more often and try out all those places that you visited. Holy cow! Thanks for another great recipe!

  4. You hit up all the good spots! How fun to spend time with your friend and meet Emily. All of your eats look delicious. And I love the sweet and saltiness of these bars – M&M’s are so good for baking with.

  5. I really wish I went to Bouchon when I was in NYC! But Billy’s was definitely amazing :)

    And I think my 1/4 teaspoons are hiding out with yours… let me know if you find them!

  6. YOU are a superstar! I’m honored that I was the first person to leave a comment on your blog. I had no idea. That means so much to me!

    Bouchon sounds excellent. We didn’t get to go, which makes me mad because we were right in that area one day! Your M&M cashew bars sound so good! Cashews are addicting, turns out. I love them.

  7. What a fun time I bet you had. Lucky girl. Your bars look amazing. Love the sweet/salty combo. And I love baking with M&M’s because you change the colors with the holiday! :)

  8. I’m so glad to have a list now of bakeries that I have to try! All of the goodies that you got here look amazing. Next time you come (a) we should meet up and (b) we should go to this place called Alice’s Tea Cup – best pumpkin scones EVER. Best everything ever actually.

    These look delicious! Sweet and salty is one of the best combinations ever. I think I may need to make a trip to teh M+M store.

  9. I just LOVE Bouchon chocolate chip cookie :) And the pretzel bars looks yummy too… I guess if you sort the M&M topping, you can make it all orange for Halloween!

  10. What a fun bakery tour! I’ve done the Bouchon/Levain bakery tour myself on my previous trip to NY. The pb cookie at Bouchon was great, but I preferred the Levain bakery one… love how giant those are and definitely don’t want to think about the calories consumed. I used to live by Amy’s Bread in Hell’s Kitchen and couldn’t get enough of their sandwiches and brownies. So good!!
    I’m saving the recipe for your m&m/pretzel bars. I bet they’re divine 😀

  11. I love NYC if only just for visiting the bakeries! Love Levain, Bouchon was okay, pretty good, you gotta get to Jacques Torres on your next trip. Fun post. Yummy looking cashew bars!

  12. Thanks to all! The list of NYC bakeries I want to check out is rapidly growing!

    Kelly – Thanks for the recommendation!!

    Megan – That’s my favorite part about M&Ms too!

    Joanne – Mmm, pumpkin scones sound fabulous! I’m already looking forward to our visit :)

  13. It looks like you had a fabulous trip! I absolutely love the M&M store, I’ve only been to the one in Vegas but you walk in and it’s an instant sugar high. Such a cute, bright place to visit!

    And I’m pretty sure these bars are something I could manage to gobble up in a heartbeat. Yum!

  14. I made these last night! They are great. Next time I might leave off the M&M and cashews. I think just the cookie with the ganache is enough sweety and salty to satisfy.

  15. I made these bars for some Moms in my play group and they gobbled them up! I only had peanut butter M&M’s left over from Easter so I used them in place of regular M&M’s and didn’t have cashews so I used dry roasted peanuts. Wow! They were awesome! I love the addition of peanut butter with the chocolate ganache center. I will definitely make them as is next time though so to get the full experience. Thanks for making a lot of tired Moms happy!

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