When it comes to dessert, I think you'd be pretty hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies. You may find some dissenting opinions about soft and chewy vs thin and crispy (for the record, I'm soft and chewy all the way), but to not like chocolate chip cookies? That's just unAmerican. So then the issue becomes: do you try and improve upon perfection, or just leave well-enough alone? I personally think it's hard to beat a really good chocolate chip cookie. But if anything could, it's a chocolate chip cookie bar that's laced with salted caramel.
You start with a basic - but outstanding - recipe for cookie dough. Press half of it into a pan, then drizzle salted caramel over it. Top with the rest of the cookie dough, bake, and give the finished product a generous sprinkle of sea salt and coarse sugar.
According to my husband, these cookie bars are the best thing to ever come out of my kitchen. A good chocolate chip cookie already has a slight toffee flavor thanks to the butter and brown sugar, and the salted caramel not only enhances that, but adds another level of richness. The salt keeps them from being too sweet and rich, and for those who love sweet and salty, it creates what I think is the perfect balance. The innermost center piece is my absolute favorite - it's still just a little gooey, but has the crispy crust.
I used leftover salted caramel sauce from these salted caramel brownies, but if you don't happen to keep salted caramel sauce on hand (who are you?), then any caramel sauce with a generous pinch of fleur de sel will do. These bars are great to take to new moms, a sick friend, potlucks, the gym... really I can't think of an occasion where they wouldn't be appropriate :)
Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until thoroughly combined. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until just combined. Add in the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until the mixture is just combined – do not overbeat. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Spread half of the dough out in the bottom of the baking pan with slightly damp fingers to prevent sticking. Drizzle the caramel over the dough, then gently use a small offset spatula to form an even layer. Drop the remaining dough in clumps over the caramel – the dough will bake together, so don't worry if the dough doesn't cover the entire pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean from the bars when tested for doneness. As soon as the bars come out of the oven, sprinkle the top with coarse sugar and fleur de sel. Allow the pan to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before carefully removing the bars in the foil from the pan. Allow the bars to cool completely before slicing.