Thursday, April 19, 2012

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

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

  • 2 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup salted caramel sauce
  • coarse sugar, for sprinkling
  • fleur de sel, for sprinkling

  •   Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil so that the edges of the foil overhang two sides of the pan; grease the foil with butter or cooking spray.

    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.

    Source:  inspired by Smells Like Home, cookie dough from America's Test Kitchen.  Salted Caramel from Baked: Explorations


    Bridget said...

    Oh my goodness. These look divine! Definitely going on my "must make" list. Thanks for sharing!

    amanda @ fake ginger said...

    These look ridiculously decadent! I want to make these RIGHT NOW.

    Anna @ hiddenponies said...

    I plan to make these and eat them all in a day. Delicious recipe!

    Emily @ She Makes and Bakes said...

    Oh wow oh wow. These look incredible. I'll be making these for sure! And I'm also soft and chewy all the way!

    Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie said...

    I'm a thick and chewy cookie girl too. And even though I love original recipes, changing it up is always okay with me! Love the salted caramel.

    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar said...

    I am in loooove! These look so yummy!

    Elizabeth said...

    I love salted caramel and chocolate together!

    Susannah said...

    Oh my!!! I think these are getting made today! They look amazing!

    Jessica said...

    I have a 3lb bag of chocolate chips in my luggage that are just begging to made into these bars! Yum!

    Joanne said...

    I'm almost tempted to bring these to the gym with me and throw them at the anorexic girls I always see there. Really, they need an intervention. But if we're being honest...they won't make it out of my apartment. Amazing!

    Deanna @ TheChangingHouse said...

    wow! Salted caramel is fabulous! This looks great!

    Half Baked said...

    OMG! I want one of those right NOW!

    Heidi Bundles Of Hugs said...

    Those look sooo good! I love trying new treats and these sound perfect!

    Josie said...

    haha Joanne - best comment ever! :)

    Emily said...

    YUM! These look heavenly. I LOVE salted caramel and these look amazing. Beautiful photos!

    Anonymous said...

    My opinion is that salted caramel makes everything better! So I definitely think the classic chocolate chip cookie can be improved on, and that you did an awesome job! can't wait to make these; they sound like my perfect dessert, seriously!

    QembarDelites said...

    What a tempting dessert! I want some too! Looks so delicious!

    Anonymous said...

    Baking these right now and they smell delicious, but the cooking time is way off. They've been baking for 45 min now and are not close to being done. I have a feeling the wait will be worth it though!

    The Shoestring Contessa said...

    Mine baked for 1 hour and 15 minutes and the toothpick still didn't come out clean. I took them out anyway because they were starting to smell burned...the caramel has dissipated. I followed the recipe to a "t" and so I can't imagine what has gone wrong. But I'm very sad. :(

    Josie said...

    So sorry, Shoestring Contessa! I'm not sure what went wrong!

    Anonymous said...

    Made these last week as part of a bridal shower dessert bar. Everyone loved them. They were a big hit. Did not have any problems with baking them but I did use Tader Joe's salted carmel instead of making my own.

    samjack said...

    Made these last week as part of a
    bridal shower dessert bar. Everyone loved them. They were a big hit.
    Did not have any problems with baking them but I did use Tader Joe's
    salted carmel instead of making my own.

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    Stephanie said...

    Do you think this will work doubled in a 9x13?

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