Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I'll get to these cookie bars in a second, but first, a little coming-of-age-story...

One day when I was about twelve years old, I had a sudden urge to be self-sufficient and ironed my own shorts.

(For all our Fancy Dancer friends out there, these were the white shorts we wore with the red recital t-shirt with a train on it. I've forgotten the name of the actual recital...but I haven't forgotten that we had to wear white shorts. White shorts, Miss Patty? Really?!)

I was so full of pride that I had successfully ironed my shorts all by myself, that I ran to Mama B and announced my accomplishment.

"Congratulations," she smirked. "You can iron all your own clothes from now on."

And that's exactly how things proceeded in our house, whether I liked it or not.

Now, back to the cookie bars.

Mama B made chocolate chip cookie bars for every BBQ and birthday party when we were kids, just like she used to make Rice Krispie treats, and just like she used to do my ironing. She has stopped doing my ironing, as discussed above, but still makes chocolate chip cookie bars.

Our Aunt Jan also makes chocolate chip cookie bars. To be more precise, she makes mint chocolate chip cookie bars. 

(I know - "mint chocolate chip cookie bars" sounds a bit weird, right? I always thought so too, but trust me, once you taste them, you realize that if they are weird at all, they are definitely the good kind of weird.)

So between Mama B and Aunt Jan, Becky and I certainly had our fill of chocolate chip cookie bars as kids. They probably accounted for 43% of all the food we consumed at family functions.

But whenever I've tried to make Mama B's recipe, my bars always turn out dry, or just don't taste as good as Mama B's. I blame it on Mom Magic. You know what I mean - things just taste better when made by your mom, right?

And I've never even attempted Aunt Jan's cookie bars, because I'm afraid that if I demonstrate I am capable of making them myself, Aunt Jan will stop sending Becky and me home with tins of cookie bars for our freezer.

Which would be tragic.

So Mama B and Aunt Jan, let me be very clear: this is not an "I ironed my own shorts" situation. Like yours, these cookie bars are moist and gooey and chewy and oh-so-chocolatey. BUT, they are not your cookie bars. They are purposely made from a third recipe - one that Becky and I now claim as our own, one that our kids will someday eat at BBQs. By posting this recipe here, we by no means wish to give the impression that you are to stop making yours just because we are old enough to now make our own.

Because seriously, I get choked up when I think about a world without Mama B's and Aunt Jan's cookie bars.

I may have been ready to iron my own shorts at twelve, but at more than double that age, I'm not nearly ready to make my own cookie bars if it means I have to give up the ones that are dear to my heart.

Okay, Mama B? Capisce, Aunt Jan?

- Katie

P.S. - The cookie bars in these photos are actually not nearly as gooey as they usually are. Check out the original recipe for a better photo. I blame this batch's lack of gooey-ness on 1) slightly over baking them, and 2) using generic chocolate chips, which never work as well as Nestle or even higher quality chocolate chips. So learn from my mistakes, friends. Don't skimp on your chocolate, and watch that oven carefully.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies Bars
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes approximately 24-30 bars

2/3 cup (10 2/3 tablespoons) butter
2 cups + 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon espresso powder, optional
2¾ cups flour
3 cups chocolate chips; or a combination of different flavored chips, or chips and nuts
*Use 1 teaspoon salt if you use unsalted butter.

1.     Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper.

2.     Melt butter and stir in brown sugar. Add salt and vanilla, stirring until well combined.

3.     Allow mixture to cool slightly, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape sides and bottom of mixing bowl midway through this process.

4.     Add baking powder, espresso powder, and flour, stirring to combine.

5.     Stir in chocolate chips or other additions.

6.     Scoop batter into prepared pan, spreading to edges with a wet spatula or wet fingers. Smooth top as best you can.

7.     Bake bars 30 to 32 minutes until they have risen and the top is shiny and golden. Center will still be quite molten; as long as no wet batter is showing farther out towards the edges, bars are done. As they cool, center will solidify.

8.     Remove bars from oven. If edges have risen, use a heatproof spatula to press them down. Let bars cool completely before cutting. Once bars are cool, wrap airtight. Store wrapped bars at room temperature for a couple days.


  1. So -- I know I've been pathetically absent in your blog comments, but let it be known... I am a loyal reader. These posts always make me smile even if my own cooking skills run more towards savory cooking than baking. And when I read "chocolate chip cookie bars" my mind IMMEDIATELY went to freshman year of college when "mama B" took a misplaced Seattle girl under her wing with the BEST desserts EVER. I will have to most definitely try making the latest version!! Time to brush off my baking skills. I don't even know if I have sugar in my pantry (no room around various truffle oil, olive oil and sea salts!)

    Next -- no hurry at all, but I have a special Sunday Treats request... I am NOT a candy fan. As in... I never eat the stuff. Not at Halloween, Valentine's Day or Easter. The exception: Reese's peanut butter cups. I LOVE those things. But the hitch.......I don't think they're as good as they could be. For one, they need dark or at least bittersweet chocolate. Secondly...the peanut buttery flavor could be even MORE amazingingly concentrated. So my ask: any recipes for a "homemade reese's cup?" Or *any* kind of Reese's inspired peanut butter/chocolate combo would do I suppose...cookies, bars, etc.

    Thoughts? Inspiration?

    Smitten with peanut butter and all things Bignell,

  2. Fernie - Beck's got just what you're looking for all lined up for next week's post. It's a very delicious treat. I can say that because I've already eaten about 18 of them :-)

    And let's make a deal: next time we're in the same state, I'll teach you to bake something peanut buttery chocolatey, and you can teach me to cook something with truffle oil...

  3. love your stories--always--but especially love this one--almost as much as i love you 2!! thanks for the generous, kind, loving words. anxious to see you soon--maybe with a tin of cccb! :) aunt jan

  4. I eagerly look forward to each week's slice of deliciousness. I've been a bit absent lately, since I gave up dessert for Lent. (I know - that was a terrible idea...)

    But when I saw the cookie bar pictures, I was hooked. In addition to the box of See's Assorted Chocolates I intend to consume on Easter Sunday, cookie bars will be accompanying me to our annual brunch.

    So much fun to always have a treat to try!

  5. I just made this for dinner with my neighbor's tomorrow night.... I can't wait!