Gooey Chocolate Chip Fudge Bars

Plain and simple, these bars are crowd pleasers. What’s not to like? Delicious, chewy chocolate chip cookie bars with a gooey, fudgy middle layer. Every bite oozes with chocolate and buttery cookie dough.

IMG_4445I made these bars for a “Cookies and Cocktails” event I hosted with a friend a couple weeks ago. It started from a joke: the friend had asked when I’d host my next cookie party. But you know: why not? So we invited a bunch of our friends to this cool new cocktail bar in Hayes Valley, I made a ton of cookies, and we had a fabulous afternoon.

I ended up making 5 type of cookies for the party, and wanted a mix of “simple” recipes and “surprising” recipes. I’d saved this recipe on Pinterest a while ago, and it seemed like the perfect pick. These bars technically fell into the “simple” category, but they’re still a twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie.

These are easy to make, but make sure you allow time to chill them when you’re done. You’ll need to let the bars set for a couple hours before cutting into them…or you’ll end up with a gooey mess, rather than gooey centers!

Our Cookies and Cocktails party was outside, and I was a little worried the centers would melt in the sun. The bars kept their texture just fine but I live in San Francisco, where hot is relative and it’s never really that sunny. I’d be careful bringing these outside on a super sunny day in other parts of the world!

Gooey Chocolate Chip Fudge Bars

Original recipe: Back for Seconds. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: I got 40 bars out of this, but I didn’t make them all even! Your yield depends on sizing, but you should expect around 32 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes (includes 2 hours of “chill time” so the bars firm up)

Cook Time: ~25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 4 cups chocolate chips (some for the dough, some for the filling)
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk (typically one can)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Line a 9×13 pan with foil, then spray it lightly with nonstick spray so it’s easy to remove the bars later
  3. Use your mixer to cream together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until it’s light and creamy
  4. Add eggs, vanilla and salt, then mix well
  5. Add baking soda and flour. Mix until combined
  6. Stir in 2 cups of the chocolate chips
  7. Press 2/3 of your cookie dough into the lined pan and set the pan aside
  8. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the condensed milk and the other 2 cups of chocolate chips. Use 30 second increments, and stir the mixture in between each run in the microwave. Keep doing this until the chocolate is entirely melted and smooth. You might want to shorten the increments near the end so you don’t burn the chocolate
  9. Pour your fudge over the cookie dough, and smooth it with a spatula
  10. Use your hands to make a cookie dough top layer. Take a portion of dough, flatten it with your hands, and press it on top of the chocolate. Repeat until the fudge layer is entirely covered in dough
  11. Bake 22-25 minutes. When it’s done, the top will look golden and the edges will pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. Mine took 24 minutes
  12. Let the bars cool completely on your counter. Then, pop them in your fridge to firm up for a couple hours. Once they’ve set, cut the bars with a sharp knife
  13. Store the bars in a covered container. I left mine in the fridge and took them out an hour before serving, because I wanted to make sure the fudge layer stayed firm.

 

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Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookie Bars

Looking for a party-ready, easy treat? I’ve got you covered.

These Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookie Bars are a salty sweet treat that’s easy to whip up, and super easy to scarf down. The prep is really simple: just make some cookie dough, mix in your pretzels and chocolate, and throw it in a pan. No other prep, no chill time…you don’t even need to roll the dough into balls! These are a great pick for events outdoors since they’ll keep nicely in hot temperatures and they’re easy to transport.

I’ve made these a few times, and they’re always a crowd pleaser. The actual cookie dough is delicious on its own, and the pretzel/chocolate combo takes it up a notch. The original recipe also includes a chocolate and peanut butter drizzle, but I’ve never tried that part and the bars certainly don’t need a drizzle to be delicious!

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookie Bars

Original recipe: Brown Eyed Baker. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 32 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~45 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate chips (or semisweet, if you prefer)
  • 1½ cups mini pretzel twists, coarsely chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Whisk your flour, baking soda and salt
  3. Using your mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until it’s light and fluffy (it will take about a minute)
  4. Beat in your eggs and vanilla
  5. Switch the mixer to low speed, then beat in the flour mixture until it’s just incorporated
  6. Stir in your chocolate chips and pretzel pieces by hand
  7. Spray a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray
  8. Pour your batter into the pan and use a spatula to make sure it’s evenly spread
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown
  10. Let the pan cool completely, then cut into squares and enjoy!

Caramel-Stuffed Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have an informal recipe rating scale that goes from “Woah, I can’t stop thinking about that” to “Well, that was inedible.” Most recipes fall somewhere in the middle: they taste good and I’d make them again, but I don’t think about them much in between bakes.

This recipe? 100%, undeniably a “Woah!!!”

What does it take to get a “Woah!” rating? It’s sort of hard to explain, but you know it when you taste it. Certain recipes are just perfectly balanced. The concept is strong to begin with: a good mix of flavors, ingredients that complement each other, etc. The texture is spot on: a perfectly chewy cookie or just the right kind of fudgy brownie. And there’s just some sort of other pizazz that you get when you take a bite. I think that pizazz comes from an optimized recipe: the recipe author clearly spent time getting the details right. Just the right amount of salt. Just the right technique. A clear recommendation for whether to chill the dough or not, whether to use a mixer or a spoon…etc. Details can make all the difference in baking, and you can tell when someone got it right.

IMG_2742These Caramel Stuffed Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies are an all-around winner. As you know, I adore stuffed cookies, and a caramel center is one of my favorite tricks. But what really makes these cookies stand out is the incredibly flavorful, chewy base dough. You don’t even need the caramels or chocolate to eat this cookie. I’d be happy eating the dough on its own. And that, my friends, is the sign of a WOAH!

I’ve tried this dough a couple of ways so far. First, I stuffed the cookies with Kraft caramels so there’d be a ooey gooey caramel center. The second time, I didn’t have any of those caramel candies sitting around… but I did have three bags of caramel bits (Sigh… such a pantry loader). So I decided to just make Chocolate Chip Caramel Bit Cookies instead of stuffing them. The Caramel Bit Cookies are actually a bit more balanced, since caramel is scattered throughout rather than concentrated in the middle. But whichever caramel iteration you choose…you’re definitely in for a treat!

Caramel-Stuffed Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original recipe: Grandbaby Cakes. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~20 large cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~3 hours, including 2 hours of chill time for the dough

Cook Time: ~13 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (I used light brown sugar here)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 additional egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • For caramel-stuffed cookies: 20 caramel candies. Make sure they’re the soft kind! I cut mine in half before stuffing the cookies
  • For caramel bit cookies: 1.5 cups of caramel bits
  • Sea salt for sprinkling

Directions

Make your dough 

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder and baking soda
  2. Using your mixer, cream your butter with the granulated sugar and brown sugar. You should cream it for about 3-4 minutes on high, until the mixture is light and fluffy
  3. Add in your egg, and beat the mixture. Then add your egg yolks, one at a time, and beating in between each addition
  4. Add your vanilla, and beat the mixture until it’s smooth
  5. Turn the mixer to low. Add your bowl of dry ingredients in three intervals, beating after each addition until it’s all well-combined
  6. Stir in your chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. This is also when you should stir in caramel bits if you’re using them!
  7. Chill your dough for at least two hours. I chilled mine overnight to break up prep

Bake your cookies

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. If you’re making caramel bit cookies: Scoop your dough and place it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Proceed to step #4!
  3. If you’re making stuffed cookies: I  like to cut my caramel candies in half so the centers are a little smaller. Scoop a tablespoon-sized ball of dough, and place a caramel candy on top of it. Then, cover up the caramel with another scoop of dough. You’ll want to pinch your dough around the edges so the dough covers the caramel entirely. I usually end up rerolling the cookie a little too, to get it more round. Place all of your dough balls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, at least 1 1/2 inches apart so they have room to expand
  4. Bake the cookies 11-14 minutes. Mine took 13! They might look a little underbaked when you take them out of the oven, but they’ll firm up as they cool
  5. Place your cookie sheet on a cooling rack, and sprinkle your cookies with sea salt

Enjoy!

Hazelnut Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (Baci di Dama)

I’m a really lazy cook. If I’m going to make dinner, I want the easiest recipe possible. The fewer the ingredients and lighter the prep, the better.

But baking…well, that’s a different story. I am game to make whatever looks delicious, even if that means dozens of ingredients or dozens of steps.

IMG_3517Take these Baci di Dama. Baci di Dama are hazelnut sandwich cookies with a rich chocolate ganache filling. The steps are pretty simple… but there are a lot of steps! You have to toast hazelnuts, make dough, make a filling, assemble. But I promise the effort is worth it. The cookies are near-crumbly in texture, with a wonderful nutty flavor. When you chomp down you get a satisfying bite of hazelnut, complemented by the smooth ganache.

I stumbled on this recipe when I was looking for something to bring to a birthday party. I’d asked my friend to name her top 5 flavors, and hazelnut made the cut. I love hazelnut, but I’d only ever baked with it in Nutella form. Clearly I’ve been missing out! I loved how these turned out, and am glad I gave them a try.

IMG_3507I’d do a couple small tweaks if I baked these again. First off: I’d use bittersweet or dark chocolate for the filling rather than semisweet. It tasted good, but I think a stronger chocolate would boost the flavor. And second: I ground my hazelnuts for just a tad too long, so I basically ended up with hazelnut butter. I was a little nervous about whether my dough would turn out ok! It did, but still…I’d try to do it right next time 🙂  

Hazelnut Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (Baci di Dama)

Original recipe: As Easy As Apple Pie. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~20, but your yield will depend on how big you make the cookies

Suggested equipment: Food processor, mixer

Total Time: ~3 hours, but that involves a lot of waiting for things to chill!

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

For your dough:

  • 2/3 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3.5 ounces unsalted butter cut into small cubes, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

For the filling:

  • 1/3 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped into bits

Directions

Prep your hazelnuts

  1. Throw your hazelnuts onto a baking sheet
  2. Toast the hazelnuts at 320F until they’re a golden brown color. This took me around 15 minutes. Pay close attention, because you don’t want burned nuts!
  3. Take your hazelnuts out of the oven, and rub them until the skins come off. This might take a bit of elbow grease!
  4. Let the hazelnuts cool completely before moving onto your next step

Make your cookie dough

  1. Put the cooled hazelnuts into your food processor, and pulse the processor until the nuts resemble sand. This is where I messed up, and my nuts ended up more like a butter consistency. Don’t be like me 🙂
  2. Move the hazelnuts to a bowl, and mix in your flour, butter and sugar. You want to mix the ingredients until the butter is evenly dispersed throughout the bowl of dough, and your dough is smooth
  3. Divide your dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a log
  4. Place the logs on a baking sheet, and stick it in your fridge
  5. Chill the dough for an hour

Make your dough balls

  1. Take one dough log out of the fridge, but leave the rest in the fridge until you’re ready to use them so they stay cold
  2. Cut equal-sized pieces from your log, and roll them into tiny balls between the palms of your hands. Since these are sandwich cookies, it’s important to keep your sizing consistent! The original recipe writer suggested making your balls about 8 oz of dough each
  3. Place your dough balls on a greased or lined cookie sheet, then move onto the next log of dough
  4. Put your dough balls back in the fridge for another hour

Bake your cookies 

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 320F
  2. Bake your dough balls for 15-20 minutes. Take them out when they’re set to the touch, and a light golden color. Mine took closer to 20 minutes
  3. Let the cookies cool completely before you fill them

Fill your cookies 

  1. Melt your chocolate until it’s smooth
  2. Place a dollop of chocolate on one cookie, and place another cookie on top. Press the two together, and you have a sandwich!
  3. Let the cookies firm up on a cooling rack for a bit so your chocolate sets

And finally: ENJOY! These will last in an airtight cotnainer for about a week, but I doubt they’ll make it that long!

Mint M&M Brownies

I debated saving this recipe for another day since my last post was also a chocolate mint recipe. But, thanks to St. Patrick’s Day, I kept seeing minty green treats pop up all over my feeds. And every time I did, I started thinking about these brownies again. So, I think it’s only fair I share these brownies today, while mint and shades of green are on your brain.

IMG_3308Mint M&Ms are pretty incredible. They taste a bit like Andes Mints, and a bit like those pastel mint candies some restaurants keep in a dish at the hostess table. They have a nice crunchy shell, and then a deliciously smooth, chocolate mint center. Plus, they come in a variety of green hues, so they add a fun bit of color when you bake with them.

I bought these M&Ms a while ago without a real plan, and decided they’d taste great mixed into brownies. I turned to a trusty brownie recipes from Sally’s Baking Addiction and simply mixed in my M&Ms instead of chocolate chips. These are very fudgy, dense brownies, with a rich chocolate base. They were the perfect base for Mint M&Ms!

These are a one bowl recipe and pretty quick to whip up, so they’re a great “brownies on a whim” recipe too. And if you don’t happen to have Mint M&Ms on hand, you could just use chocolate chips or swap in any other baking bits you like. I bet you Reese’s Pieces would be awesome–or caramel bits!

Mint M&M Brownies

Original recipe:  Sally’s Baking Addiction. I’ve made some swaps and rewritten things a bit. 

Yield: 30 brownies

Total Time: ~50 minutes 

Cook Time: ~30-36 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 oz of a semi sweet chocolate bar, coarsely chopped (you need 4 ounces total, but add the chocolate in two increments at two different points!)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 oz of a semi sweet chocolate bar, coarsely chopped
  • 1 and 1/4 cups Mint M&Ms, chocolate chips or any other mix-in!

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Grease a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment paper, leaving a little hanging over the sides so it’s easier to pull them out later
  3. Use a microwave safe bowl to melt your butter and 2 ounces of chopped chocolate. Melt in 30 second increments, whisking after each increment to make sure the ingredients to make sure the ingredients are mixed together. Do this until your mixture is smooth but be careful not to go too far–chocolate can burn!
  4. Whisk in your sugar until the mixture is completely combined
  5. Whisk in your eggs and vanilla. At this point the batter will be light brown
  6. Add in your cocoa powder, flour, salt and the other 2 ounces of chopped chocolate. Fold it all together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula
  7. Mix in your M&Ms or other baking bits. Do this gently with your spoon or spatula, and be careful not to overmix the batter
  8. Pour your batter into the prepared pan. It will be super thick so you’ll need to use your spatula to spread it around and even it out
  9. Bake your brownies for about 30-36 minutes. Check on them as soon as you smell that telltale smell of brownies float through your kitchen, even if it hasn’t been 30 minutes yet. Use a toothpick in the center to check if they’re done. You’re looking for a few moist crumbs on the toothpick. If there is still wet batter on the toothpick, keep the brownies in the oven a bit longer. Mine took 35 minutes altogether
  10. Let the brownies cool completely on a wire rack before you cut them. If you try to cut brownies before they’re cool, they tend to crumble all over the place!

These will keep in an airtight container for about a week. Or, freeze them!

 

 

Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: gooey butter cake is one of America’s most underrated desserts. Its name actually makes total sense: the bottom layer is cakey, and the top layer is gooey. That texture combo makes every bite interesting… and the ingredient list makes every bite yummy, too. Gooey Butter Cake definitely lives up to its name, and you just have to try it to understand.

file_0032And then once you try it… what’s next? Experimenting with flavors and mix-ins, obviously. I found this Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake recipe by a stroke of luck. I was planning to bake for a birthday and someone suggested I use cookie butter. I do that pretty often and didn’t want to make a repeat, so I turned to Pinterest for some new ideas. Up popped this recipe that marries my love of cookie butter with my love of gooey butter cake.

There are a few types of Gooey Butter Cake recipes out there. This one uses a pretty standard cake base, and I liked it more than some yeasted versions I’ve tried in the past. You mix cookie butter straight into the “gooey” layer, giving it that signature almost-caramelized, sort-of-gingery taste. Every bite rewards you with a decadent gooey start and a soft, cakey finish.

Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake

Original recipe: Butter Baking. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~30 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~1 hour

Cook Time: 35-40 min

Ingredients

Cake layer:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Gooey layer:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten (beat them before you even use them!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread, or other brand of cookie butter (ex. Trader Joe’s sells one)
  • 16 oz powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F
  2. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper
  3. Start with your cake layer: mix your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
  4. Add your egg, butter, milk and vanilla, then stir until it’s just combined
  5. Pour your cake layer into the prepared pan, and smooth it out so it’s nice and even
  6. Then comes the gooey layer. Start by beating your cream cheese until it’s smooth
  7. Add eggs, Biscoff and vanilla, then beat it again until it is completely smooth and looks creamy
  8. Add your powdered sugar in small batches, a bit at a time. Beat each batch at a low speed until it’s combined
  9. Pour your gooey layer over the cake layer, and spread out evenly
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes (mine took the full 40 minutes). Your edges will look golden. The center may look a bit underdone, but it will set as the pan cools. The top should look a bit shiny–mine ended up flaking quite a bit, but it didn’t affect taste at all!
  11. Once the pan is cool, cut it up into bars

Sour Cream Cut Out Cookies

There’s something so delightful about cut out cookies. The mere act of using a cookie cutter gives cookies a little something extra–a dash of personality, if you will. I always want to buy cookie cutters, but tell myself it’s a bad idea since my kitchen is already crammed to the brim. For now, I own exactly two cutters: a heart and a bow, both pilfered from my mom. Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time to take out my cutters and whip up some cut out cookies.

img_3099

I’ve tried several cut out recipes over the years, including one that I tracked down from my 5th grade teacher. The recipe I’m sharing today is pretty standard. They’re basically sugar cookies, but sour cream adds moisture and makes the cookies especially soft and chewy. This frosting is pretty sweet, so I used a thin layer rather than slathering it on thick. You could swap in a different frosting, of course…. I won’t tattle.

Make sure to allow at least six hours for your dough to chill before you bake. The recipe says you can freeze unfrosted cookies, but I preferred these fresh out of the oven. It seemed like something changed texturally when I froze extra cookies.

You can obviously use any cutter you’d like, for any occasion. I especially loved my heart cookies (the bows were a little puffier than I expected). They’re perfect for school parties, your Valentine… or a little self-love for yourself.

Sour Cream Cut Out Cookies

Original recipe: Chocolate with Grace. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: About 50 cookies (original recipe says 60 but it obviously depends on your cookie cutter)

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 2 hours to make the cookies, at least 6 hours to chill the dough 

Cook Time: ~12 minutes

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sour cream

Frosting

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2-4 tsp milk or heavy cream, at room temperature

Directions

Make your dough 

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until it’s light and fluffy
  2. Beat in the eggs and vanilla
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk your flour, salt and baking soda
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, alternating each dry addition with some of your sour cream. This is when things got messy, so I recommend using a mixer guard if you have one
  5. Stir the ingredients until they’re fully combined
  6. Chill your dough at least 6 hours–overnight is better if you can!

Bake your cookies 

  1. Preheat your oven to 325F
  2. On a well-floured surface, roll out your dough to about 1/3 inch thick. Make sure to keep things floured up, since this is a pretty sticky dough. Keep extra dough in the fridge until you’re ready for it
  3. Cut out your cookies, and place them on a lined cookie sheet
  4. Bake your cookies 9-14 minutes. Bake time will depend on your cutters: my hearts baked quicker than my bows. The cookies will still be a little pale when they’re done, so be careful not to overbake
  5. Let the cookies cool for a minute on the sheet, then remove them to a rack so they cool all the way

Frost your cookies 

  1. Beat your butter 2-3 minutes, until it’s fluffy
  2. Beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla, plus enough milk or cream to achieve your desired consistency. I used two teaspoons of milk
  3. You can tint your frosting if you’d like, but I chose not to
  4. Frost your cookies and decorate as you’d like!