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!

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!

 

 

Mint Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a friend who’s pretty passionate about Oreos. He tries every flavor he can get his hands on, from limited editions (like Peep Oreos) to international releases (like Strawberry Cheesecake). He’s my go-to source for flavor intel, and for recipe scheming, too.

Some of my Oreo experiments haven’t turned out very well. Certain flavors hold up better in baking than others. I had a string of failed attempts to bake with the Cookie Dough Oreos last fall: the Oreo layers kept dissolving in the oven, whether I stuffed them into brownies or cookies. Meanwhile, Halloween Oreos were a perfect baking ingredient.

This Mint Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe plays off the classic mint chocolate flavor combo, with a bunch of added texture. Mint Oreos are one of my all-time favorites, and I just knew they’d taste good in a dark chocolate chip cookie. I picked one of my go-to chocolate chip cookie doughs, from Jenny over at Picky Palate. It’s an incredibly flavorful base and holds up really nicely in the oven. I’ve used it for a range of recipes over the years, from Thin Mint-Stuffed Cookies to brownie-stuffed cookies.

These cookies are an incredible flavor explosion of mint, buttery dough and chocolate. During Girl Scout cookie season, you could swap some Thin Mints in there. This is also a great recipe for some St. Patrick’s Day fun with the little hints of green popping out of every cookie!

Mint Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original recipe: The dough and technique came from Picky Palate and I just swapped a few things around. I’ve also rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~36 cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: ~13 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1.5 cups crushed Mint Oreos (I broke each Oreo into ~4 pieces. This creme gets super messy, but it will taste great!)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Use your mixer to beat the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until it’s light and fluffy
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla, then beat again until it’s well combined
  4. Use a separate mixing bowl to combine your flour, salt and baking soda
  5. Slowly add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Make sure to use a spatula and scrap the sides of the bowl from time to time–sometimes dry ingredients like to hide at the bottom, and then they don’t get incorporated properly!
  6. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the chocolate chips and Oreo bits. I switched to a spoon at this point because the dough got pretty tough, and it was just easier than keeping it in the mixer
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  8. Shape your cookies to your preferred size. I eyeball mine vs. using a scoop
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine were perfect at 13 minutes
  10. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then move them to a rack to cool completely

 

Fudgy Chocolate Ricotta Muffins

Every January 1st, I make sure to have a special breakfast. It’s a relic of childhood tradition–and a delicious tradition, at that. Growing up, we went to the Rose Parade every single New Year’s Day. We’d get up at the crack of dawn and drive to Pasadena to make sure we got a great spot on the route. The parade is a fabulous spectacle of floats and entertainment. The floats are an incredible sight: often quite complex, and completely decorated with seeds, nuts, fruits and plants.

Our tradition didn’t stop at the parade. Naturally, there were traditional foods, too. Every December 31st my mom would bake up a storm so we’d have plenty of treats to enjoy the next day. The annual menu included zucchini bread, applesauce bread and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. We’d start nibbling on the goods as soon as we sat down at the parade route, and it definitely helped time fly by as we waited for the parade to start. Beautiful floats, great bands and cookies. What’s not to like?!

 

I haven’t been to the Rose Parade in years, but I still think January 1st deserves a special breakfast. This year, it’s going to be these delicious, fudgy chocolate muffins. They’re img_2245-2simple and don’t require any special equipment… so you could probably make them even if you’re in a, well, less than perfect state come the morning of January 1st. Or, make them the day before! These keep pretty well thanks to the moisture ricotta brings to the batter.

These muffins definitely don’t fall into the genre of “muffins pretending to be healthy” (though they do use whole wheat flour). They taste a lot like cake, and look a lot like cake too. They’re dense, fudgy and moist. You add ricotta right into the batter, along with a heap of cocoa. And a streusel topping adds a crumbly bit of sugar and cinnamon to every bite.

If you can’t get to these for January 1st, fear not. They’re a great “just because” breakfast whenever you have the craving for something a little special to start your day.

Fudgy Chocolate Ricotta Muffins

Original recipe: Vegetarian Adventures. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~24 muffins. The original recipe says it yields 16 but I got way more muffins out of this! 

Total Time: ~45 minutes 

Cook Time: 17-20 min

Ingredients

Batter 

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup whole ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Streusel topping 

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions

Get ready

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Line a couple muffin tins

Make your batter 

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder
  2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. That means you want to create a little crater in the middle, so you can pour other ingredients in there–see pic below
  3. Fill your well with the melted butter, ricotta, eggs, milk and vanilla
  4. Whisk the wet ingredients within the well, until they’re mixed together
  5. Then, slowly start whisking your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Definitely pay heed to the “slow” direction here so cocoa doesn’t land all over your counter! Whisk just until the ingredients are mixed–overmixing leads to tough muffins (which sounds like a great rock band name, but you don’t want actual tough muffins)

Make your streusel 

  1. Whisk together the brown sugar, cocoa powder and salt
  2. Using your hands, work the butter into the dry ingredients until a wet crumb has formed. The mixture should be wet and crumbly when you’re done mixing

Bake your muffins 

  1. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full with batter
  2. Sprinkle topping onto each muffin. I didn’t use all of my streusel but you definitely could if you put more streusel per muffin than I did
  3. Bake your muffins for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of a muffin. Mine took 17 minutes
  4. Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before you eat them. I liked these a lot better cooled vs. hot because the texture and taste settled a bit

 

Gingerbread Brownies

Looking for something a little different for your holiday dessert tray? Have I got the treat for you!

These Gingerbread Brownies combine the best parts of their namesake baked goods. You get the molasses depth of gingerbread, and the richness of chocolate. This is basically a brownie recipe, with molasses and brown sugar in there to create a new take on gingerbread. It’s a simple recipe, too: you just use a single saucepan to create these beauties.

img_2750

Remember how I waxed poetic about the spicy dough in last week’s gingersnap recipe? This recipe is pretty much the opposite take on gingerbread: molasses is now the star. The molasses flavor is pretty intense, so be warned if you don’t actually like how molasses tastes! You can use light brown sugar instead of dark to tone it down a bit, if you want… but I didn’t. Mine turned out super chewy and dense with an amazing chocolate start, and a deep, molasses finish.

I made these the night before a holiday event, and they kept just fine in an airtight container. The flavor got more intense over time. I didn’t mind that, but you might want to make these the same day you plan to serve them (or freeze them ’til you’re ready to enjoy!). While these aren’t cookies, you could probably get away with bringing them to a cookie exchange with some sort of logic about how gingerbread often IS a cookie. I don’t think people will reject your logic once they take a bite!

Gingerbread Brownies

Original recipe:  I heart eating. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 16-25 depending on how you cut your brownies

Total Time: ~55 minutes

Cook Time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed (dark brown for more intensity, light brown if you want to dial down the flavor a bit) 
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Use a large saucepan to melt your butter and chocolate together. Use low heat for this, and stir the mixture frequently so it’s properly mixed
  3. Once it’s fully melted together, remove the saucepan from the heat
  4. Add in your molasses, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Try to use a whisk, but be careful not to scratch your pan! I used a rubber whisk to play it safe and you’d probably be fine with a wooden spoon, too
  5. Whisk in your eggs until fully combined
  6. Add your flour, salt, cinnamon and ginger, then whisk again until the dry ingredients are just incorporated
  7. Grab a 9-inch square pan and grease it so your brownies don’t stick
  8. Pour your batter into the pan
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes, depending on your oven
  10. Let cool fully in the pan
  11. Dust with powdered sugar right before you serve the brownies. If you do it too early, the sugar will dissolve and you won’t even see it!*

*I literally carried around a bag of powdered sugar all day so I’d have it to dust my brownies right before putting them out at an afternoon party. The things I do for baked goods…

 

Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve already given you several “stuffed” recipes. The Cookie Butter-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies. The Thin Mint Stuffed Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies ( a personal favorite). Oh and those crazy good Peanut Butter Cup Brownies.

I’m not over it yet.

Thing is: merging two delicious things together is just such a good plan. Whether it’s spreads and doughs, doughs and cookies, cookies and brownies – adding two flavors and textures together elevates baked goods so much more than simple mix-in additions could.

DSCN3038

Adding in the caramels

These cookies jumped off my baking list and into my kitchen for a birthday party. Two friends shared a party, and I did some digging to find overlap in their baked good preferences. Caramel won the round! I’d already made caramel-stuffed Snickerdoodles a bit before and loved how the melty caramel centers came out. I decided to work with caramels again, and thought this chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe might be a nice change of pace.

The cookies turned out great… though I will admit they made me really late to the party! Let’s just say that a side experiment to stuff the same dough with frosting did not turn out so well. No big loss, because the caramel-stuffed cookies were winners (and the birthday was a come-and-go thing, anyway!). My friends gobbled these up real fast. The chocolate base has a satisfying depth to it, with cocoa in the dough plus chocolate chips added in. I swapped in sea salt for regular salt and think it made the base dough even more tasty. Once your dough is ready, caramel candies get stuffed into the cookie dough balls. You stuff them in the middle, but they’ll sink to the cookie bottoms somewhat while baking. When you bite into a cookie you’ll get a nice caramel-y surprise. The caramel does harden over time, so you’ll need to serve these warm if you want a gooey effect.

This dough was a little challenging to work with, so I’d chill it next time. Otherwise, you might find it’s a little hard to form your caramel-stuffed balls.

Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original recipe:  Crazy Little Projects. I’ve edited the recipe a bit and added my own commentary. 

Yield: ~30 cookies 

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~2 hours 40 minutes, including 2 hours for chilling the dough 

Cook Time: ~9 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 package of caramel square candies – I used Kraft. You’ll probably have leftovers, which you should definitely use to make Caramel Doodles.
  • Extra sea salt for sprinkling

Step by Step Directions

Make your dough 

  1. Cream butter and sugar together
  2. Add the cocoa and eggs, and mix together until it’s combined
  3. Add in the dry ingredients and mix again
  4. Stir in your chocolate chips (I decreased the number of chocolate chips vs. the original recipe because it started to look like a lot of chocolate chips in the bowl. Feel free to dial it back up to 1.5 cups of chips if you so desire!)
  5. Chill the dough for at least a couple hours so it’s easier to work with and doesn’t spread as much while baking

Assemble and bake 

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F
  2. Unwrap 12 caramels to start, and cut each caramel in half. You will probably need more than this but I’d lowball upfront so you don’t waste unwrapped caramels!
  3. Line your cookie sheets
  4. Roll out balls of dough so they’re each roughly 1 to 1.5 inches large and place them on your cookie sheets at least an inch apart
  5. Take a caramel half and press it on top of each ball of dough. Push the caramel into the center of the ball and cover it up completely with dough (see pictures for reference). Unwrap more caramels as you need them to fill all the balls of dough!
  6. Sprinkle the tops of the cookie balls with a bit of sea salt
  7. Bake the cookies for ~9 minutes. They’re done when the edges firm up a bit, but the centers still look a little soft
  8. Let them cook for a few minutes before biting in

As I mentioned, the caramel will harden up the longer you let the cookies cool. Still, you gotta let them sit for a few minutes before chomping down – that caramel can get mighty hot!