Cooking Column

Quarantine Kitchen: Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

As we anticipate the swiftly approaching holiday season, baking becomes a quintessential part of the lead up to Christmas. While sugar cookies, festive pies, and peppermint bark certainly deserve their time to shine, my caramel chocolate chip cookie bars demand the spotlight. Gooey chocolate chip cookie dough hugs a silky golden caramel filling, and sea salt flakes dance atop the golden crust. Subtle salty notes perfectly balance the sweet mouthful of comfort, appeasing everyone wanting a holiday treat.

Since the start of October, I have baked these cookie bars on four separate occasions. Each time, those who consume them express an overwhelming joy to me. The holidays should be a time of spreading kindness to those around you, and these cookie bars are the perfect vessel to share love with your friends, family, or classmates. They are not only fun to make but arguably one of the most delicious desserts to sink your teeth into.

DISH: Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

INGREDIENTS:

For the dough  

1 ½ cups chocolate chips

½ cup butterscotch chips

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup softened unsalted butter

½ cup granulated white sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla bean extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

For the filling  

Soft caramel creams (can substitute with plain soft caramels)

14 oz sweetened condensed milk (1 can)

For the top  

Sprinkle of flaky sea salt

RECIPE:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Line a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spraying it generously with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. For ease, I recommend using an electric mixer to make the dough. Beat the softened butter with the light brown sugar and the white sugar until combined (around 1 minute).
  4. Add the vanilla extract, eggs, baking soda, and salt to the batter. Combine on medium speed until well incorporated.
  5. Combine the flour into the batter by adding around 1 cup at a time on a slow speed.
  6. Once combined, fold in the chocolate and butterscotch chips. Set aside.
  7. In a medium saucepan, combine the sweetened condensed milk and soft caramels, whisking gradually as they begin to melt and thicken into a soft sauce. Turn off the heat once combined.
  8. Press half of the cookie dough batter into a layer on the bottom of the foil-lined pan. 
  9. Pour the caramel sauce over the batter, making sure to cover the entirety of the dough for an even filling.
  10. Place the rest of the cookie dough batter in small chunks (around the amount of cookie dough you would use to bake a regular cookie) on top of the caramel. It is normal for there to be small spaces in between the caramel and the cookie dough chunks, as it will spread to cover the top as it bakes.
  11. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 26 minutes. Periodically check to ensure that the top is golden brown when you remove them from the oven.
  12. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately sprinkle it with sea salt flakes.
  13. Allow the bars to cool for at least one hour before attempting to slice. Because these are gooey bars, it is imperative you allow them to cool so that their structure remains intact.
  14. Slice the bars into desired size and enjoy! 

Featured Graphic by Annie Corrigan / Heights Editor 

Photo courtesy of Ali Morin 

November 14, 2021

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