18 April 2012

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Salted caramel sounds quite strange at first. Even to those who swear that they enjoy salty-sweet combinations have a hard time understanding the appeal. Perhaps it's the somewhat unapologetic mash-up of the two that makes it seem so unusual. But all doubts are removed after your first taste. You finally understand. Words can't describe it other than to say that it's salty-sweet and oh so good.

These Cookie Bars were actually a standby recipe for Easter in case my mother couldn't decide on something that she wanted to bake. Her choice was decidedly less sweet (it being bread and all) so we made both recipes and I’m really glad that we did. The combination of chocolate chip cookies and salted caramel should not be missed. Although it appears that my bars turned out incredibly different from the original recipe. This may have occurred for a number of reasons. However, I can't imagine they were any less delicious.

As for my changes to the recipe I reduced the brown sugar by a third and halved the vanilla, but the most significant change was to reduce the chocolate chips from two full cups to a cup and a third. For me, it was a bit too much chocolate. Heck, I was originally going to use only a cup, but decided an empty bag of chocolate chips was better :). With full disclosure in mind, I suppose I should also mention that the caramel wasn't prepared exactly as I will have it listed in the recipe. My mother accidentally forgot to add the butter, which we both didn't realize until it was much too late. And when we did realize it, she wouldn't let herself (or me) forget it for the rest of the day. My mother apologized profusely with the hope that she hadn't ruined the whole thing. Her over apologetic panic (as I call it) was amusing to me because this is usually my M.O. I considered the oversight a none-issue and not worth worrying about. I don’t see the butter lending much structure or firmness to the caramel.

My reduction in chocolate chips (giving me less batter overall) coupled with the need to change the pan from 11x7 inches (I'm not even sure I've ever seen one) to a 9 inch square pan (figuring 81 square inches was close enough) likely accounts for the majority of the differences between these and the original bars. The combination caused the dough to be spread a bit thin and I would suggest using an 8 inch pan instead. And though I did make my own caramel, which may have been a tad softer than in the original recipe, I don’t think it realistically impacted the final product.

When it comes to actually building the bars my suggestion is to refrigerate the prepared layers (cookie-caramel) before adding the final cookie dough layer. Otherwise there is no elegant way to spread the cookie dough over the caramel. I ended up pushing the caramel around a bit more than I would have liked, but eventually got it pretty even.

My first thought as I cut into the bars was that they had risen much more than the original. The layers were also far less defined and the bars seemed to have a more uniform structure. Not unlike a blondie. The caramel layer had essentially fused with the bottom cookie layer. But the discrepancy was easily ignored after my first taste, which was nothing short of fantastic. The creamy sweet caramel flavour combined with the lightly sweet chewy cookie, and the richer semi-sweet chocolate was good on its own; but then everything is turned upside down when the salt hits your palette. It's just too much to process. The contrasting flavours are crazy good and so well balanced. Not too sweet, not too rich, not too salty and no one flavour overpowered any other (making me extra happy that I had reduced the chocolate). As an interesting (perhaps?) side note the chocolate chips never really re-solidified. Three days after baking they were still in a half melted and gooey state. Not that I'm complaining. What this did mean however, is that there was little to no texture variance, making each bite super soft and chewy. This is good or bad depending on your tastes. It was almost like a Mars bar (that's a Milky Way bar for Americans. It's all very confusing). And even though I would have preferred a bit of a difference in texture, I'm not complaining. Besides, I like Mars (Milk Way) Bars :).

So my Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars didn't end up having (what looked like) the ooey-gooey crispiness of the original, but this is by no means a bad thing. What I ended up with was fantastic on its own, even though it was completely different. The flavours work so well together, and how could they not? We're talking about combining a terrific chocolate chip cookie, with salted caramel. It’s like the RoboCop of desserts and we all know how awesome RoboCop is. If you're not sure, the correct answer is “SUPER AWESOME!” :)


Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

2 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour (287g)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter butter, melted (169g)
2/3 cup packed golden yellow/light brown sugar (140g)
1/2 cup sugar (100g)
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tsps to 1/2 tbsp Sea salt, for sprinkling


Adapted from me

1/2 cup sugar (100g)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp unsalted butter (28g)
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325F and line an 8 inch (my suggestion), 11x7 inch (per the original recipe), or 9 inch (what I used) pan with foil and grease foil.

In a medium bowl add flour, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside to begin preparing caramel.

Attach a candy thermometer onto a small saucepan and add sugar, cream, honey, butter and salt.

Set saucepan over medium-high heat and continuously stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved completely (this will take approximately 2 minutes). Bring mixture to a boil swirling the pan (but do not stir) periodically. Allow to boil until mixture reaches a temperature of 248F.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla

While you're waiting for the caramel to come to temperature finish the cookie layers.

In the bowl of a mixer, add butter and both sugars and beat until combined. Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla and continue to beat until mixture is smooth.

Check your caramel temperature!

Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients until no streaks of flour remain.

Check your caramel temperature!

Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide the cookie dough in half pressing the first half into the prepared pan. Spread evenly and smooth top.

Pour warm caramel over cookie layer and spread until even. Sprinkle half of the salt (you don't have to use it all) over top of the caramel until sufficiently covered.

(At this point I would suggest refrigerating for a few minutes)

Top caramel layer with other half of cookie dough and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining half of salt over top until sufficiently covered.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until top is lightly golden and the edges are pulling away from the pan (32 minutes for me).

Allow to cool in pan on rack until completely cool.


  1. Awwww, your mom sounds so cute. I wish my mom baked. Or maybe I don't ;).

  2. I totally understand your frustration when what you bake doesn't look like the original recipe photo (although these bars do look wonderful). It's kind of like as a kid when you buy a toy and it doesn't look the same as it does on the front of the box, even if it is a cool toy.

    I remember writing about the legitimate reasons behind the 'switch-a-roo' of the candy bar names between the UK and the US, but what I best recall is how one of my favorite books as a child, National Velvet, features Mars Bars very prominently. I was never fond of Mars Bars as an American child, but I loved Milky Ways, and was delighted to find that I actually liked Velvet's real Mars Bars when I lived in the UK. American Mars Bars are too nut-heavy (and this is coming from someone who loves nuts). Although I bet your bars would be great with peanut butter chips...

  3. @Anna -- I'm sure she'd appreciate that comment :). I think my mother is probably a better baker than she thinks she is, but she doesn't do it much (or at all) anymore; leaving it mostly up to me, which is what made this day kind of extra special :).

    @Mary -- I wouldn't go so far as to say "frustrated" typically that only happens when something horrible goes wrong with the flavour. I'm more puzzled than anything when things like this happen. At the end of the day as long as it tastes good 'm usually happy :). It also gives me a reason to try again :).
    It is my understanding that the reason for the discrepancy in names is Mr Mars creator of the Milky Way Bars gave his son the recipe for Milky Way and told him to start his own business in the UK. I think the key difference between the two was that the UK version used Cadbury-esque (or proper?) chocolate. But I coud be wrong on that.

  4. Hmm...wikipedia says: "In the United States, a different confection bears the Mars bar name. Featuring nougat, soft caramel, and almonds coated in milk chocolate" but not why they didn't call Milky Ways Mars Bars like they do in the UK...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Bar

    And UK candy bars always have better-quality chocolate than US versions :)

  5. The Milky Ways came first. And I would assume the son didn't want to, or couldn't call them Milk Ways in the UK because that was his Dad's gig.

  6. The whole situation sounds like an elaborate LSAT question: "UK Mars Bars are like Milky Way bars in the US yet Mars Bars in the US are not like UK candy bars of any kind. Yet there are UK Milky Bars that are not like US Milky Bars which are, of course, like UK Mars Bars."

  7. These look and sound fabulous! I love caramel and bars made with salt. Your mom is lucky to have a baker, even if he's "nuts" in the family!!!

  8. my roommate's girlfriend's best friend (long line there, I know) dropped these off. Way too good, I can't leave them out for fear of taking them all down.

  9. @Gloria - Thanks :)! (I think :P).

    @Rod - Was it my version or the original, how did they turn out as far as texture goes? Regardless, I'm glad you enjoyed them and I sympathize with your need to hide them :).

  10. I would say the original from your description, but I would likely have to hide yours as well.

  11. Oh my goodness Adam! These bars look AMAZING. Sweet and salty is such an addicting flavor combo!!

  12. A little too addicting if you ask me :). And thanks! :).