Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

My sisters and I all had unconventional weddings. None of us had big fancy wedding receptions or big groups of people in attendance. Instead, we chose small ceremonies surrounded by family and a few close friends. Later we celebrated by inviting friends over for a backyard BBQ that was casual and fun for everyone. This allowed us to save some money (hubby and I traveled around Europe for our honeymoon instead of having a big wedding reception) and enjoy time with good friends to celebrate our marriage. My dad manned the grill, while my mom cut up fruit for salads and I was in charge of all the baked goodies. You better believe that these chocolate chip cookie bars were on the menu!

These cookie bars are a crowd pleaser

Chocolate chip cookie bars are quick and taste amazing. They are a major crowd pleaser and they couldn’t be easier to make. Using melted butter in this recipe means that these cookie bars can come together super fast. These cookies bake up beautifully in a 9 by 13 pan instead of dropping spoonfuls of cookie dough onto a baking sheet. They cut up nicely into smaller squares to serve for a crowd. I’ve also made these ahead of time and frozen them with great success.

Crispy Edges, Gooey Middle

Are you a fan of crispy edges? Or do you choose the bars in the middle of the pan? The gooey middles definitely went first at our latest family gathering, but that didn’t stop the whole pan from being devoured in about 30 minutes flat. These bars are the perfect amount of chewy, gooey and crispy. Basically they have something for everyone to enjoy.

Use a parchment sling for easy cleanup

Do yourself a favor and please use a parchment sling for these bars. Non-stick parchment paper makes these bars so easy to lift out of your baking pan and cut into beautiful pieces. It also makes clean-up a breeze and while I wouldn’t fault anyone for eating these out of a pan with a fork (or fingers), parchment paper makes these bars so much easier to handle.

If you’re anything like me with my sweet tooth, you’ve got to try these gooey chocolate chip cookie bars. They are so delicious and so easy. The hardest part is waiting for the bars to cool!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Yield: One, 9 by 13 pan of cookie bars

Time: 10 minute mix, 30 minute bake

Ingredients:

  • 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips, semisweet are my favorite but you can use any chocolate chips here

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare a 9 by 13 pan, lining it with a parchment paper sling (check it out here).
  3. In a microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter. Add brown sugar and granulated sugar. Use a fork (or a hand mixer) to mix the sugars and butter together. 
  4. Add vanilla and eggs. Mix until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  5. To the center of the bowl add the salt and baking soda. Mix.
  6. Add the flour and mix until combined. 
  7. Mix in the chocolate chips. Spread evenly into the pan.
  8. Bake about 30 minutes until crispy around the edges but still a little gooey in the middle. Let sit for 20 minutes in the pan before lifting out with the parchment paper. Cool before cutting into bars. Enjoy!

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Baking Tip: How to Line a Pan with Parchment Paper

Do you use parchment paper? Parchment paper has upped my baking game immensely. It helps create the perfect bottoms for cookies. Parchment paper is invaluable when making sourdough bread. It makes clean-up a breeze and can get you the best looking bars/brownies you’ve ever baked. If you haven’t started using parchment paper, now is the time.

I buy parchment paper in bulk at Costco

Why should you use parchment paper?

Parchment paper allows for easy clean up

Parchment paper has the unique quality of being non-stick (it is NOT wax paper) which means that rarely do you have to grease a sheet pan or bread pan if you cover the pan with parchment paper before baking. Sometimes dark pans can leave the bottoms of your cookies very dark. Parchment paper helps provide your baked goods with an even bake. One of the worst things that has happened to me as a baker is mixing up a delicious batter, baking it and watching it fall apart when I turn it out because it’s stuck to the bottom of the pan. This is where parchment paper saves the day. That little extra step of lining a pan is worth the peace of mind and the perfect bake. 

Lining Baking Sheets and Loaf Pans

I almost always line my sheet pans with parchment paper when baking cookies on them. A simple sheet with a little bit of overhang is fine, though I do like to cut it down if it’s hanging over the edges too much.

For a loaf pan, with a stickier batter, like this banana bread or the lemon blueberry bread that is pictured, I will often drape the parchment paper over the sides. I spray the paper and let it hang over the sides of my non-stick bread pan (affiliate link). This makes it simple to pull the bread out of the pan (you may need to run a knife along any edges that are not touching the parchment paper) without it sticking to the bottom.

How to: Make a parchment sling

I use parchment slings when I bake bar cookies or brownies in an 8 by 8 or 9 by 13 pan. I also use parchment slings for any quickbreads (banana bread, for example), and I line my sheet and cake pans with parchment paper when baking cookies and cakes, though those don’t require a sling. A parchment sling is a tiny extra step that will save you clean up time and give your bar cookies a five star rating.

  1. Set the parchment paper on top of the pan. Allow for an inch or two of overhang on each side.

2. In each corner of the parchment paper, make a cut from the edge of the paper to the edge of the pan, as pictured below. Remove the small corner squares that result from the cuts.

3. Press down on the parchment paper with your hand in the center.

4. Readjust the parchment paper as needed and fill with the batter of your favorite bar cookie, brownies or treat.

I hope this tutorial encourages you for your next bake. It’s never too late to up your game a little in the kitchen and parchment paper does just that! The recipe for those gooey chocolate chip cookie bars is coming soon. Promise!

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Derby Day Bars

The first weekend in May is Derby Day here in Kentucky. Typically, kids draw pictures, the library has special activities where we make crafts and we all turn on the TV and watch the “fastest two minutes in sports.” This year, however, things are a little different. The Kentucky Derby has been postponed until September and there will be no large gatherings in Kentucky with the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all quarantined in our homes instead of celebrating with friends or family this year. Even without the “fastest two minutes in sports” racing on Saturday, it won’t keep me from indulging in one of my favorite Derby treats. These Derby Day Bars keep the nostalgia alive and well!

Jump to the Recipe for Derby Day Bars
Wearing our Derby hats at Churchill Downs

Derby Day Pie in Bar Form

Derby Pie is a pie served traditionally in Louisville where the derby is run, but you can find it anywhere in the Bluegrass during Derby time. The name, “Derby Pie” is actually trademarked by Kern’s Kitchen, the owners of Melrose Inn who created the original Derby Pie. No other company, shop or store can name their pie, “Derby Pie” without being liable for copyright infringement (the owners are reportedly quite zealous in the defense of their trademark). Instead you will see stores, restaurants and shops advertising things like “walnut chocolate chip pie.” Even big box stores like Costco sell this during Derby time. 

Gooey Derby Pie Bars are perfect for any gathering

Chocolate, Pecans and Brown Sugar

I do have an awesome recipe for my own variation of “the fastest two minutes in sports” pie but  I also love these Derby Day Bars, maybe even more than the real pie. They are ooey, gooey, and down right delicious with a shortbread bar base and the traditional chocolate, brown sugar, nut mixture on top. I swapped the walnuts out for pecans because of personal preference but you can opt for walnuts and a splash of bourbon if you want a more traditional flavor. I like to give the pecans a pulse in my blender to chop them up so you get a little nut in every bite. 

Use Parchment Paper and One Bowl

Derby Day Bars are ooey, gooey and using parchment paper to line your pan will make your life easier. I wrote a whole post about that here. I also love that these bars can be made using one bowl. I use a fork or spoon to mix together the base ingredients, dump them and press them into my pan and then use the same bowl to whisk up the filling. Not only does this make the recipe super simple, but it also saves you clean up time and gives you more time to decide which horse you’re betting on this year!

The Best Recipe for a Crowd: No Fork Required

These bars are easy to bake, cut and serve for a group or they freeze well if making for your family while quarantined at home. I’m hoping we’ll get to eat them twice this year…once this weekend and again in September for when the Kentucky Derby is rescheduled. Fingers crossed!

Derby Day Bars

Amy
The perfect treat for the Kentucky Derby. Ooey, gooey, chocolate pecan pie bars great for a crowd or family gathering.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16 bars

Ingredients
  

Shortbread Base

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch *see recipe notes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Derby Bar Filling

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped (or walnuts chopped)
  • 1 splash Bourbon optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8 by 8 pan with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray. 
  • In a small bowl, mix together the base ingredients (melt the butter in the microwave): melted butter, brown sugar, flour and salt. Press into an even layer at the bottom of the pan.
  • Using the same bowl (or a different one if you really want to wash two bowls) add the filling ingredients: melted butter, brown sugar, flour, salt, vanilla and two eggs. Mix together with a fork or spoon until fully incorporated.
  • Pulse pecans in a blender or food processor a few times to chop into small pieces.
  • Add chocolate chips and pecans to the filling and mix together. Add a splash of bourbon if desired.
  • Spread the filling mixture on top of the base bar layer.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes until edges are brown and the filling mixture is set. See recipe notes about length of baking time needed.
  • Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

Notes

The bake time on these bars is about 40 minutes. Different ovens bake differently, so watch your bars. When they are no longer jiggly in the middle, they are ready to come out of the oven and cool. This may take more or less time depending on your oven. 
*The original posted version of this recipe left out the cornstarch. I like a little bit of cornstarch to give the bar a smoother flavor. You can leave this out if you want.
Keyword Kentucky Derby

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Family Favorite Toffee Bars

You know those family recipes that are made over and over and remind you of childhood, good times and love all wrapped up in one little bite? This is that recipe for me.

When my parents were newly married, my mom found this recipe among one of her “newlywed” cookbooks and made it. My dad walked into the kitchen, saw these irresistible bars and proceeded to eat half the pan without even knowing the name (who knows if the “eating half the pan” part is really quite true, but you know how “family stories” go that have been told for generations…). Finally, in between bites, my dad asked my mom, “What are these things?!” and my mom feeling a little bit proud, a little bit irritated and mostly looking for a laugh told him, “Goat Milk Bars!” My dad sputtered a little bit, choked down his bite and then laughed about it later. Ever since, the bars have made an appearance at many family events and will forever be known to our family as “Goat Milk Bars.”

“Goat Milk Bars” is our family name for these amazing toffee bars

In preparing to write up this family favorite recipe, I actually asked my mom if she knew the real name for these bars and she remembered that they were known to the rest of the world as “Toffee Bars.” Whatever you want to call them, “Goat Milk Bars” or “Toffee Bars,” these are sure to be a hit with your family too. They are super simple, just a few pantry-staple ingredients, a little mixing, pressing the crumbly mixture into the pan and finishing the top with chocolate chips. They are the perfect treat to make with your kids or even better, have your kids make for you! The most difficult part of these bars is waiting for them to cool. 

These are best served room temperature…so delicious!

A pro tip, one I’ve learned from the many years I’ve been making these bars, is after taking them out of the oven and letting cool on the counter a bit, stick the pan in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes to help speed the cooling process up. These bars also freeze beautifully if you have any extras. If you are looking for the perfect, simple treat, this is it. I hope you love these as much as we do. Go ahead and try calling them “Goat Milk Bars” to your family and watch those reactions…priceless!

Yield: One 8 by 8 pan of bars, cut into 16 pieces

Time: 10 minute mix, 25 minute bake, 1 hour cool

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare an 8 by 8 pan
  2. In a mixing bowl mix the softened butter until creamy with a handheld or stand mixer. Add the brown sugar and cream together. 
  3. Mix in the egg yolk, vanilla and salt and beat well.
  4. Add the flour a cup at a time and mix. The dough will look very crumbly but will be soft. Pour it into an 8 by 8 pan and press evenly into the pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 23-25 minutes until the edges turn a very light brown and the middle is cooked. Take the pan out of the oven and turn the oven off. Pour the 1 cup of chocolate chips on top. Put back the pan back in the still-warm oven for 1 minute allowing the chocolate to melt.
  6. When the chocolate chips are melted (about 60 seconds), take the pan out of the oven and spread the melted chocolate evenly over the bars.
  7. Allow bars to cool and chocolate to set before cutting into bars. Enjoy!

Recipe notes: This recipe will also work in a 9 by 13 pan, though your bars won’t be as thick. You will want to decrease the bake time to 20 minutes. 

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

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