Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Have you guys seen the movie Elf? Do you remember that scene where Buddy is eating dinner with the family and says “We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.” Well that pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter too; I have such a huge sweet tooth it’s not even funny. The things that other people complain are way too sweet? Those are the ones I usually love the most! I remember as a kid my grandmother used to sprinkle sugar on sliced tomatoes (I quickly followed her lead, and still put sugar on tomatoes to this day) so maybe I should blame her? :)

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

In the past few years, I’ve really come to appreciate the addition of some flaky sea salt to my favorite sweets. It’s such a great combo, and salted caramel sauce has got to be one of the best examples. I love it as is (seriously, give me a jar and a spoon and I’m a very happy girl), but it’s also a fun way to jazz up traditional baked goods, like brownies and cheesecake. And now, we can add cookies to the list too!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for a while, and I’m so glad I finally pushed it to the top of my to-do list. A layer of salted caramel sauce is baked into the middle of my favorite cookie bar to create a completely irresistible and super indulgent dessert. I modified Michelle’s version in two ways: first, I decreased the amount of chocolate in the bars because I like a high ratio of dough to chocolate in my cookies. Second, she melted down caramel candies for the sauce in the middle, but since I didn’t have any on hand, I made a batch of my favorite salted caramel sauce from scratch. The bars are pretty gooey on day 1 and I loved them like that, but if gooey isn’t your thing they do firm up on day 2. Assuming they last that long, of course :)

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
concept from Two Peas and their Pod (via Brown Eyed Baker), cookie bars adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, salted caramel sauce from Baked Explorations

(Note: This recipe makes more caramel sauce than you’ll need for the bars – you’ll have more than enough to make a batch of these brownies afterward!)

Salted Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream

Cookie Bars
2 1/8 cups (10 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup (7 oz) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips
6 tablespoons salted caramel sauce
fleur de sel, for sprinkling

To make the caramel: Add the sugar, corn syrup and water to a medium saucepan and stir gently to combine. Set the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture registers 350 F on a candy thermometer (if you don’t have a thermometer cook until the mixture is amber in color). Turn off the heat under the pan and slowly add the cream (the caramel will bubble up quite a bit so be mindful) then the fleur de sel. Stir in the sour cream until the mixture is smooth. Let cool while you work on the brownies.

To make the cookie bars: Preheat oven to 325 F with a rack in the lower third. Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides to allow you to lift the bars out after baking. Spray the aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. In a second bowl, combine the butter and both sugars, whisking until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla and whisk to completely incorporate. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and use a rubber spatula to fold the dry into the wet just until combined. (The batter will be quite thick.) Use the rubber spatula to fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer half of the batter to the prepared pan, pressing it into an even layer in the bottom. Pour the caramel sauce over the cookie dough, leaving just a little space around the edges. Use a small cookie scoop to dollop the remaining cookie dough over the salted caramel. Press down gently with your fingertips to distribute. It’s fine if the caramel layer isn’t completely covered – it will spread to cover as it bakes. Sprinkle the top with fleur de sel. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the bars are golden brown and slightly firm to the touch. The bars will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan when they’re done.

Remove the pan to a wire rack. Let the bars cool completely before lifting them out of the pan and cutting into squares to serve.