About an hour ago, two of my Web teammates (names will be withheld to protect the guilty er, innocent) came and begged for chocolate.
BEGGED. I'm not kidding. They did everything but crawl on their knees.
"Oh, please, please, PJ, we NEEEEEED some chocolate. It's been such a lonnnnnng day. We need a pick-me-up. Don't you need to go bake something, like, right now?”
Who can resist that kind of pleading? Not I. Especially when the end goal is something I can totally endorse.
I fake reticence. "Gee, I have a lot of work to do right now...”
I can see their faces falling... shoulders drooping.... until I say, “But I was just looking at a recipe online that needs a new picture. How do chewy chocolate chip cookie bars sound?”
Great rejoicing ensues.
And eye-rolling, and satisfied sighs when I offer warm, chewy chocolate chip cookie bars to – OK, you've forced my hand – Halley and Tracy, two of King Arthur's most devoted chocolate-lovers.
Is there a chocoholic in YOUR life? Read on...
If you've never tried any of our extra-strong flavors – what are you waiting for? Just 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon adds rich, nuanced flavor to your cookies, bars, cakes, scones, muffins, breads, and other sweet treats. These bars are the perfect place to test one of the vanilla-caramelized-sugar type flavors, such as those pictured above.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9” x 13” pan.
Melt 2/3 cup (10 2/3 tablespoons) butter, and stir in 1 pound brown sugar; that's 2 firmly packed cups + 2 tablespoons, if you want to use a measuring cup rather than simply use a 1-pound box of brown sugar.
Add 3/4 teaspoon salt (1 teaspoon, if you've used unsalted butter), and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Stir until smooth.
Add 3 large eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl midway through this process.
Look how nicely the eggs thicken and lighten the batter.
Add 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder. 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder gives the bars extra depth of flavor, without adding any coffee taste; but omit it if you like.
Add 2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.
Stir until well combined.
Next up: chips and/or nuts of your choice. I'm using 3 cups (18 ounces) of semisweet chocolate chips here. But cappuccino chips, butterscotch chips, white chocolate, chopped walnuts or chopped pecans – all good.
Also, a 16-ounce bag of chocolate chips is 2 2/3 cups – close enough.
Stir until the chips are thoroughly dispersed throughout the batter.
Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges with a wet spatula (or your wet fingers). Smooth the top as best you can.
Bake the bars for 30 to 32 minutes...
...until they've risen, and their top is shiny and golden.
A cake tester inserted into the center won't come out clean; in fact, the center of the very middle of the pan may look quite molten when you dig into it. But so long as no wet batter is showing farther out towards the edges, the bars are done. As they cool, the center will solidify.
Remove the bars from the oven. If the edges have risen a lot compared to the center, use a flat spatula to tamp them down.
Cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.
These bars are very moist indeed just after you've removed them from the oven. You might think they're underbaked; that would be true, if you were going to eat them right away. But letting them cool completely (overnight is best) leaves them with wonderfully chewy, moist texture; if you baked them completely through initially, their final texture would be much drier.
Don't you love that satiny, delicate top crust?
Store completely cooled bars, well wrapped, at room temperature. To regain that delicious just-baked, melty chocolate freshness, reheat individual bars in the microwave very briefly, just until warm.
Want to make old-fashioned "congo bars?" Use a mixture of your favorite flavored chips: chocolate, white chocolate, cinnamon, cappuccino, butterscotch, etc.; plus chopped walnuts or pecans.
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