Last week, frustrated by the continually wet weather, I found myself in need of a little sweetness in my life. I decided that now is the perfect time of year to pull out some the recipes that have recently made it onto my „MUST BAKE“ list. It seems to many people, including myself, that baking is just the perfect comfort-style activity for a soggy day in early March.
So to combat my dreary weather blues, I decided to give these Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars a go. The original recipe hails from the Guittard Chocolate Cookbook by Amy Guittard (here).
We ate these lovely treats mid-afternoon, still a bit warm from the oven, with steaming cups of tea. That explains not only why there were none left the first time I made them, but also why they are not cut into straight, razor-sharp slices but showcase a bit of a wobbly, comforting look. And while I am putting this post together this morning, it is still raining outside – cold and chilly. For sure, the right time to go and get baking some more.
Trust me, while we are still a few weeks away from Easter baking, this time of year is really good for pulling out some of these recipes that you have been wanting to try out for a while now. In this recipe the principal flavors are high-quality milk chocolate and a rich, deeply molasses flavored sugar as well as oats (I have come to greatly appreciate a mix of five wholemeal grains here – milled they way they are, they all do look like coarse oatmeal), coconut and tart cherries or cranberries that offset the sweetness of the chocolate in the most delightful of way. The Ceylon cinnamon and the pure vanilla sugar add more wonderful warm flavors to these chewy bar cookies.
We found these bar cookies to be at their best with high-quality milk chocolate not bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Just do make sure to use the best dark milk chocolate that you can find, meaning that the cacao solids are more than 30%. And make sure to chop the milk chocolate very coarsely, so there will be big, discernible chunks in the finished cookie bars.
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
- 1 1/3 cups (160 grams) AP (plain) flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 8 tbsps (4 ounces, 115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) packed soft dark brown sugar (I used dark muscovado sugar from Tate & Lyle, nice to use Fairtrade product here)
- 1 egg, (L), free-range or organic, at room temperature
- 8 grams pure vanilla sugar
- 5 tbsps. milk (I used whole milk)
- 3/4 cup (90 grams dried cranberries or sour cherries
- 1 cup (90 grams) unsweetened coconut (nice to use organic, coarsely shredded coconut, easily available at the health food store)
- 3/4 cup (60 grams) rolled oats, not the porridge oats (I went with a mix of five wholemeal organic grains, oats, wheat, rye, barley, and spelt)
- 1 1/2 cups (255 g) milk chocolate chips or coarsely chopped milk chocolate, preferably with minimum 30% cocoa solids (get the best you can afford)
- Preheat your oven to 350° F (180º C or 160°C fan-assisted)
- Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33cm) rectangular pan and dust the inside with flour, tapping out any excess.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on high-speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, vanilla sugar, and milk until smooth. At this point, the mixture is likely to look rather curdled but do not worry, it will all come together in the end.
- Stir in the flour mixture, then stir in the cranberries or sour cherries, coconut, oats (or oat mix), and chocolate chips just until combined. NOTE: The batter will be thick, like cookie dough.
- Spread the batter in the baking pan and even it out with your hands. You can use a little bit of water here to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers.
- Bake the bars until they feel like they are almost cooked in the middle, but not fully done, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Let cool completely in the pan. When cool, cut into 3-inch (8cm) bars or squares.
Theoretically, these bar cookies are good keepers. Wrapped in foil, they will still be fine for a couple of days. But we found them to be at their best the same day they were made.
As far as the baking time is concerened, the original recipe said the bars will take 35 to 40 minutes to bake. But as with brownies, it is always better to undercook rather than overcook a bar cookie 20 to 25 minutes seems more reasonable, but, as ever, keep an eye on them and trust your own judgment over the clock.
Now, go get some sweet March baking done while the weather out there is still dreary...