Caramel Cookie Dough Shortbread Bars

The other day, my 16-month-old locked me in my pantry. No, I’m not kidding.

I was standing in the doorway of my walk-in pantry, whose knob was set as locked to prevent my sneaky child from busting into my closed pantry behind my back and helping himself to whatever goodies he can reach. As I was combing the shelves looking for some caramel candies, the baby decided to sneak up behind me and start pushing the door into me. Now in all fairness, I didn’t try very hard to resist, thinking there was no way my little 16-month-old could possibly exert enough force to shove my body all the way into the pantry via the door. But lo and behold, I was wrong, ‘cause about eight seconds later, the child managed to push me all the way into the pantry, thus locking me in.

My husband, who was on hand for most of this scene, found it extraordinarily funny. Me, not so much. Actually, that’s not true. I laughed about it after the fact, but was also quite thankful that my husband was on hand to immediately bust me out.

Of course, this incident has caused me to rethink my strategy of keeping the child out of the pantry, and so going forward, I will not lock the door, but rather will use one of those annoying but necessary baby-proof knobs that makes opening things unbelievably difficult (for me) but will most likely do the job of keeping my junk food stash safe and out of my child’s mouth.

Anyway, once I recovered from my very brief moment of pantry incarceration, I got to work making these amazing shortbread cookie bars. I’ve done something similar in the past along the lines of classic Millionaires’ Shortbread, which is basically a shortbread base, caramel center, and chocolate glaze. But when I saw this recipe on Brown Eyed Baker, one of my absolute favorite baking blogs, I decided I had to go for it.

These bars are nothing short of amazing. I was actually worried that the cookie dough layer would make them a bit too sweet, but they turned out perfectly. The original recipe is enough for an 8×8 pan, but I wanted extra to bring in to work, so I made one and a half times the recipe to fill a 9×13. In hindsight, I could’ve stuck with the 8×8. These bars are wonderful, but they’re also incredibly rich, and believe it or not, you really only need a small piece to come away satisfied.

Although you do have the option of storing these beauties at room temperature, I decided to keep mine in the fridge and found that I enjoyed them cold—so much so, that my once-ample supply is now rapidly dwindling.


Caramel Cookie Dough Shortbread Bars
Original recipe from Brown Eyed Baker


For the shortbread base:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used a little more to bring out the vanilla flavor)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup AP flour

For the caramel layer:
7 ounces soft caramel candies (about 25 candies), unwrapped (I used Kraft caramels)
2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the cookie dough layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup AP flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the chocolate glaze:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter


To make the shortbread:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on two sides.
2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the vanilla and salt, and beat until combined.
4. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated; the dough may appear slightly crumbly.
5. Firmly press the dough into your prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes (22 to 25 minutes if you’re making enough for a 9×13 pan), or until the edges are lightly golden.
6. Remove pan from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool slightly.

To make the caramel layer:
1. Place the caramel candies in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the heavy cream and stir until completely melted. (Disclaimer: I totally cheated and melted these together in the microwave. It turned out just fine, but I made sure to watch it carefully.)
2. Pour the caramel mixture over the shortbread crust and spread into an even layer.
3. Refrigerate until set, about one hour.

To make the cookie dough:
1. Combine the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and mix well.
3. Add the flour and salt, and mix on low until incorporated.
4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Spread the cookie dough on top of the set caramel layer, using a spatula to smooth the dough into an even layer.
6. Refrigerate the pan while you prepare your glaze.

To make the chocolate glaze:
1. Combine the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring well after each, until it’s completely melted and smooth.
2. Spread the glaze over the cookie dough layer and chill in the fridge until set, about one hour.

To remove the bars from the pan, grasp the edges of the parchment paper and lift out the entire block. Place on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut into squares.

The original recipe says that these can be stored at room temp in an airtight container for up to three days. As I said, I opted to keep mine in the fridge. Don’t struggle with the decision too much; they’re delicious either way.

Chewy Dark Chocolate Cookie Bars With Peanut Butter Chips

There’s just something about the marriage of chocolate and peanut butter that works wonders for my taste buds. I’ve made countless desserts featuring this classic combination, and I have to say, these bar cookies are definitely among my favorite.

First of all, they’re just so incredibly easy to prepare, and you get a lot of bars for not a lot of work. Second, they’re chewy and flavorful without being overwhelmingly sweet or rich. The original recipe calls for regular unsweetened cocoa, but I’ve been on a dark chocolate kick, so I decided to use mostly dark cocoa for my batch.

If you have about 15 spare minutes tonight (which, trust me, I know some of you don’t), go ahead and make these. Then pour yourself a tall glass of cold milk and enjoy each wonderful bite.


Chewy Dark Chocolate Cookie Bars With Peanut Butter Chips
Recipe from Hershey’s

2 and 1/2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups AP flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used about 1/3 cup regular and Hershey’s Special Dark for the rest)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 2/3 cups peanut butter chips

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.
2. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
4. Stir together your flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually blend into butter mixture.
5. Stir in peanut butter chips.
6. Spread the batter into the prepared pan (it will be somewhat stiff).
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
8. Cool the bars completely in their pan on a wire rack before cutting into them.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Sometimes it pays to keep things simple flavor-wise. Case in point: the classic peanut butter and jelly combination. Growing up, PB&J sandwiches were a steady part of my school lunch rotation; and while I suppose I enjoyed them, they certainly didn’t stand out at the time as anything particularly special. But as I got older, I began to develop a fondness for PB&J. Maybe it’s because your coworkers look at you funny when you’re sitting around the break room table and they’re all eating their tandoori chicken takeout while you’re eating something they haven’t tasted since 1987. Or perhaps it’s because there’s just something about the awesome flavor combination that simply brings back memories of being a carefree kid.

Either way, peanut butter and jelly is a winner in my book, so it was only natural take the concept one step further by turning it into dessert. I found this Martha Stewart recipe and decided to give it a go, and the result was a batch of peanut butter and jelly bars that are good enough to make any adult feel like a kid again.

For some reason, these bars took a little longer to make than I initially expected. The peanut butter dough was really thick, and so I had to keep scraping down the sides of my mixer bowl and adjusting the speed up and down. And then it took me awhile to chop up the peanuts and make the crumbly dough topping, but that’s partly because for some strange reason, I love the feeling of balled-up dough in between my fingers and probably wasn’t in a particular rush to get the process over with.

This recipe makes a nice amount of PB&J bars—which means you’ll probably have enough left over to divvy up among your coworkers in exchange for their promise to stop mocking you for your peanut butter and jelly lunches, at least for the foreseeable future.


Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
Recipe from Martha Stewart

1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more to butter the pan
3 cups of AP flour, plus more for the pan
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 and 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups of your favorite jam flavor (I used strawberry and classic grape—I’ll explain)
2/3 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with butter, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the parchment, and coat inside of the pan with flour; set aside.
2. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the mixture on medium-high until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and peanut butter; beat on medium until well-combined (this took me about 3-4 minutes; the original recipe estimates 2).
3. Whisk together the salt, baking powder, and flour. Add dry ingredients to mixture and beat on low-medium speed until well-combined (this took me another 3-4 minutes, alternating between speeds).
4. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated.
5. Transfer 2/3 of the mixture to your prepared pan, and spread evenly.
6. With a spatula, spread jam on top of peanut-butter mixture. **
7. Crumble remaining peanut butter mixture on top of the jam layer, and sprinkle with peanuts.
8. Bake until the tops turn golden, about 45-55 minutes. (The inserted toothpick test doesn’t really work here because the jelly layer is always going to be gooey.)
9. Transfer to a wire rack and make sure to cool these completely before cutting into them. I stuck them in the fridge to set for about an hour and then left them out on my counter for another hour before slicing them up—and that totally did the trick.

**I wanted to see what these would taste like with both strawberry and grape jelly, so I decided to put strawberry over half of the base and grape over the other half. While I don’t think the two versions taste remarkably different from one another, I do like the way the strawberry version gives you a touch of tanginess while the grape bars really take you back to that classic old-school flavor. I also wound up with a few hybrid bars as a result of the strawberry and grape jellies melting into each other in the middle of the pan during the baking process, but happily, those tasted just as good as their individual strawberry or grape counterparts.




Shortbread Caramel Brownie Bars

Sometimes a plain old brownie just doesn’t cut it. Or at least that was my way of thinking when I decided to go for something a little more jazzed-up on the brownie front.

These brownies are awesome and delicious. You get a buttery shortbread crust, a gooey caramel layer, and a soft, chewy brownie on top. What more could you want? The only downside is that they do take a bit of time to prepare, as there are multiple steps involved. (I made these over the weekend…no way do I have time for multi-step baking during the week.) But if you have the time, and the patience (which is just as important), do yourself a favor and bake up a batch of these beauties. Have I mentioned how utterly delicious they are?


Shortbread Caramel Brownie Bars

1 and 1/2 cups (3/4 lb.) butter
2 and 1/2 cups AP flour
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
12 ounces individually wrapped soft caramels, such as Kraft
1/4 cup whole milk
10 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make the crust:
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cut up 1 cup of butter into chunks.
3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, cornstarch, and the butter chunks.
4. Process until the dough comes together and press it evenly over the bottom of a buttered 9×13 baking pan.
5. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the crust starts to brown.
6. Remove from oven and let cool completely before adding the next layer.
To make the caramel layer:
1. Unwrap your caramels and place them in a microwave-safe bowl with the milk.
2. Cook in a microwave oven on full power for one minute. Stir the mixture, then cook and stir at 30-second intervals until melted and smooth, about 3 minutes longer.
3. Spread caramel mixture evenly over cooled crust and chill until firm, about 20 minutes.
To make the brownies:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pour chocolate and remaining 1/2 cup butter into a large bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bottom of bowl should not touch water). You can also use a double boiler. Stir the mixture until melted and smooth.
3. With a whisk or a mixer on medium speed, beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well-blended.
4. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, and salt until well-blended.
5. Pour chocolate mixture over caramel layer and use a knife or spatula to spread level, completely covering caramel.
6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
7. Cool completely before cutting into bars.