This past week, I had a professional development day with the rest of the fine arts department of Norfolk Public Schools. Art professional development is always pretty fantastic. We spend a few hours in a studio workshop, take a long potluck lunch, and then spend a few hours listening to a guest artist, often local, talk about their work. That potluck lunch, though, always intimidates me. Art people tend to make really great food, I have noticed. In the past, I've usually contributed bags of chips or fruit trays. This year, however, I decided to go big and make something for the dessert table.
I found this recipe, Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Cookie Bars on Two Peas and Their Pod. I followed their recipe for the chocolate chip batter exactly, but instead of using the caramel pieces they called for, I made my own thick caramel filling. I happened to have all the ingredients for homemade caramel on hand, and I looooooooove to make caramel and have a hot spoonful of it.
To my happiness, when I went to grab my Gladware container at the end of the lunch, all of the bars were gone- not even a crumb left! It's definitely a great, rich dessert that you can make ahead- as they need to be refrigerated- and then bring to a party.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars
Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Batter
Ingredients can be found here
1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 stick of salted butter
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
Fleur de sel, for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a large 11 x 7 baking pan (I used a deep glass Pyrex dish).
- Mix the chocolate chip cookie bar batter according to the recipe on Two Peas and Their Pod.
- Pour half the batter into the greased baking pan. I used a spatula to flatten the dough to an even, 1/4" layer.
- While you could use any kind of melted caramel for the inner caramel layer, I love the creaminess of fresh homemade caramel. To make this, I first melted the butter into the sweetened condensed milk in a deep pot on low heat. You want to use a much deeper pot than what you need to hold the liquid, as it will boil and bubble considerably. Stir the mixture while the butter melts.
- After the butter has melted into the sweetened condensed milk, add the sugar and bring the heat up to high. The trick with caramel is to stir constantly and get prepared to stand there and stir for a while. Have your phone handy, have a beer nearby, whatever will help that do go by quickly.
- Once the mixture reaches a rolling, foamy boil, bring the heat down to medium and allow it to simmer, again stirring constantly. Stir until the mixture is an amber color and feels "thickened". You can always test caramel by letting a few droplets of the mixture drip into a glass of cold water- it should harden in the cold water. This process takes anywhere from 12-20 minutes.
- When the mixture has thickened, pour it over the chocolate chip batter and sprinkle lightly with the fleur de sel.
- Add the rest of the chocolate chip batter over the caramel. I scooped tablespoon sized balls of dough out the mixing bowl and spread these out evenly over the caramel. Keep in mind that you want about a 1/4" of pan at the top, as the caramel will bubble up while it is in the oven. Don't overfill the pan.
- Bake for 30 minutes. The top cookie layer should be golden brown. The bars will look at bit puffy, not unlike a souffle, when you pull it out, but it will sink down as it cools.
- I allowed the bars to first cool at room temperature, then put them in the refrigerator until I was ready to cut them. The caramel layer is very thick and creamy, so cooling is essential to getting them to cut into pretty squares.