One of the best things about baking, one of the things that makes me love doing it so frequently, is being able to share my baking. Obviously, I can’t eat everything I make or I would be huge, so that means I am constantly sharing my treats with family, friends, coworkers, sorority sisters, and neighbors.
These bars in particular went to the Stanley Steamer workers who happened to be at my house when I was finishing photographing them. The two young men were slightly confused to see my set-up, taking pictures of cookie bars on the table with my big background board all set up. Of course, they asked what I was doing, and after we talked about my blog for a little (and they finished cleaning the carpet), I sent them away with a big plate full of these bars.
They left the house, only to come back and knock on the door a minute later. When I answered the door the second time, they both just smiled and said “thank you so much! These are absolutely delicious, we really appreciate it.”
It’s the moments like those, sharing desserts that I’ve made with so much love, with strangers who I know will appreciate the little bit of added sweetness to their days, that remind me why I love to bake so much.
These bars are so easy to make, and so customizable to whatever your favorite treats are. I wanted to go the sweet & salty route, and opted to add M&Ms, pretzels, almonds, Rolos, and Snickers Bites, but you can easily customize the add-ins to whatever you have on hand.
The bars are chewy, sweet, and delicious, and this base recipe never fails to disappoint me. It creates the perfect bar cookie, in my opinion. One bowl, 10 minutes, and they’re in the oven. What more can you ask for in a cookie bar?!
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup of your favorite sweet and salty mix-ins (I used a mixture of mini pretzels, roasted almonds, M&Ms, Rolos, and Snickers Bites!)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray; set aside.
- Place butter in a medium sauce pan and heat over medium-low to medium heat. Butter will melt, then begin to bubble and foam. Brown specks will begin to form in the bottom of the pan, with a white foam will appear on top of the melted butter. Stir the butter very frequently to prevent burning. It should smell very nutty and the butter in the bottom of the pan should have brown flecks in it. This process should take 2-4 minutes. Butter can go from being browned and nutty-smelling to burnt and inedible in less than one minute. Watch for the brown specks and once you see them, remove the pan from the burner, continuing to whisk for another 30 seconds. Transfer butter into large mixing bowl and allow it to cool for a few minutes.
- Add the brown sugar to the browned butter and whisk to combine. Add the egg, vanilla, and whisk to combine. Add the flour, salt, and stir until just combined, taking care not to over-mix. Fold in your mix-ins. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing it lightly with a spatula or offset knife.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bars are set. The edges will be slightly pulling away from sides of pan. Allow bars to cool for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving into 16 squares. I like to refrigerate them before cutting to make them easier to cut. Bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.