Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars Are the Perfect Dessert for a Bake Sale or Potluck

published Apr 11, 2022
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Necessity is the mother of invention, and there’s no one with more ingenuity than a frazzled mother in need of two dozen cookies for a potluck in an hour. I was fortunate to grow up with a mom who baked. If you needed brownies for the bake sale or a sheet cake for a birthday, she would show up with a 9×13 tucked under her arm. Her chocolate chip cookie bars were a crowd favorite.

Now as a mother myself, I realize that not only are chocolate chip cookie bars delicious, but they are the perfect thing to throw together when you’re short on ingredients and rushed for time. 

Why chocolate chip cookie bars?

The thing about cookies is that they’re deceptively time consuming. While it doesn’t take much time to whip up a batch of cookie dough, the 13 minute cook time the recipe boasts is a bit of false advertisement. The scooping and rolling plus the rotating and multiple batches it takes to bake off the whole batch adds up to way more time than you probably allotted for.

What’s a mom to do? Well, my mom crammed an entire batch of cookie dough into a baking pan, threw the whole thing in the oven for about 25 minutes, and cut them into cookie bars. Fast forward 25 years and cookie bars are my greatest party trick.

I know many find it easier to swing by the store for a package of frosted sugar cookies (and truly no judgment if you go that route!) but I find it easier to just pull out the butter and sugar and throw together a batch of these bar cookies. I’ve always got everything on hand. They’re especially handy during this busy spring season of sports potlucks, school art walks, end of year parties, and last minute warm weather get-togethers with friends and neighbors. 

How are chocolate chip cookie bars different from blondies?

Chocolate chip cookie bars have more texture than any blondie I’ve ever had. Blondies tend to start with melted butter, with everything else added to the bowl for a dump-and-stir situation. They tend to rely on mix-ins for texture, especially those center pieces that don’t have the benefit of contrast from that well-cooked edge. But taking a few extra minutes to cream the butter and sugar for cookie bars gives you that combo of chewy/crispy/soft that good cookies have.

What recipe do I use for chocolate chip cookie bars?

My mom modifies the classic Tollhouse recipe, upping the ratio of brown sugar and swapping in some butterscotch chips for deeper flavor. I use the chocolate chip cookie from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, adding some whole wheat pastry flour for sneaky fiber and two kinds of chocolate chips. 

The two recipes are actually quite similar. Any recipe you follow that starts with 1 cup of butter (2 sticks) should fit nicely in a 9×13 pan. Half a batch should work in an 8×8 pan, but it’s exactly zero more work to make a full batch. 

How do I make chocolate chip cookie bars?

  • Make the cookie dough. Any chocolate chip cookie recipe that uses 2 sticks of butter and about 2 cups of flour should work. 
  • Grease or line a 9×13 metal baking pan. Lining with parchment makes for easy cleanup, but a quick spray of cooking oil works just fine.
  • Press the cookie dough into the prepared pan. This can be a little tricky, as it’s definitely a stiffer dough than a pourable batter. Use the butter wrapper to press the dough into the pan to avoid getting your hands all sticky. The dough may look thinner than you expect, but it will bake up nicely.
  • Bake at 350°F for about 25 minutes. This can vary depending on the exact recipe you’re using, but start checking around 22 minutes. The edges will be golden and a toothpick stuck into the center will come out clean. 
  • Cool and cut. You don’t need to wait until fully cooled to cut like brownies, but letting them rest for at least 15 minutes helps deliver cleaner cuts.