Your kids won’t trade away these lunch box goodies
With Labor Day coming up here in the US, kids are headed back to school. Which means they’ll soon be clamoring for lunch box treats and after-school snacks.
You could make that perennial favorite, chocolate chip cookies. But why not go one better and make these awesome chocolate chip bars?
Kids will love them. And grownups may sneak some into their lunch bags too.
Recipe: Chocolate Chip Bars
Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is the baker in our household, and she adapted this recipe from one she found on the King Arthur Flour site.
Prep time for this recipe is about 20 minutes. Baking time adds another 25 to 30 minutes. These bars are easier to cut if you let them cool completely, so allow another hour for that.
BTW, you really don’t want to overbake these—see the first Note.
This recipe yields about 2 dozen Chocolate Chip Bars. Leftover bars keep well for a few days if they’re sealed in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature. Or you can freeze them for a month or so.
- ~1 tablespoon butter for greasing the baking dish
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 2¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon instant espresso (optional but recommended)
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt (if using regular table salt, ½ teaspoon; see Notes)
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) additional butter, softened (we recommend unsalted butter)
- 2 cups + 2 tablespoons brown sugar, firmly packed (either light or dark brown will work)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (see Notes)
- 3 large eggs (consider using pasteurized for safety; see Notes)
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips + 4 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate (or just use 3 cups chocolate chips and skip the chopping)
- 2 cups chopped nuts (pecans are particularly tasty)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9"x13" baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, espresso (if using), and salt. Set aside.
- Cream the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl, if using a hand mixer). Add the vanilla extract, mixing until well combined. Add the eggs and beat well to combine.
- Add the chocolate chips, chopped chocolate (if using), and chopped nuts. Mix well to combine. Add the dry ingredients and beat until well mixed.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish, spreading it to the edges with a spatula or knife. Smooth the top.
- Bake the bars for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges look firm. Don’t over bake (see Notes).
- Remove the baking dish from the oven, and allow it to cool on a rack. Cut into 2 x 2 inch bars and serve.
- It’s easy to over bake these bars, so take care. Don’t try to judge them by inserting a knife or tester. Even though they may appear soft and “molten” in the center, they’re done when their top has turned golden brown and the edges are firming up. They will set as they cool.
- Why grease the baking dish and use parchment paper? Because these bars can stick like glue to your baking dish (especially when the chocolate chips melt). Using both butter and parchment paper provides extra protection against that.
- You can leave out the espresso if you want to make these bars super family-friendly. But we strongly suggest using it. Espresso deepens the taste of chocolate, and even the most sensitive palates probably won’t be put off by the small amount used in this recipe.
- What brand of chocolate to use in these bars? Basically, whatever you like. For chocolate chips, we’re partial to the classic Nestle brand, although Ghirardelli makes a mean chip too. For bar chocolate, we favor Ghirardelli these days, but we’re always experimenting.
- Either light or dark brown sugar works well in this recipe, although dark brown has a somewhat deeper flavor.
- Kosher salt is coarser than regular table salt, so it’s less salty by volume. If using regular table salt in this recipe, reduce the amount to ½ teaspoon.
- We recommend using high-quality (pure) vanilla extract in this recipe. Its flavor is so much better than the imitation kind.
- Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol for several months. If the label doesn’t say “pure,” that means it’s made from synthetic vanilla. The artificial kind is usually derived from the sapwood of several species of conifers—or from coal extracts! How appetizing. Not.
- BTW, the FDA requires that pure vanilla extract contain at least 35% alcohol.
- The flavor of some imitation vanillas can be nasty. You don’t have to spend a fortune on pure vanilla extract, but getting decent quality does mean spending a bit more for something that’s not loaded with sugar or imitation flavoring. Do yourself (and your family) a favor and get the real stuff.
- Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella. Once you thoroughly cook eggs (as you will when you bake these bars), they’re fine. But if you’re going to taste the dough before baking it—and who can resist?—we suggest using pasteurized eggs.
- If you have leftover nuts, we recommend storing them in the freezer. They can go rancid at room temperature, particularly during warm weather.
- We like to eat these bars neat. But if you want to serve them as dessert, you could plate them with some ice cream or whipped cream.
“Where has summer gone?” asked Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, nibbling on a Chocolate Chip Bar. “Kids are heading back to school already.”
“Yeah, I always dreaded this time of year when I was a kid,” I said, stuffing my face. “But if I’d had these great Chocolate Chip Bars in my lunch back then, I’d probably have begged to start school.”
“These might be even better than Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies,” said Mrs K R.
“That’s a great recipe,” I said, selecting another bar for myself. “And speaking of brownies, it’s been ages since you’ve made your Ultimate Chocolate Brownies.”
“Well, with cooler weather coming, I’ll soon be baking again,” said Mrs K R.
“Can’t wait till you start cranking out those goodies,” I said. “We may need to work on some new baking recipes for the blog.”
“Right,” said Mrs K R. “I guess that’s our version of homework.”
“And when it comes to baking, you know the lesson plan,” I said. “You make, I eat.”
“Indeed,” said Mrs K R. “And you always score 100 on every assignment.”
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Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies
Ultimate Chocolate Brownies
Chocolate Pepper Cookies
Grape Flaugnarde (Flan)
Chocolate Fudge with Nutella
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