Recently, our office held our annual (alright, second year in a row) holiday cookie exchange! If you know me, you know that baking is one of my favorite pastimes. If you know me REALLY well, you know that cookie bars are what got me hooked on baking – not, as you may think, cupcakes. I used to bake all the time in high school and most often made chocolate chip cookie bars to bring in during our post 3rd period snack time. What, you didn’ t have snack time in high school? (it was actually officially called Mid-morning and was a 10-15 min break where people could buy bagels, breakfast, etc. but it’s much cooler to say “snack time” in my opinion. It was between 3rd and 4th period, unless of course 8 took 3rd then it was between 8th and 4th periods..make sense? Public schools rock.) Well, we did and nearly once a week when I wasn’t bringing in my Kashi for breakfast (again, yes, I was eating Kashi in high school – I was that cool) I was bringing in blondies for my friends.
Anyway, long story short, I fell in love with baking, and especially cookies and bars, and was excited to bake some awesome bars for our holiday cookie exchange. Ever since I spotted these bar online and pinned them, I’d been excited to bake them … AND even more excited to share what was an AWESOME* recipe with you!
*note: this recipe is so awesome, it may make your taste-testers cry. No joke, a coworker who shall remain nameless started crying (of joy, naturally) when she bit into her first taste of cookie.
(adapted from Bettycrocker.com)
Here’s what you’ll need:
For the bottom layer:
- 1 bag of sugar cookie mix (I told you it was easy!)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 egg
- 10 Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, chopped into small pieces
- 1/2 c. Peanut butter chips
For the middle layer:
- 36 caramels (I used Werther’s creamy caramels)
- 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup peanuts
For the top layer:
- Your favorite homemade chocolate frosting recipe (or store-bought and make it even easier)
- 1/2 cup chopped peanuts, lightly salted
Here’s what you’ll do:
For bottom layer:
- In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter and egg until soft dough forms. Stir in Reese’s and peanut butter chips. Try to refrain from eating all the Reese’s before chopping!
- Press dough in bottom of greased (or in my case, sprayed with Pam) 13×9 cooking pan. Bake 18 to 20 minutes at 350 or until light golden brown.
- While first-layer cookie is baking (or another day … I made my bottom portion ahead of time and made the other layers the next day) in 2-quart saucepan, heat caramels and condensed milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, until caramels are melted.
- Stir in peanut butter. Heat to boiling. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup peanuts. Spread over warm cookie base with a heat-resistant spatula. Try to refrain from licking the spatula or you’ll burn your tongue (trust me, it may have happened!).
- Cool completely, about 2-3 hours OR about 35 min in the freezer. I chose the freezer method.
For top layer:
- While cooling, making the top frosting layer (or use your own store-bought chocolate frosting).
- Spread frosting evenly over filling. Sprinkle with peanuts. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until chilled.
- For bars, cut 9 rows by 4 rows. Then cut each bar on a diagonal, making cute bite-sized triangles.
- Enjoy! Share with coworkers who will cry when they first bite into them.
Some of the cookies from our cookie exchange: