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Whenever I’m invited to dinner parties, I’m usually always asked to bring a dessert. I used to bring pies and cakes and large family-style desserts to make an impression. But as I’ve been to more and more, I’ve realized that what most people want after a large meal is really just a small nibble of something really indulgent. That’s why these days I always bring cookies. But they can’t just be sugar cookies; they need to have a little more panache.
Bar cookies, like lemon bars or brownies, are my favorites because they’re basically a regular dessert in mini form. One of my favorites to bring is these chocolate-nut bars. Like a cross between a pecan pie and shortbread, they’re intensely rich but small enough for two bites, so you feel sated after one…or two, depending on the size of your sweet tooth. What’s better is that these are that rare sweet that actually gets better the longer it sits, so you can make them a day ahead, keep them wrapped in the fridge, and then just grab them on the way out of the door.
Makes about 4 dozen
18 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, divided
1-1/3 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 egg yolk, plus 3 whole eggs
2-1/3 cups flour
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
9 oz. walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
2/3 cup maple syrup
- Combine 12 tbsp. butter, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp. salt, and egg yolk in a medium bowl, and using a hand mixer, beat until fluffy and smooth. Add the flour and beat on low speed until well combined and a crumbly dough forms. Transfer dough to a parchment paper-lined 9” x 13” metal baking pan and press into the bottom and about 1/2” up the sides of the pan to create a smooth and even, thin crust. Spread the chocolate chips evenly over the bottom and then top with the nuts.
- Heat oven to 375°. Melt remaining butter, and then pour into a bowl and whisk in remaining sugar, vanilla extract, salt, whole eggs, and the maple syrup; whisk until smooth. Gently and slowly pour over nuts and chocolate in pan to create and even filling and then place in oven. Bake, rotating once halfway during cooking, until filling is set, about 45-50 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely to room temperature before cutting into finger-sized bars or larger squares.
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