Maple-Bacon Cookie Bars
A chocolate-studded brown butter blondie bathed in a maple-bacon buttercream.
These cookie bars are so over-the-top outrageous that they are bound to cause declarations of love - perhaps even marriage proposals! Thick-cut bacon is crisped in the oven and then painted with maple syrup. Some goes in the cookie batter - made with brown butter - along with a mix of miniature chocolate chips and white chocolate chips, and some goes on top of the buttercream as garnish. Speaking of buttercream, this frosting is made with maple syrup and bacon drippings instead of vanilla extract and butter or vegetable lard to impart that unmistakable maple-bacon flavor at every layer. You can trim the edges as I do for Best-Ever Brownies and Buckeye Blondies, for cookie bars with an elegant clean edge (and delectable scraps for the cook!).
Equipment: cutting board; chef's knife; rimmed sheet pan with rack (rack is optional); aluminum foil; tongs; sauté pan; wooden spoon; dry measuring cups; measuring spoons; tongs; large mixing bowl and hand mixer or standing mixer with paddle attachment; rubber spatula; 13x9 baking pan; parchment paper (optional)
Cookie Bar Ingredients:
12 ounces (5-6 slices) thick-cut bacon 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 + 2/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 large eggs 2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup white chocolate chips ½ cup miniature chocolate chips
2 cups confectioner's sugar ¼ cup bacon drippings
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
"Light or dark brown sugar works equally well in this recipe. Use what you have."
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line the 13x9 baking pan with parchment paper or foil so that it comes up all four sides for easy removal. Set aside. Line the rimmed sheet pan with foil and place on top of it a rack, if desired. Place the bacon strips on the rack, if using, or directly on the foil-lined rimmed sheet pan.
2. Cook the bacon in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the bacon. Return the pan to the oven and continue to cook until the bacon is crisped, approximately another 10 to 15 minutes.
3. While the bacon cooks, brown the butter. Place two sticks of butter in a sauté pan and set the heat to medium high. Cook the butter until the milk solids in the butter turn golden brown, scraping the pan as the butter browns to ensure that it does not blacken. Once browned, pour the butter into another vessel to cool. Set aside.
4. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the sugar, ¼ cup maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla for two minutes until creamy. Slowly pour in the brown butter - including the brown bits - and mix until well incorporated.
5. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Beat just until well incorporated and a dough forms. Stir in the miniature chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. Set aside.
"If you have maple sugar, you can use that in place of maple syrup in either or both the cookie batter and buttercream."
6. Once the bacon is cooked and crisped, remove it from the oven and blot it with paper towels to rid it of excess fat. Set the bacon on a cooling rack if it was not cooked on a rack. Paint one side of the bacon strips using one of the two tablespoons of remaining maple syrup. Five minutes later, flip the bacon and paint the other side with the remaining tablespoon of maple syrup. Wait five minutes before slicing the bacon strips each in half lengthwise, then in half crosswise, and then into ¼-inch dice. Reserve ¼ cup of the bacon drippings for the buttercream and set aside.
"Painting the bacon with maple syrup "candies" it, but in order for that to work, it is important to wait at least five minutes for the maple syrup to set. Don't worry about any maple syrup landing on the bacon drippings. All of those flavors will end up in the buttercream."
7. Fold in 2/3 of the chopped bacon into the cookie batter. Reserve the remaining bacon for garnish.
8. Press the cookie batter into the lined baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tender-but-firm to the touch.
9. Meanwhile, prepare the maple-bacon buttercream. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the confectioners sugar with ¼ cup bacon drippings, and 3 tablespoons maple syrup. Beat well tocombine and then add the milk or heavy cream. Beat for two minutes until creamy. Set aside.
10. Remove the baking pan from the oven and set aside to cool. After one hour, peel off the parchment paper or foil from the cookie bars. Spread the buttercream evenly across the top and sprinkle with reserved chopped bacon. Cut the blondies into squares using a chef's knife.
Makes 24 cookie bars.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.