If you’re anything like us, you’ve been frantically trying to find a way to get rid of the Halloween candy before Thanksgiving hits. May we share our latest strategy on this front?
Let me be honest: we love candy in this house. That is, Mama loves candy and endorses it (in reasonable portions) for all family members and guests. But we try to keep to a one-holiday-at-a-time rule with the candy, so we’ve been looking for creative ways to jettison the Halloween treats from the Candy Store.
We keep the Candy Store in the living room — far from the kitchen — in order to discourage snacking while preparing meals.
So, when faced with a 3-quart bowl full of chocolate candies last week, did we despair? No! We rose to the challenge and invented the girls’ new favorite cookie treat: the Candy Bar Bar. This is essentially our favorite shortbread cookie recipe with chopped up chocolate candies used in place of other mix-ins. Candy bar + bar cookie = Candy Bar Bar. (We did consider melting candy to put on top so we could call it a “Candied Candy Bar Bar,” but that seemed a little excessive.)
We had to establish standards about which candies made the cut: chocolate, caramel, peanuts, and nougat all fit the bill. No Mounds bars: the coconut would be weird with the peanut butter. No Tootsie Rolls: too chewy. Yes on the Kit Kats, but no on the peanut M&Ms (which I find to be perpetually stale). And, of course, this recipe does nothing for your stash of Smarties and Sour Patch Kids — you’ll just have to eat those in all their unadorned glory.
The resulting confection was everything we hoped for: buttery, crispy, chocolatey, and with some surprise flavors (“Ooh! I just got two Reese’s Pieces!”). I sliced these cookies a bit smaller than the original iteration to compensate for the richness of the candy — and to allow room for two (or three, or four) tiny cookies in a person’s belly. A delicious way to pave the way for the next season’s toffees, peppermints, and pumpkin pies. Happy baking!
The Candy Bar Bar
This is an adaptation of our favorite Butter Toffee Crunch Shortbread Cookies, which was originally adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen, by Regan Daley. If you know that recipe, you can just substitute two cups of chopped chocolate candies for the butterscotch chips and toffee bits. Or simply follow along with the modified recipe here.
Let me start off with a few notes on some slightly unusual ingredients.
- Superfine sugar is just what it sounds like: very finely ground sugar (but not powdered sugar). I have seen superfine sugar in the “mixed drinks” section at liquor stores, and possibly in the baking aisles of some grocery stores. You can also use “fruit sugar” (which you can find at health food stores). I usually just take some regular granulated sugar and whiz it in my mini food processor for twenty seconds. (I just spun up a giant batch this week to handle all of my Christmas shortbread baking needs.) You could probably get the same effect if you go at it with a mortar and pestle, especially with this small amount. Or just go ahead and try regular sugar — how bad can it be?
- Rice flour can be found pretty easily (at least in Chicago) in the organic/health food aisle in grocery stores. I’ve been using Bob’s Red Mill White Rice Flour in my recipes these days. You can also use cornstarch in a pinch, but it won’t lend quite the same crunchy texture to the recipe.
¾ lb butter (3 sticks), room temperature
6 tablespoons superfine sugar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup rice flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped chocolate candies of your choice
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9”×13” pan, then line it with parchment paper, leaving a 1” overhang on the two long sides. Set aside.
Cream butter together with the sugars. In a separate bowl, combine flours and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to butter until just combined. (This will give your stand mixer a workout. If you’re doing it by hand, Regan Daley recommends mixing in the last bit of flour with your hands.) Add in the chopped chocolate; mix until distributed throughout.
Press dough into the prepared pan using your fingers and the heel of your hand — don’t stress about getting it all perfectly even, just do your best. Smooth it with the back of a spoon, then prick it all over with a fork. Bake for 45 minutes, then take it out and prick it all over again. Return to the oven for 15 minutes, then remove.
This shortbread cools into a very firm cookie, so you’ll need to cut it while it is still warm. Let shortbread cool for 7 or 8 minutes after removing it from the oven. Then lift it up by the parchment paper and transfer to a cutting board (no need to remove parchment). Using a chef’s knife, make two long slices lengthwise, dividing it into three long rectangles, then divide each of those long rectangles lengthwise in half (so you have six very tall, skinny bars). Slice across the rectangles into ¾” to 1” fingers. Regan recommends wiping off the blade between slices so as to cut down on any tearing that might occur when sticky bits grab onto the blade, but I usually skip that step with no problem.
Leave the shortbread to cool, then package in an airtight container. These cookies also freeze very well, which sometimes helps reduce the pre-breakfast nibbling temptation.
Yields about 72 cookies.