They are my go-to Sunday sweet when I haven’t thought far enough ahead to make a triple layer chiffon cake with vanilla bean pastry cream filling and edible flowers for garnish.
So…basically, they are my go-to Sunday dessert 99.9% of the time.
A couple weeks ago, I wanted a quick Sunday treat but I was craving something new. Something different.
Something so crazy delicious, my family would ooh and aah and erect a monument in the backyard dedicated to Their Loving Mother Who Makes the Best Bar Desserts Ever.
All I can say is: mission accomplished.
These caramelly, oaty chocolate chunk shortbread bars are amazing!
And there’s no real surprises or secret ingredients. They are exactly like they sound.
A buttery shortbread base is prebaked and then topped with a quick and simple browned butter, quick-caramel mixture studded with chocolate chunks (or chips), oats, coconut (but only if you wish!), and toffee bits and then baked again.
The textures! The flavors! I mean, you can put just about anything on top of a shortbread crust this delicious, and I’d probably eat it.
But when it’s an ooey gooey mixture with chocolate (of course) and a hearty touch of oatmeal and toffee, well, I’m going to be all over that.
What really got my family constructing that best-mom-ever monument ASAP was when we scooped the delectable shortbread bars right out of the pan, still very warm, and topped them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Oh my heavens. Deliciousness that knows no ends.
My kids will never know this divine variation resulted because I didn’t plan ahead far enough to let the bars cool, of course, but what they don’t know can’t hurt them, right?
Make these and I guarantee you’ll get your own life-size monument dedicated to your awesomeness…or your money back! Er, or something like that.
14 tablespoons butter (7 ounces), cold, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons, 4 ounces) butter
1/2 cup (3.75 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (5.5 ounces) light or dark brown sugar (I prefer dark brown in this recipe)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (3.75 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened (optional)
1/2 cup (3 ounces) toffee bits
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) white, milk, semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chunks or chocolate chips (can use a combination!)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9X13-inch pan (I prefer metal/aluminum baking pans for recipes like this) with foil and grease with nonstick cooking spray. The foil is optional but helps with pulling out the bars and with clean up.
In the bowl of a food processor (read on for alternate method!), add the flour, salt and sugar. Pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the butter across the mixture and process for another 30-45 seconds until the dough clumps together in several large pieces (it should stick together if you press a handful together). Alternately, you can combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl and cut in the butter using a pastry blender, two forks, a couple knives, etc. Continue cutting in the butter and mixing the ingredients until you can press large clumps together in your hands (the butter will be in very small pieces).
Press the shortbread crust into an even layer in the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sides are just barely golden. Watch closely so the crust doesn't burn. It's better to take it out early rather than let it bake too long.
While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook the butter, stirring often, until it melts completely and little brown bits appear on the bottom of the pan (you are browning butter! Here's a quick tutorial if you want a visual). This will take a couple minutes, but watch closely, or else it can go from brown butter to burned butter very quickly!
Off the heat, stir in the granulated sugar, brown sugar and salt. The mixture will be thick. Let it cool for a few minutes.
Whisk in the eggs and vanilla until the mixture is well-combined.
Stir in the oats, coconut (if using), toffee bits and chocolate chips. Spread the mixture evenly over the shortbread crust.
Bake for 20 minutes until the bars are set around the edges and the middle isn't super jiggly (a little jiggle is ok, but bake them a few minutes longer if the middle of the bars still looks really liquidy). If you aren't sure if the bars are done, err on the side of taking them out without overbaking, even if they still seem a little gooey in the center. They'll set up as they cool.
These bars are delicious served warm (scoop them right out of the pan and don't stress about getting clean cuts) with ice cream OR you can let the bars cool completely and cut into squares and serve.
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