Thursday, June 16, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pretzel Bars

Sometimes the greatest remedy for a weary soul is a trip down memory lane...

Something inherently magical occurs each and every time I set foot back on the Notre Dame campus. Even though much has changed since I was last a student living in the dorms and enjoying the tranquil beauty of the landscaped quads as my back yard, each and every time I go back I have the feeling of “coming home.” Even though I was only there a few short years, Notre Dame will always hold a special place in my heart. It is where I made the transition from teenager to adult. It is where I fell in love with my future husband. It is where I learned how to challenge my mind, spirit, and soul in new and invigorating ways. It is where I discovered my future vocation and life mission. For all these reasons, Our Lady’s University remains a place that I love, cherish, and miss dearly. Thankfully, I am in possession of the best souvenir from my years there in the form of my best friend, husband, and soul mate.

When Paul and I headed to Chicago for the wedding of Paul’s Notre Dame Freshman roommate, we knew that we had to indulge ourselves in a campus visit as we passed through the South Bend area. We had my sister Amy and of course my little extra appendage Lucy along with us. Amy had never really explored campus much in her recent memory, although I reminded her that both Paul and I used to babysit her when Mom came to town for meetings during our undergrad years. She would drop both Amy and Susanna off at the Main Circle and we would take them all around campus, let them run in the quads, feed the ducks by the lake, and enjoy an ice cream cone in the student center. I have a really cute picture of a 5-year-old Amy and a 3-year-old Susanna playfully holding the hands of a bronze life-sized Father Hesburgh statue right by the reflecting pool outside the library. Unfortunately, Amy remembers almost none of this.

The grotto was the place where Paul and I simultaneously fell in love – even before we officially became a couple! Such a beautiful spot.

No visit to Notre Dame is complete without a walk around the lake. Paul proposed to me on this path almost nine years ago in full view of the Golden Dome. Amy enjoyed feeding the ducks and trying to pet the swans. I warned her that they can be vicious and told her the story about how we were feeding the swans leftover bagels from the dining hall once when one of them suddenly rose out of the water, flapping its wings violently, and lunged forward, engulfing my entire hand in its mouth. With a surprisingly strong force, the bird began to pull me into the water. It took all my strength, along with Paul pulling on my other arm, to free me from the grasp of the rabid winged monster. I received a nasty gash in the process and still sport an indention on my hand as a reminder of the time I was nearly drowned by a swan. They might be pretty creatures, but they are certainly not too friendly.

Every time I visit Notre Dame, I run into a friend from my undergrad years unexpectedly. See, most Notre Dame Alumni feel the same as I about the campus being their home and most make an effort to visit at least once a year. This past visit, Paul and I were delighted to run into our friends Sean and Angela. They graduated two years ahead of us, but we spent a lot of time with them during our overlapping years. Sean and Paul lived in the same dorm and Sean also was the Freshman roommate of Paul’s older brother Jake. Sean and Angela were married the year before Paul and me, and we attended each other’s weddings. It was so great to see them and catch up briefly after nearly eight years!

Lucy certainly enjoyed her time on campus, especially the cup of lemonade we procured from a café. She is really into straws right now.

After a few brief hours, it was time to continue our drive into Chicago. Traffic was awful but Lucy thankfully napped through most of it, greatly reducing the amount of stress and tension we felt as we drove into the big city. Us small town folk are not too used to big city driving. Stay tuned for more about our Chicago trip in the next few days.

For now, I have a fantastic, awesome, truly magnificent cookie recipe for you. As I have mentioned, my little sister Amy is currently living with us. During her visit so far, she has been immensely helpful in dealing with my obnoxiously loud children. I have also been trying to get her whipped into shape for her high school try outs in the late summer by making her run and weight lift with me. We also just started the 30-Day-Shred (thanks Diana for the recommendation!) and she is currently hating me for how sore she is feeling. As a consolation, we have been baking cookies of her choice. She spent an entire afternoon on Pinterest picking out some recipes and these Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars were the first batch she wanted to bake up.

Like most bar cookies – I LOVE bar cookies – these come together quick! The dough is baked in a 8x8 pan in order to make the cookies bars extra thick! Crushed pretzels are incorporated into the batter as well as over the top of the cookies once they are pressed into the pan. Once the bars have been baked and cooled, a chocolate glaze is drizzled over the top and that’s about the time that Amy begins to drool. I could barely keep her from diving into the finished bars. I told her we had to wait until they cooled before slicing them up and she stalked them the entire time.

See? I could barely capture a photo with her creepy little self in the background eyeing the goodies we made.

I should note that her enthusiasm was warranted! These cookies are so delicious and are perhaps my new favorite cookie recipe. I loved how thick they were, how chewy, and, of course, I am in love with the salty-sweet combination of the chocolate and pretzels. Perfection in cookie form!

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookie Bars
from Just a Taste

Note: Be careful to take these out of the oven the moment they are done. You do not want not want to overbake these cookies! If anything, err on the side of under baking!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups chocolate chips, divided
1 ½ cups lightly crushed pretzels, the largest pieces reserved for the top

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over two sides. Coat the paper with cooking spray.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the melted butter with the sugar and light brown sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.
Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and stir in the flour and salt just until incorporated. Stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips and 1/2 a cup of the crushed pretzels.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top, then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of crushed pretzels on top, pressing them lightly into the batter.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Remove the cookie bars from the oven and allow them to cool completely in the pan then remove the cookies using the parchment paper overhang. Melt the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips with the vegetable oil in a double boiler or in the microwave at 50% power. Drizzle the cookie bars with the melted chocolate and allow them to cool until the chocolate hardens.
Cut the cookie bars into 16 squares and serve.

1 comment:

  1. I love going back to visit my college campus! I didn't love it completely at the time but it still holds a very special place in my heart.
    Thanks for the shout out! How's the shred going for you???
    And these look delicious. I love bar cookies. Helps my lazy self get cookies even easier. =)