Chewy cookie on the bottom, marshmallow-like meringue on top, and a rich layer of chocolate sandwiched in between — these "halfway" cookie bars have got to be one of the best inventions ever!
The basic recipe has been around for decades; I often come across it in old church and community cookbooks. The only problem is that some of the instructions are unclear or have gotten scrambled over the years, and that makes it rather hard to follow along. An updated version is definitely in order!
How To Make Halfway Cookie Bars
Makes 25 bars
What You Need
unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups
brown sugar, separated
large eggs, separated
semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
large egg white, optional if you'd like a thicker meringue layer
9x13 baking dish
Parchment or wax paper
Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut 2 pieces of aluminum foil and fold them to match the width of the pan. Press one piece into the pan lengthwise and the other into the pan crosswise with the ends hanging over the sides of the pan, like this. This makes it easy to lift the bars out of the pan once they're cooled. Spray the foil with nonstick coating.
Make the cookie dough: Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. Using a stand mixer, a hand mixer, or by hand, cream together the butter, the granulated sugar, and just 1/2 cup of the brown sugar until this looks like smooth frosting.
Separate the eggs, reserving the whites. Mix the yolks into the butter-sugar mixture one at a time until they are completely absorbed, then mix in the water and vanilla. With the mixer at a low speed, add the flour mixture and beat gently until all the flour has been absorbed and the dough looks crumbly.
Add the cookie layer: Press the cookie dough gently into the pan with your hands, making sure the surface is even.
Add the chocolate layer: Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the cookie dough and use your palms to press them slightly into the dough. This will help keep them from moving when you add the meringue.
Make the meringue: Using a stand or hand mixer with a clean bowl and a clean whisk attachment, start whisking the egg whites. (Use 3 egg whites if you'd like a thicker meringue layer.) Gradually increase your speed to medium-high. When the egg whites are very frothy and look like loose foam, start adding the remaining cup of brown sugar a little at a time. Continue increasing your speed to the highest setting. When all the sugar has been added, continue whipping the meringue until it holds a soft peak. It should look like glossy, soft-serve ice cream.
Spread the meringue on top: Scoop the meringue down the middle of the pan. It will be very sticky! Use a spatula to gently spread the meringue from the middle to the edges. We found it helpful to skim meringue from the top and gradually push it outward.
Bake the bars: Lightly press a piece of parchment or wax paper on the top of the meringue (this makes an even layer and protects the meringue from scorching). Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the parchment. Continue baking for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the edges look toasted and are pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Allow to cool: Wait until the pan is completely cool before lifting out the bars and cutting them into pieces.
To make a crunchier meringue layer, use granulated white sugar instead of brown sugar and beat the meringue until it forms firm peaks.
You can also reduce the amount of sugar in the meringue down to 1/2 cup (minimum) if desired.
Other ingredients can be used in place of or in addition to the chocolate chip layer! Consider things like butterscotch chips, nuts, toffee bits, dried fruit, and fruit preserves.