Like fudge oatmeal bars, apple bars, and my Aunt Ruth’s brownies, I made these meringue chocolate chip cookie bars to bring to church. Well, that’s not quite accurate. Mike and I attend a Unitarian Universalist fellowship, and although we meet on Sunday mornings, we’re not a Christian denomination. Unitarian Universalism has its roots in liberal Christianity, but it’s not a creed-based religion. Instead of a list of mandatory beliefs, we have seven principles that we affirm and promote, one of which is “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning”. My search is different than Mike’s, and his search is probably different from the person sitting next to him, and so on and so on. For most Unitarian Universalists, our searches lead to questions instead of answers; with its lack of a central dogma, Unitarian Universalism requires the embrace of a certain amount of ambiguity.
If your religious frame of reference is Christianity, this may all sound a little bit out there. But our services are held in a room that looks an awful lot like a Protestant church, with a podium and a piano up front. There are hymns, and we light candles, and there’s a sermon—sometimes by the minister on a theological topic, sometimes by an outside speaker focused on social justice or current events. There’s a religious education program where the kids make crafts out of pipe cleaners and Popsicle sticks, and a choir, and a collection plate.
And then, after the service, there are treats in the basement. People volunteer to bring them in, trays of cookies and bowls of grapes and loaves of banana bread and baby carrot sticks with hummus. I supply treats as often as I can, partly because I love to bake, and partly I want to nourish a community I care about. The vast majority of us came to Unitarian Universalism as adults, after being raised as Catholics or Lutherans or without any particular faith at all. Starting over in a new religion can be intimidating, especially one that doesn’t offer any easy answers. We need community. We need to see friendly faces each week. We need conversations over a brownie and a cup of coffee, something to sustain us as we walk together on our searches for truth and meaning.
These bars are perfect for after-service treats and potlucks, since they travel well and are sturdy enough to eat out of hand. There's a cookie layer with melted chocolate chips, and then a crisp meringue topping--the finished product tastes like chocolate chip cookies garnished with toasted marshmallows. The pan is lined with aluminum foil to make the bars easy to remove after baking, and the meringue is covered with a piece of parchment or wax paper for the first 20 minutes of baking to protect it from scorching.
Adapted from the Kitchn
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue layer, see below)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 3 egg whites
- 1 cup brown sugar
To make the cookie layer:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9 inch by 13 pan with aluminum foil, leaving a few inches of extra foil on each side so that the bars can be easily lifted from the pan.
Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar until smooth. Add the egg yolks and mix until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon water and mix until smooth.
Gradually stir in the flour mixture until a crumbly dough forms.
Evenly press the dough into the prepared pan.
Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the dough and press in gently.
To make the meringue layer:
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until foamy. Gradually add 1 cup brown sugar. Beat until the meringue is glossy and can hold soft peaks.
Gently spread the meringue over the cookie layer, being careful not to disturb the chocolate chips.
Lightly press a piece of parchment or wax paper over the meringue. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove parchment or wax paper and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the meringue is toasted.
Allow to cool completely in pan. Remove cooled bars from pan and peel away foil. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container at room temperature.