Chocolatey Walnut-Molasses Bars

walnut bars

Holiday pies and cookies are some of the season's best desserts, hands down. My favorites pies have always been either a pumpkin pie or a pecan pie. And my favorite cookies have either been shortbread or sugar cookies. Many people are so tied to tradition that they eat the same sweet treats, oftentimes store-bought, but there are much better homemade options to be made with just a little creativity. This recipe for cookie bars combines the best of holiday pies and cookies. And it's all the better because it includes chocolate.

I'm not that picky when it comes to desserts and I love new takes on old classics such as nut bars instead of traditional pies or the classic cookies. First, cookie bars are easier to make and you can get a lot of little bars or squares from a large pan vs. a small pie plate. Plus there's better portion control with smaller finger desserts compared to a large slice of pie—at least for some people!

This recipe for nut bars is made with walnuts, molasses, and chocolate. Molasses isn't often used in recipes, but it really makes a difference here because it works so well with walnuts, which stand up to the strong flavors. Serve these bars for dessert this holiday season and you'll only hear acclaim from your family and friends.

Chocolatey Walnut-Molasses Bars

for the crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

for the filling:
3 large eggs
3/4 cup unsulfured molasses
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-by-12-inch pan and line with parchment.

For the crust: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and beat until combined. Add flour, a little at a time, until incorporated. Turn out dough into the prepared pan and press in, smoothing evenly. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

For the filling: In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together eggs, molasses, sugar, salt, melted butter, and vanilla. By hand, fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour filling into baked crust and spread evenly. Bake until center is set, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Yield: 16 to 24 bars.

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