When we would visit for the weekend, Grandma Glass of Milk always had cookies for us in a green glass jar. Chocolate chips were her standbys, but she would always have a second kind, and over time, I grew to like them even more than the classic Toll House recipe. They would either be oatmeal scotchies or snickerdoodles. I am not a huge fan of sugar cookies (they always seem so plain), but snickerdoodles are like sugar cookies with the volume turned up, if you’ll allow me to borrow a phrase from Ina.
And if that’s true, than gooey butter squares (from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook) are what happens when you turn it up to 11, for that extra push over the cliff, if you’ll allow me to borrow a phrase from Spinal Tap. Because they have a cake base, with a gooey layer of I don’t even know what to call it amazingness (I want to say custard, except that’s not right), and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top that caramelizes a bit, and gives an initial crackle when you first bite in. I am always wary of recipes with multiple layers (read: steps or worse, dishes), but these are worth every extra minute of care you attend to them.
To make a 9×13 pan’s worth, you will need:
For the soft cookie base:
- 8 T butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
- 1 1/2 C flour
- 1 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3/4 C sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 C milk
For the gooey layer:
- 1/4 C light corn syrup, golden syrup, or honey
- 1/4 C milk, half and half, or heavy cream
- 1 T vanilla
- 12 T butter, at room temperature
- 1 C + 2 T sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 1 1/4 C flour
For the topping:
- 2 T sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan with at least 2-inch sides with parchment paper and either butter the paper and sides of the pan, or coat them with a nonstick spray. Set asaid.
For the cookie base, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the 8 T butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and milk, and beat until combined, scraping down bowl and then beating for 10 seconds more. Beat in dry ingredients until just combined. Dollop cookie base over the bottom of the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer with a butter knife or offset spatula. Set pan aside.
For the gooey layer, whisk liquid sweetener, milk, and vanilla together in a small bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, scrape down sides of bowl, and mix for 10 seconds more. Add 1/3 of flour and mix, then 1/2 of vanilla mixture and mix. Repeat again, twice, until all of the flour has been mixed until just combined. Dollop over the cookie base and spread carefully with an offset spatula or butter knife.
For the topping, mix the sugar and cinnamon in a tiny dish and sprinkle it over the entire gooey layer. It will be thick, but will come out of the oven almost like a creme brulee lid.
Bake 25-30 minutes until the cookies have bronzed on top.* The fooey layer will rise and fall in the oven but will still be a bit liquidy under the cinnamon crust when the squares are done. Let cool completely on a rack, then cut into 1-inch squares.
*I had a difficult time knowing whether this was “done,” and cooked it so much longer than I should have. It made my gooey layer less gooey than it should have been. So unless your oven is funky and off, take these out after 30 minutes.