These 6 winning Dayton Daily News cookie-bar recipes are luscious delights

Cookie bars are hard to resist.

The endless combinations of scrumptious ingredients make them a sure bet for dessert — or, let’s be honest, breakfast.

We’ve compiled six winning cookie-bar recipes from recent Dayton Daily News holiday cookie contests for you to try at home, in part because we were not able to have the contest in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

These concoctions will make the perfect pan of rich, chewy goodness to keep on hand during the holidays.

Feeling decadent? Warm up these bars and top them with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.




2¼ cups of flour

2 teaspoons of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ cup of butter

1½ cups of granulated sugar

1 cup of brown sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 12-ounce bag of white chocolate chips

1 cup of Heath milk chocolate toffee bits

1 11-ounce bag of caramel bits and 2 tablespoons milk


1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13-by-9-inch pan with foil. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Mix flour, salt and baking powder together and set aside.

3. Cream butter and both sugars together until mixed well. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.

4. Blend in flour mixture. Stir in half the bag of white chocolate chips and the cup of toffee bits.

5. Spread half the mixture into the prepared pan.

6. Bake on the middle rack for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

7. Place caramel bits and 2 tablespoons milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Stir and heat at intervals of 30 seconds until caramel is melted.

8. Pour caramel over the baked layer, then layer remaining white chocolate chips on top of caramel and then top with remaining cookie dough. It is thick, so you can place in spoonsful across the chips and spread slightly. The dough will spread while cooking.

9. Bake on middle rack for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting or the top will crack like a brownie. Once the bars are cooled completely, lift the slab from the pan using the foil. Place on a cutting board and cut to the desired size.

Cut into 24 bars.

Submitted by Terry Rich of Dayton, first place winner 2018 Dayton Daily News Holiday Cookie Contest

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1¾ cup (3¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup honey

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup heavy cream

2 cups pecan halves

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13-inch pan and line with parchment paper.

2. Combine 1⅛ cup (2¼ sticks) of butter with ¾ cup brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat until light and fluffy. Add ½ tsp salt, then the flour one cup at a time. Mix until dough forms into large clumps.

3. Press the dough into the bottom of your prepared pan, fork-prick the crust, and chill for 20 minutes. When chilled, bake for 18-20 minutes. Cool completely before proceeding.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 325 F.

5. Place remaining butter, brown sugar, honey, granulated sugar, heavy cream, and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir together and bring to a boil.

6. Cook until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and vanilla.

7. Pour the pecan mixture over the cooled crust, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling. Let cool completely before cutting into small pieces for serving.

Submitted by Beth Harper of Oakwood, third place winner 2019 Dayton Daily News Holiday Cookie Contest

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1 cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs lightly beaten

2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13 pan with aluminum foil and grease bottoms and sides.

2. Cream together butter and sugars. Scrape bowl as needed. Add beaten eggs and vanilla. Mix together.

3. In another bowl stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to mixture and mix together. Scrape bowl as needed in between.

4. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Spread into pan and bake 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and spread caramel over top.

Caramel Layer

16 ounce unwrapped caramels (about 48 pieces)

1 tablespoon milk

1 cup pecans

Melt caramels and milk in saucepan until smooth. Spread over warm cookie and top with pecans. Let cool for 1 hour then drizzle chocolate over top.

Chocolate Drizzle

6 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 teaspoons shortening

Melt chocolate chips and shortening in microwave for 30-60 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds until smooth. Drizzle over caramel and pecans. Let chocolate set for 30 minutes, then cut into squares.

Makes 30 cookie bars.

Submitted by Rebekah Lermond of Union, second place winner in the 2018 Dayton Daily News Holiday Cookie Contest

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2 cups butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

4 cups flour

One 14-ounce bag caramels, unwrapped or 11-ounce unwrapped Caramel Bits

1/3 cup whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Lightly spray with cooking spray.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and powdered sugar. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Mix in the flour and combine until it forms a soft dough.

3. Press half of the dough in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch dish and place the other half of the dough in the refrigerator. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and melt the caramels, heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in the microwave for one minute. Stir together until smooth. Pour evenly over the hot crust. Lightly sprinkle the coarse sea salt over the crust. Just lightly sprinkle and you don’t have to use all of the salt called for in the recipe depending on how salty you want it.

5. Take the remaining dough out of the refrigerator and crumble over the top of the caramel. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until filling is bubbly and the top is firm. Let them cool completely before cutting.

Submitted by Geni Thurin of Dayton, third place winner in the 2017 Dayton Daily News Holiday Cookie Contest

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell



1 cup butter, softened

2 cups packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2½ cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup sugar

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 cans 13.4 ounce Nestle La Lechera dulce de leche

12 oz. white baking chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup heavy whipped cream

1 tablespoon light corn syrup


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, letting ends extend over sides by 1 inch.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; gradually beat into cream mixture. Spread onto bottom of prepared pan.

3. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the mixture over batter. Bake 25-30 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

4. Spread dulce de leche over crust. In a small saucepan, combine white baking chocolate, cream and corn syrup; cook and stir over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Spread over dulce de leche. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar, refrigerate covered at least 1 hour.

5. Lifting with parchment paper, remove from pan. Cut into bars. Refrigerate the leftovers.

Submitted by Jean Schaney of Miamisburg, first place winner in the 2014 Dayton Daily News Holiday Cookie Contest

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell



For dough

½ cup of granulated sugar

12 tablespoons of butter

1¾ cups of all-purpose flour

For topping

1 cup of butter

1¼ cups of packed brown sugar

½ cup of honey

¼ cup of milk

2 cups of chopped pecans

1 cup of pistachio meats

1 cup of dried, chopped cranberries


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line a 9-by-13 inch pan with foil.

3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend the sugar and 12 tablespoons of butter until creamy.

4. Mix in flour on low speed until well combined.

5. Press the mixture — it will be crumbly — into the prepared pan. Prick all over with a fork; then, bake for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool, but leave oven on.

6. Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, bring the butter, sugar, honey and cream to a boil. Simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture reads 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

7. Stir in pecans, pistachios and cranberries.

8. Pour the mixture over baked crust; then, bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the mixture is bubbly all over. Let cool completely.

9. Use foil to lift the entire slab from the pan. Cut into bars. Makes 60.

Submitted by Susette Kruckeberg of Versailles, first place winner in the 2012 Dayton Daily News holiday cookie contest

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