Today’s post is a response to several letters I’ve received and conversations I’ve had in recent weeks, all of which sum up to this:
“What should I do with all the leftover Halloween candy?”
This is what you should do, friends: Make Leftover Halloween Candy Cookie Bars!
I realize this will not stop you from “eating extra calories,” or “having junk food in [your] home,” or “purchasing more candy to give away than there are trick-or-treaters.” No, Leftover Halloween Candy Cookie Bars will not help you do the complex neighborhood analysis required to purchase the exact amount of trick-or-treat candy necessary. They also won’t address the deeper psychological or food-chemistry questions that underscore why we binge on sugary, high-calorie treats, or why chocolate seems particularly good as the sun starts to set earlier and the days become cooler.
I struggle with all of this, too. I try to be mindful of my choices, and savor the candy I do eat, so as to enjoy every bite. When I mess up, and find myself with sticky fingers and empty wrappers scattered around me, I work hard to be kind and gentle with myself, which I manage with varying success, depending on the day.
The best I can usually manage is to string together small good choice after small good choice, and then try not to get too demoralized or derailed when a small bad choice (eating a Kit Kat, for example) creeps into the chain.
Having struggled with my weight for the majority of my adult life, I have gotten all kinds of unsolicited advice on limiting my candy consumption. Aren’t people friendly that way? (That’s a whole other post.) Here are some ideas I’ve heard enough times that I’ve memorized them:
“Don’t buy candy to give away that you enjoy, that way you won’t eat it.”
“Don’t give away candy at all, give away toys or non-food items.”
“Throw everything away as soon as you are done, no one needs that junk food, anyway.”
Yup, I’ve gotten all of that advice, and I’ve never followed any of it. If you already take those steps, strong work.
I’m going to assume you are like me today, though. Given that it is Halloween, you have probably already purchased candy to give away, and by tonight, you will have whatever is left plus whatever haul your kids bring home and reject. You need a post-Halloween strategy, and that strategy is baking Leftover Halloween Candy Cookie Bars.
I recommend this for the non-fruit, non-hard candy treats you have left—in others words, the chocolate stuff. The chocolatey, caramelly, peanut-buttery, toffee-tastic stuff. The crunchy, chewy, crispy chocolate yum-yums. You know what I’m talking about.
In addition to all the candy, I always add a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips, which may seem silly (given the amount of candy loaded in there), but it makes a big taste difference. Pretzels and nuts can add some fun salt and crunch to offset the milk chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel flavors prevalent in Halloween candy. Almond extract also shines in this cookie bar—definitely add it for extra deliciousness.
Once I have making this recipe in mind post-Halloween, I can view the leftover Halloween candy bars as an ingredient, not a treat. I’m less likely to snack on a baking ingredient—maybe this will be true for you, too.
Making Leftover Halloween Candy Cookie Bars is best as soon after Halloween as possible for me, so I don’t have much time to linger over that candy bowl. The resulting baked good is so rich, you can’t really eat more than one (small) piece in a sitting, so there is automatic portion control. It can be frozen, or better yet, it can be given away—if you don’t have a work/office kitchen in which to share it, try the teacher’s lounge of your child’s school, I bet they will be very grateful.
One important note: I have put just about every chocolate candy treat in this with one exception, chocolate mint items. Mint throws things off, unless you use chocolate mint candies exclusively. If you find yourself up to your ears in peppermint patties, substitute one teaspoon mint extract (in lieu of vanilla and almond) in the batter, use only chocolate mint or plain chocolate candies (e.g., chocolate candy bars, m&ms, etc.), and make chocolate mint candy cookie bars.
Oh, and spoiler alert: these bars work for Easter candy, too. Yeah, that’s right—just when you think you are free of extra candy in the house, Easter comes creeping up, and there you are again, up to your ears in chocolate eggs. Never fear, cookie bars are here!
When making the bars, be sure to reserve some of your candy to sprinkle on the top, so all the candies in the mix can be identified (and look pretty, too.)
Happy Halloween, everyone!
- 2 sticks (1 cup) softened, unsalted butter
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 1½ tsp almond extract
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups AP flour (gluten-free flour substitutes may be used)
- 2-3 cups chopped up chocolate Halloween candy, all varieties
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- Nuts, pretzels, etc. if desired
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with cooking oil spray, or butter/oil it lightly (if you prefer.) If you would like to remove all the bars, at once, for freezing, line the pan with parchment, making sure to come up two sides to create handles with which to remove the dessert, once cooled.
- Chop up 2-3 cups of chocolate Halloween candy into small, bite-sized chunks. Set aside in fridge until time to incorporate into dough.
- In a mixing bowl, cream softened, unsalted butter with brown and granulated sugar until roughly doubled in volume (using a mixer is suggested.) The mixture should become pale yellow and fluffy. Beat in three eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Add almond and vanilla extracts, as well as salt, and mix until combined.
- Slowly add flour and baking soda, making sure to thoroughly combine–you will need to scrape down the bowl a few times with a spatula.
- Reserve roughly one cup of Halloween candy and a handful of chocolate chips, then gently fold in the majority of candy and chips into the dough. If using pretzels or nuts, do the same with these ingredients at this time.
- Pour dough into the prepared 9x13 pan, then sprinkle reserved candy and chips on the top of the mixture.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes (time will vary, depending on amount of candy and your particular oven), until toothpick comes out clean, edges just begin to separate from the pan, and no wet areas remain in center.