Halfway Cookies

Halfway cookies are really bars. I haven’t figured out the origin of the name, but I like the theory that they’re “halfway to being cake” .

If you’ve tried a Halfway Cookie, you know they’re a base layer of dough, sprinkled with a layer of chocolate chips and a baked on layer of crispy brown sugar meringue.  The variances between recipes are in just how much butter is in the base dough, leavenings used and how many egg whites and how much sugar is in the meringue.  I found very few recipes that were exactly the same.

halfway cookies

A few years ago, I tried my first batch of Halfway Cookies, but they were called “Donnie Cookies” and named for a person in the family who liked the cookies.  That recipe was great and the dough called for 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 egg yolks, flavoring, leavnings, plus 3 whites on top mixed with only 1 cup brown sugar.

Today I found a new recipe on The Kitchn.  Unlike the Donnie Cookies and many other Halfway Cookies that call for 1 cup butter or shortening in the base dough, this recipe only called for 1/2 cup. It also included fewer egg whites on top, yet more  brown sugar in the meringue.  I was skeptical and figured this recipe would be way too sweet without the butter to buffer the missing fat, but I tried it anyway and the bars were excellent.  The dough was less rich and the texture was less dense and more cakey than shortbread, but the overall effect was good.  And most importantly, the bars weren’t too sweet.  Sure, they were sweet in the sense that cookies and meringues are supposed to be sweet, but they were balanced.

Kitchn’s recipe was great, but to be fair I’m going to have to re-test the Donnie Cookies since I made them three years ago, and I think I’ll also give the Kingwood version a try, since it’s almost identical to the Kitchn recipe but with the full cup of butter.  Despite the fact the bars from today were still good, part of me wonders if maybe the Kitchn recipe evolved from a recipe with a typo that took the recipe from 1 cup of butter to 1/2 cup of butter.  Or maybe some old recipes were just less rich.

Here’s a quick comparison chart in case you got lost in my rambling.  I did.  All of these were baked in a 13×9 inch pan.

Kitchn recipe (today’s) Donnie Cookies Kingwood Recipes
1/2 unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces chocolate chips
2 egg whites
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(no water)
2 cups all-purpose flour
(no baking powder)
1/2 teaspoon baking salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
9 ounces chocolate chips
3 egg whites
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsps vanilla
 1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(no water)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces chocolate chips
2 egg whites
1 cup packed brown sugar

The full recipe for today’s cookies can be found on The Kitchn. Since I made a half batch, I’ve gone ahead and posted that version below.

Halfway Bars


Halfway Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Half-Batch Halfway Cookies are a chocolate chip bar cookie with a light, meringue topping.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour ( 4.5 oz)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 scant teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter or margarine)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (6 oz)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional -- my add-in)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 inch pan with nonstick foil.
  2. Cream butter and both sugars. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla and water; mix well.
  3. Combine the next four ingredients (flour, soda, powder and salt); gradually add to creamed mixture. Spread in pan. Sprinkle with chips and pat them lightly into the dough.
  4. Prepare topping: Beat egg white in a mixing bowl just until stiff peaks begin to form. Gradually add brown sugar beating on high until stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla if using. Spread
  5. evenly over chips. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25- minutes or until
  6. golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator


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  1. Brenda says

    Anna, I just love these cookies/bars. I made them a few months ago and we all just scarfed them down. I had never had them before or even heard of them until I saw them on someone’s blog. They’re great!

  2. says

    Amy, thanks! 12 oz is the standard amount. I must have been thinking in half batches because I actually made a half batch as you can see by the pan size.

    Brenda, these were great. After I chilled them I put them in the refrigerator and they firmed up and developed slightly chewy centers. They really do have a marvelous texture.

  3. says

    These look delicious! I’ve never heard of Halfway Cookies, but they look basically the same as a bar cookie I made earlier this year called Aunt Eva’s Mud Hen Bars. They had 1/2 c. butter in the crust and contained nuts and marshmallows in addition to the chocolate chips. I was intrigued because I had never seen a bar with a meringue topping like it before. I wonder if there are more variations!

  4. says

    I am on the team that says they cant wait to try. Tomorrow I have friends coming for dinner I will make this during the day and serve for dessert. Looks awesome and I can hardly wait. In fact I would make now but it is a little too late.

  5. Janet says

    Oh yum! Hadn’t heard of Halfway Cookies either but they look like they are halfway to heaven cookies! Thanks, Anna!

  6. says

    This looks like a great concept for a bar/cookie. They are completely new to me as well. The drawback for me is the meringue, which I don’t care for. I can’t really think of a substitute though I’m sure there would be some creative alternatives.

  7. says

    I’m looking forward to more opinions on the recipe. Now I have to make a fresh batch of one of the other two recipes so I can compare back-to-back.

    Lisa, if you’re okay with dry and crisp meringue, you may like these even if you don’t care for regular meringue.

    Betty, I amy dying to try those Mud Hen Bars. I found Mud Hen bars while researching Halfway cookies and love the fact they have marshmallows. As for the butter, they have 1/2 cup too, but they also have less flour, more egg, plus a good bit of yolk in the crust so it must be a little richer than this crust which is 1/2 cup butter to 1 cup flour.

  8. CC in St. Paul says

    I love how you provide half recipes. Such a nice way to indulge and treat a family or one or two, but not have too much leftover to go to waste (or overindulge in!) Thanks for your great recipes–they’re true treats!

  9. Louise says

    I don’t know where we’ve all been to miss these. I’ve never heard of them either. I think I’d like chopped walnuts added to the meringue topping.

  10. says

    I have never heard of halfway cookies and they sound delicious! Let us know which recipe is your favorite–I’ll have to try it!

  11. Maureen says

    Anna –

    You are the best for posting this halfway bar analysis!!!

    Trying them all.

  12. Beth says

    I grew up with my grandmother making a recipe very similar to this! We just called them chocolate chip squares. Her recipe included chopped walnuts in the crust.

  13. Ashley says

    I made a half batch of the Kitchn version of these yesterday. I had never heard of them til then, but they are great! Thanks so much, Anna.

  14. pam says

    My grandmother and then my mother made these all the time. They were a family favorite. I cannot find my grandmothers recipe so I searched and found yours. Looks just about right. And they were always known as HALF WAY COOKIES at church potlucks and family gatherings. (In Minnesota)

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