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Halfway Cookies

by on August 15, 2010 · 20 comments

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.

bar 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

Half-Batch Halfway Cookies

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)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 inch pan with foil and spray with flour-added cooking spray.

Cream butter and both sugars. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla and water; mix well.

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.

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
evenly over chips. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25- minutes or until
golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator

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Published on August 15, 2010

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy August 15, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Hey Anna, a little typo to tidy up: the kitchn recipe calls for 12 oz of chocolate

Brenda August 15, 2010 at 3:47 pm

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!

Anna August 15, 2010 at 4:58 pm

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.

Fallon August 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I’ve never heard about these cookies before but they look awesome!! I love meringue. Can’t wait to try these.

Cakelaw August 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I have never heard of these before, but they sound fabulous – how could meringue on chocolate on dough be anything but?

Bakericious August 15, 2010 at 9:39 pm

oh this is the 1st time I heard about half way cookies, looks good too

Betty @ scrambled hen fruit August 15, 2010 at 10:37 pm

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!

Betsy Craig August 15, 2010 at 11:15 pm

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.

Janet August 16, 2010 at 6:35 am

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

Lisa Ernst August 16, 2010 at 7:04 am

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.

Debbie August 16, 2010 at 7:46 am

I have never heard of these and love trying recipes that are different. They look great!

Anna August 16, 2010 at 8:18 am

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.

CC in St. Paul August 16, 2010 at 9:37 am

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!

Louise August 16, 2010 at 10:05 am

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.

Mackenzie@The Caramel Cookie August 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

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!

Maureen August 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Anna –

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

Trying them all.

Beth August 16, 2010 at 4:42 pm

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.

Ashley August 18, 2010 at 1:44 pm

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.

thelittleloaf March 29, 2012 at 3:24 am

I saw these for the first time on The Kitchn website and am making them this weekend so will let you know how I get on! :-)

pam December 13, 2013 at 2:52 pm

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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