I don't normally reach for blondies or cookie bars but lately, I've had a hankering for one. The reason I don't care for them is that they're usually too sweet. But since I'm making them from scratch, I can control the sugar level. These passion fruit caramel chocolate bars may look outrageously sweet, but they're actually not! The secret is all behind the passion fruit caramel. The fruit adds a lovely tangy flavor, balancing the chocolate. Meanwhile, the macadamia nuts give a great crunch, contrasting the gooey bars. If all dessert bars tasted like this, I'll be on board!
Passion Fruit Caramel Chocolate Bars
Passion fruit caramel
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (150 grams)
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup (55 grams)
- 2 tablespoons butter (28 grams)
- ¼ cup passion fruit pulp (55 grams)
- ¼ cup heavy cream (62.5 ml)
Chocolate macadamia nut bars
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons butter softened at room temperature (198 grams)
- ¾ cup brown sugar (150 grams)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour (254 grams)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided (235 grams)
- ¾ cup roughly chopped toasted macadamia nuts (95 grams)
- Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Line 9x9 inch baking dish with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
- Make passion fruit caramel. Combine sugar and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed pot and heat over medium heat. Melt sugar until translucent, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Continue to cook until mixture turns golden brown.
- Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until butter is melted. Add heavy cream and passion fruit pulp, stirring until combined. Return pot to heat and continue to simmer for 4-5 minutes over medium-low heat until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and set aside. Caramel will continue to thicken as it cools.
- Make cookie dough. Combine butter with both sugars in bowl of stand mixer. Beat together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating first egg before adding the next. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
- Add flour, baking soda, and salt, mixing just until combined. Fold in 1 cup chocolate chips and nuts.
- Pour half of cookie dough into prepared baking dish and spread in an even layer. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set.
- Remove cookie dough from oven and pour caramel on top, leaving a ½-inch border. Place dollops of remaining cookie dough on top, carefully spreading dough to cover as much as the caramel as you can. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips on top.
- Bake dessert bars for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and set. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 1 hour. Slice into 9 bars and serve.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
I love fruit caramel. It all started with my plum caramel crumb bars recipe; the flavors were so delicious that I knew I had to create more fruit caramels. And so here we are with passion fruit caramel!
Luckily with this recipe, you don't have to use fresh passion fruit. I used frozen Goya passion fruit pulp and thawed it beforehand.
To make sure the consistency of the caramel is nice and thick, we're adding corn syrup to the mix. Simmer light corn syrup with sugar until it starts to turn golden brown. Remove the pot from heat and the sugar will continue to brown and turn amber brown. Immediately add the butter, and stir until the butter melts.
Then, add the passion fruit pulp and heavy cream to the sugar mixture, and return the pot to the stove. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring frequently. The mixture should thicken just a little and will continue to thicken as it cools.
Now let's move on to the cookie dough. This passion fruit caramel chocolate bars recipe uses a fairly standard cookie dough recipe. Beat together softened butter with both brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Then, add the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined. Fold in the semisweet chocolate chips and roughly chopped nuts and spread half of the dough into the prepared baking dish.
If you're not a fan of macadamia nuts, you can substitute it with walnuts, pecans, almonds, really any other nut will work.
Bake the cookie dough for about 10 minutes or until set. We don't want to fully bake the base, just parbake it. This way, the caramel won't get lost in the cookie dough.
Pour the caramel directly on the baked cookie dough - no need to let the dough cool first. Then, spread the remaining cookie dough on top. I found it was easiest to scoop the dough onto the caramel using a small ice cream scooper. Then, I used an offset spatula to gently spread the dough. Don't worry if some of the caramel peeks out.
Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top and bake the dessert bars until golden brown.
Now comes the hard part, waiting. How long you wait is really up to you. If you only wait 30 minutes, the passion fruit caramel chocolate bars will be extra gooey. If you wait 1 hour, it will still be gooey but more set. Wait until it's completely cool and you'll have more firm bars. No matter the case, they will be good.
It's hard to choose my favorite part about these bars. Everything works together so well. It's not overly sweet and the caramel complements the chocolate perfectly. I personally loved how some bars were oozing with caramel and others were a little more refined. Now excuse me while I sneak in another bite...
For more dessert bar inspiration check out these peach raspberry pie bars with lemon curd!