Week 2 Baking Challenge – Cookie Bars – Turtle Bars (America’s Test Kitchen Recipe)

Turtle Bars

The second week of the new year is already here, which means a new week of the Reddit baking challenge. This week baking challenge is biscuit bars/cookie bars, so I gave this turtle bars recipe from America’s Test Kitchen a go. It has three distinct layers, starting with a crumbly chocolate cookie crust, a second layer of homemade caramel and dulce de leche mixed with toasted pecans, and topped with semisweet chocolate, more pecans, and a bit a bit of sea salt. The sweet and salty balance with these bars are amazing and ate way more than I’m proud to admit. I haven’t made cookies bars before, so it was fun to do something different. The caramel took quite a while to get to the correct temperature, but overall was an easy to follow recipe. Just be cautious of the hot sugar, as it can cause serious burns (ask me how I know).



  • 8.33 ounces (1 1/3 cup) all purpose flour
  • 3.5 ounces (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 ounce (1/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  • 1 can (13.4 ounces) dulce de leche – I use La Lachera brand
  • 7 ounces (1 cup) light brown sugar
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) light corn syrup
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) coarsely chopped pecans, toasted, divided
  • 6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon flake sea salt – I did not have flake salt, so used the same amount of kosher salt


  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350°f. Make a foil sling for a 13×9 inch baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil; first sheet should be 13 inches wide and second sheet should be 9 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan. Spray pan with vegetable oil spray.
  2. For the crust: combine flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a bowl. Add melted butter and stir with rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Crumble dough over bottom of prepared pan. Press dough to even thickness using bottom of a measuring cup. Using a fork, poke dough all over, about 20 times.
  3. Bake until crust is fragrant and looks dry, 18-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Crust doesn’t need to be cool before adding the topping.
  4. Topping: combine dulce de leche, sugar, cream, corn syrup, butter and table salt in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, 7-9 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Once boiling, continue to cook, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until mixture registers between 235°f and 240°f in several places, 9-11 minutes. ( Mixture will be thick and bubbling vigorously.)
  6. Once off the heat, stir in 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecans. Pour caramel mixture over crust and spread to an even thickness. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and let sit until chocolate chips have softened, about 5 minutes.
  7. Using a butter knife, swirl softened chocolate chips through caramel. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 (2 ounces) cup pecans and flake salt (I used kosher salt). Let bars sit at room temperature until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.
  8. Using foil overhang, lift bars out of pan. (If caramel sticks to foil, use a paring knife to separate.) Cut into 24 pieces and and serve. (Bars can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 day.)