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Category Archives: Bar Cookies

Hershey’s makes delicious salted caramel chips which are available in our area only during the Christmas season. I buy three or four bags and squirrel them away for use during the year. This is a blonde brownie that I have made in various ways,  made even more delicious with these chips.  Of course, any kind of chips would be fine – dark or milk chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, etc., but the salted caramel version gives a special flavor to these easy-to-make bars.

Salted Caramel Bars

  • Servings: 12-16 bars
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2 eggs, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup of Hershey’s Sea Salt Caramel Chips
½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

9 inch square pan, lined with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars, oil and vanilla. Whisk in the baking powder and salt. Stir in the flour, chips and pecans just until blended.

Spread in prepared pan. Dampening your fingertips will help spread the batter in the pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F until top is light-golden brown – don’t overbake.

Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove by lifting parchment paper and cool on wire rack.

Tip: Before cutting, remove parchment paper and place it under the rack for easy cleanup of crumbs.

 


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I adapted this recipe from one on epicurious.com several years ago and it has become a family favorite.  The shortbread would be great just by itself, but teamed with a layer of apricot and walnut filling plus a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar, it is simply delicious.  It’s easy to make with no mixer required.

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Shortbread and Apricot Bars

  • Servings: 8 to 12 bars
  • Print

Shortbread
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
½ cup chilled butter cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 9×9 inch baking pan, place the flour, sugar and salt, stirring with a fork to mix.  Add the butter and with your finger press the butter into the dry ingredients and then spread the dough in the pan, pressing down to flatten and smooth it out.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes until top is light brown.  Remove from oven and set on rack.

Make Filling
2/3 cup dried apricot halves (about 4 oz.) coarsely chopped  – place in small pan, cover with water and boil until soft – about 4 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

2 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp vanilla
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped walnuts

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the eggs, whisk in the brown sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla.  Stir in the flour, walnuts and apricots.  Pour this mixture on top of the baked shortbread.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 35 minutes until top is puffy and dark brown.  Cool on a rack for 10 minutes.  Cut into portions and lift onto a rack that has been placed on top of a baking sheet.  Allow to cool thoroughly.  Note:  I cut mine into 8 portions which turned out to be large servings of a rich dessert.  Cutting the shortbread into 12 squares might be better.

Topping
¼ to ½ cup confectioners’ sugar

After cookies are cool, spoon confectioners’ sugar into a fine strainer and lightly sift over the bars.
Makes 8 large bars or 12 squares 

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Lillian and the Sunbeam mixer - 1952

Lillian and the Sunbeam mixer – 1952

In 1952, I was working at Procter & Gamble’s corporate offices in downtown Cincinnati.  I was a secretary in the Radio/TV Advertising Department and worked for the two department heads plus three young members of the staff.  On May 31, 1952, early in the morning of the day I was to be married, a special delivery letter arrived.  It contained a cute page made up by my co-worker, Bert Berman, had the signatures of the rest of the men in the department  and  informed me that I was going to be receiving a SUNBEAM ELECTRIC MIXER.

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I was completely surprised since Mr. Smith and Mr. Craig had already sent beautiful sterling silver pieces, but there was nothing I wanted more than an electric mixer.  The manual/cookbook that came with the mixer was my baking bible for the next ten years at least.  It’s in tatters now with the cover and a couple of pages missing.

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I made a lot of good food with that Sunbeam and manual.  This is a picture of my older daughter and son, waiting for me to start mixing his first birthday cake in 1957.
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One of the family’s favorites was an easy recipe for brownies.  I named them my “Best Brownies”, copied from my recipe binder below.

BEST BROWNIES



¾ cup sifted flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup shortening or margarine (started using Imperial margarine in 1989)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, unbeaten
4 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups chopped nuts

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar.
Add shortening, vanilla and eggs.

Beat one minute, then add the cocoa and nuts.
Beat ½ minute longer.  

Pour into greased 8×8 pan.  Bake @ 350 for 30-35 minutes.  Cut while still warm. 


Old 1950s recipe from original Sunbeam mixer cookbook.  Have made a thousand times.

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Saying that I have baked these brownies 1,000 times over the past 60 plus years isn’t too much of an exaggeration.  I made up a batch today just for old time’s sake.
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My Sunbeam  mixer lasted 30 years until 1982.  By that time, I was doing a lot of bread baking and wanted a very strong unit along with dough hooks.  I chose a Kitchen Aid mixer which is still working beautifully 33 years later.  It has served me well, but has never given me the surprise and thrill of that first old Sunbeam.


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I first saw this recipe in a 1986 Family Circle Christmas Helps magazine.  I adapted the recipe somewhat and made them for Christmas that year and in 1988, they won a blue ribbon at the Hamilton County (Cincinnati) fair.They are not difficult to make and the dough is easy to handle, but they do take a bit of time especially if you don’t have three 9×9 pans for baking the three layers (which I don’t).  I used one pan, rinsed it out, re-greased and paper-lined it and used it again for the remaining two layers.  You could also use three round layer cake pans (which I do have but wanted this to be square).

They make a festive almond-flavored cookie bar with three layers of colors, the taste boost of your favorite jam or jelly and a thin chocolate topping.

RIBBON LAYER BARS


4 oz almond paste (half of an 8-oz can)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
½ tsp. almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
Green, yellow and red food coloring
6 Tblsp. jam or jelly (I used some homemade blueberry jam)
½ cup chocolate chips (Ghiradelli milk chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Grease and then line with waxed paper 9-inch baking pans or layer cake pans.

In the large bowl of a mixer, place almond paste, sugar and butter.  Beat until creamy and smooth.

Add eggs and almond extract, beating to blend.  Add flour, beating just until flour is absorbed.

Dough will be soft.  Divide dough between three bowls.  This is one time I use paper bowls for easy clean-up.  To one bowl add 3 drops of yellow food coloring, and 3 drops of red and green to the other two bowls.  Mix each bowl to a pale color.

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Spoon the tinted dough into the three prepared pans and bake @ 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

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Using the waxed paper, lift each layer onto a cooling rack.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then remove the waxed paper and allow the layers to continue cooling.

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Place the green layer on an aluminum-foil-lined pan or plate and spread the top with 3 Tblsp. jam/jelly.

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Place the yellow layer on top of the green and spread 3 Tblsp. Jam/jelly on the top.

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Place the red layer on top of the yellow layer.  Cover with foil and weight with a large book.  Place in refrigerator overnight.

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The next morning, melt chocolate chips and spread over the top pink layer.

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Allow to set for 10-15 minutes and then cut into squares or bars.

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These keep well for several days.]

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A month or so ago (before all of the snow hit), we visited a local park which is built around an old homestead with a beautiful house, garden and weather vane.

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Near the house I was surprised to see a big Bartlett pear tree laden with fruit.  We had two of these trees on our old homestead on the Ohio/Indiana border many years ago and I always made full use of all of the delicious pears.  No one was gathering the pears here but I resisted the temptation to pick up a few for my favorite Pear Crumble Pie and instead bought some at the store.  This time I used the pears to make a bar cookie with all of the flavors of the pie but on a tender cookie base.   These are delicious.

PEAR CRUMBLE BARS


3 cups of sliced, peeled ripe Bartlett pears (3-4 medium pears)
1-½ Tblsp. lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 Tblsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. grated lemon peel
2 Tblsp. butter

Crumble Topping
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
4 Tblsp. butter

Cookie Base:
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Butter a 9-inch baking pan

To prepare pears:
In a medium bowl, place pear slices, lemon juice, sugar, flour and lemon peel.  Toss lightly.  In a skillet, melt 2 Tblsp. butter and add the pear mixture.  Saute pear mixture until pears are slightly soft but not brown.  Set aside.
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To prepare crumb topping:
In a small bowl, place flour, sugar, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisk to combine.  Cut in 4 Tblsp. butter until mixture is crumbly.  Set aside.

To prepare cookie base:
In a mixer bowl, beat sugar and butter until creamy.  Add egg and mix to combine.  Add flour, salt and vanilla, mixing just until flour is absorbed.  Spread this mixture in the prepared 9×9 inch pan.  Dough will be quite thick – dampening the fingertips helps spread the dough in the pan.

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Spread the pear mixture over the top of the dough.

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Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the pears.

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Bake @ 350 degrees F for approximately 35 minutes until cake is done and topping is golden brown.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack and cut into 9 bars.

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I have a notation in my cookie binder that this recipe came from a publication called The Blue Ribbon Gazette which gathered prize-winning recipes from across the country.   I first made these cookies in September of 1993 to take along on a trip to Gettysburg.  It was the first of numerous visits to one of my favorite vacation sites.  “Nancy (my daughter) loved these – not too rich.  We had them one morning for breakfast in the motel in Gettysburg with a cup of coffee.”

CRANBERRY SQUARES


½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup butter
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
½ tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
9 inch ungreased baking pan

Cream sugar and butter, add egg.  Add flour, salt and vanilla.  Spread half of this mixture into a 9×9 ungreased pan.

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Spread berries over batter.

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Spread remaining half of batter over berries.  (Note:  Drop batter by dollops and spread with water-dampened fingertips).

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Sprinkle nuts on top.

Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 35 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool in pan on a wire rack.  Cut into nine squares. 


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I marked these cookies “Excellent – tart”.  It is a thin bar with a buttery flavor, the tartness of the berries and crunch of walnuts.
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This recipe is adapted from one I found in a recipe booklet in 1985.  It’s easy to make and produces a large batch of very rich bars.  Cut into 16 bars, one bar would be fine for a serving.  These also freeze well.

RICH PEANUT BUTTER BARS


COOKIE BARS:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats (regular)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup butter, softened
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
½ tsp. vanilla
1 egg

FROSTING:
1 cup chocolate chips

GLAZE:
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 Tblsp. creamy peanut butter
3-5 Tblsp. milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease a 13×9 inch pan

In large mixer bowl, combine all bar ingredients and blend at low speed until mixture forms a soft dough.

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Press dough in bottom of prepared pan.

pnbars-panBake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Sprinkle immediately with chocolate chips.

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Let stand 5 minutes and then spread chips evenly to cover top.

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In small bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar and peanut butter, mixing by hand.

pnbars-glazeDrizzle over chocolate frosting, and swirl with a knife.

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Cool completely.  Cut into 16 bars 

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