Bar cookies are one of the wonders of desserts. Bar none, they are easy to make. No dropping individual mounds of batter and sometimes having them spread and all stick together. No trouble taking them off the cookie sheet.
Just spread a layer of batter, a layer of filling and another layer of batter or a sprinkling of streudel crumbs on top and pop it into the oven. If left in the baking pan, they can be taken to covered-dish dinners or picnics easily as well.
This recipe uses a box of yellow cake mix although I once used white when I learned at the last minute that no yellow mix was in my cupboard. If you can't find cherry preserves, drain a can of cherry pie filling, chop the cherries in fourths and add two or three tablespoons of the thickened juice back to the mix.
EASY TO MAKE, EASY TO EAT — Bar cookies are easy to make, and the filling inside can be varied and delicious. These cherry oatmeal bars are made with cake mix and cherry preserves. -- Esther McCoy
Cherry Oatmeal Bars
18.25-ounce box yellow cake mix
2 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup butter, melted
12-ounce jar seedless raspberry preserves
1 tablespoon water
In a large bowl, combine dry cake mix, oats and butter until crumbly. Press 3 cups of the crumb mixture into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, stir preserves and water until blended. Spread over crust. Sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes two dozen.
Fresh or frozen raspberries can be used for this cookie. It calls for yellow cornmeal in the crust.
Raspberry Cornmeal Crumble Bars
3/4 cup almonds finely ground
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
10-ounce box frozen raspberries, thawed and drained or 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on two sides. In a food processor, pulse almonds until finely ground. There should be about 1 cup. In a large bowl, whisk together ground almonds, cornmeal, flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and stir until dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Press about two-thirds of the dough into the baking dish. Scatter raspberries over top and crumble remaining dough over berries. Bake until top is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in dish on a wire rack before cutting into nine bars. Store tightly wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for up to three days.
These bar cookies come from the Food and Family magazine, 2011 summer edition. They have a cake mix type base, cheesecake filling and are covered with blue berries.
Lemon-Blueberry Crumb Bars
1/2 cup butter
18.25-ounce box yellow cake mix
2 eggs, divided
2 teaspoons zest and 3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 packages, 8-ounces each, cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13-by-9-inch pan with foil, with ends extending over the sides. Microwave butter in large microwaveable bowl on high 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until melted. Add cake mix, 1 egg and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Beat with mixer until well blended. Press two-thirds of the mixture onto bottom of prepared pan. Beat cream cheese and sugar with mixer until well blended. Add remaining egg, lemon juice and zest. Mix well. Pour over crust; top with berries. Pinch small pieces of the remaining cake mix mixture between the fingers and press lightly into cream cheese layer. Bake 48 to 50 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate 1 hour. Use foil handles to lift dessert from pan before cutting into bars. Makes 24 servings.
Note: Neufchatel cheese can be used to replace the cream cheese. It has one-third less fat than cream cheese.
This is more of a candy than a cookie. It is from the Everyday Food magazine.
Salted Peanut Bars
Non-stick cooking spray
2 1/4 cups coarsely chopped roasted, salted peanuts
50 store-bought, soft caramel squares, unwrapped, 14-ounce package
1 tablespoon water
1 cup mini-marshmallows
Lightly coat an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all sides. Lightly coat parchment with spray. Cover paper with 1 1/4 cups chopped peanuts. In a medium pan, combine 1 tablespoon water, caramels and marshmallows over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until caramels and marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth, about 8 minutes. Immediately pour over peanuts, then top with remaining 1 cup peanuts. Let cool and set about 2 hours. Cut into 16 bars. Store in an airtight container with parchment in between layers up to two days.
This is another bar cookie from Everyday Food magazine. It is a mixture of citrus fruit flavors.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice, juice from one grapefruit
2 tablespoons finely grated orange-zest, plus 1/2 cup orange juice from one orange
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, plus 1/2 cup lemon juice, from three lemons
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
Confectioners' sugar for dusting cookies
In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup ice water. Pulse just until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed, if necessary adding 1/4 cup more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Do not overmix. Form dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until firm, one hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 12-by-16-inch rectangle, patching any holes that are made in rolling the dough. Place in a 10-by-14-inch jelly roll pan with dough going up sides, trimming overhang. Prick dough all over with a fork and freeze until firm, about 20 minutes. Line dough with parchment paper, leaving overhang on all sides.
Fill with dried beans and bake until edges are dry, about 15 minutes. Remove parchment and beans and bake until bottom is dry and flaky, about 10 minutes. Make filling by whisking together citrus zests and juices, granulated sugar and eggs until well combined. Pour into crust and bake until custard is just set in center, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack for one hour. Dust with confectioners' sugar and cut into 18 squares. Refrigerate tightly wrapped in plastic for up to three days.
(McCoy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)