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In a cookie bind? Make bar cookies

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

My family and I used to do a big Christmas cookie production. We had a great recipe for sugar cookies, and we’d mix the dough — Dad had to finish it because it was so thick, refrigerate it and move on to the molasses dough, which also had to be refrigerated.

Then we’d spend hours and hours and hours rolling, cutting, decorating and baking. Everyone had their favorite shape, the snowman or the bell, the star, the bear, and we brushed the top with a beaten egg white so the decorations would stick.

I’m not sure we ever finished eating all those batches of cookies. Then I found out no one enjoyed the process but me. So, end of tradition.

But people still expect some sort of cookie for Christmas. Cookie exchanges have gained in popularity -— one friend had to bake eight dozen cookies! Eight people share and they each get eight dozen cookies. Probably, there are leftover cookies that turn up again around Easter, the next big baking cycle.

If you are like many of us, the effort in making beautiful Christmas cookies requires time we just don’t have. Now, there are children, grandchildren, work, church and charitable commitments that make the holidays stressful. We have to decorate the house and write Christmas cards and shop.

Give yourself a break and try bar cookies. You can decorate a bar cookie, and if you use an 8-by-8 pan, you can get 16 cookies per pan. Voila! There are simple recipes that taste great and don’t require a lot of special ingredients.

You don’t have time to read any more. On to the recipes:

Toffee Bars

1 1/4 sticks butter (10 Tbsp.)

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

1/4 tsp. salt

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Combine 1 stick butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until thoroughly blended. Add flour and salt and continue beating until completely mixed. Press mixture into bottom of baking pan and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, cool in the pan on a rack.

Melt chocolate and 2 Tbsp. butter in small cup or bowl. Set over a larger pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool. Spread cooled chocolate over the crust, swirling slightly with a knife or back of spoon. Sprinkle on chopped nuts and press down lightly so they will adhere. Chill and use a thin, sharp knife to cut into 2-inch squares. A pizza cutter works well.

Nut Chews

2 Tbsp. butter

2 eggs

1 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/8 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and get an 8-inch square baking pan or 9-inch round pan. Put butter in a small, heavy saucepan and heat until melted. Pour into baking pan and swirl around till bottom of baking pan is completely covered. Put the eggs in a mixing bowl, beat lightly with a fork. Add the sugar, flour, baking soda, salt and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Stir in walnuts, Pour batter into buttered pan. Bake 12-15 minutes or until center feels firm when touched gently. Cool and cut into 2 inch squares if using square pan or wedges if using round pan.

Deirdre Parker Smith/Salisbury Post Toffee Bars are easy to make, delcious, and look pretty sprinkled with colored sugar — perfect as a gift.

Deirdre Parker Smith/Salisbury Post Toffee Bars are easy to make, delicious, and look pretty sprinkled with colored sugar — perfect as a gift.

White Chocolate Bars

8 ounces white chocolate, chopped

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

3/4 tsp. salt

1/3 cup white sugar

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-9-inch baking dish.

Melt white chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler, over barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat eggs until foamy. With the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and vanilla. Drizzle in the melted white chocolate mixture. Combine the flour and salt; fold into the white chocolate mixture using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack before cutting into bars.

Note: Can substitute mint chocolate chips or broken pieces of peppermint candy for chocolate chips.

Can also drizzle the tops with melted semisweet or bittersweet chocolate.

Testers advise to use good white chocolate and avoid using chips to melt, as they contain stabilizers that tend to interfere with even melting.

Raspberry Chocolate Supremes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup raspberry jam

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 Tbsp. milk

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 (1 oz.) squares semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 Tbsp. shortening

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray or grease a 9-inch square pan.

Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup, level off. In a bowl, combine the flour and powdered sugar. Cut in butter with a fork and mix well. Press mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-17 minutes until lightly brown.

To make filling: Spread jam evenly over baked crust. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and milk until smooth. Melt white chocolate chips over low heat and add to mixture. Beat until smooth. Drop cream cheese mixture by teaspoons evenly over jam. Spread carefully and refrigerate.

To make glaze topping: Cut chocolate squares into small pieces and melt with shortening over low heat, stirring constantly. Spread over white chocolate layer. Cool completely. Cut into bars and store in refrigerator.

Helpful hint: After spreading jam over the crust, chill in freezer 15 minutes to make cream cheese layer easier to spread.

Belgian Christmas Cookies

2/3 cup butter

1 tsp. almond extract

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

2 tsp. red decorator sugar

2 tsp. green decorator sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition, then stir in the almond extract. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended. Turn into  a greased 15-by-10-1 inch jelly roll pan (or a cookie sheet with sides) and spread evenly to edges.

Sprinkle a mixture of almonds and cinnamon over batter, then sprinkle with a mixture of red and green sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cut into bars while still warm.

Testers have suggested the bar might take as much as 20 minutes to bake.

Shortbread Bites

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp. powdered sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. red and green nonpareils or sprinkles

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt, vanilla and butter until well combined. Place dough in bowl and knead until it comes together. Add nonpareils and knead to combine.

On waxed paper, roll dough into a 1/2-inch thick square. Freeze 15 minutes. Cut dough into 1/2 inch squares. Don’t worry about being perfect. Place squares on a large cookie sheet and bake until cookies are light brown, 18-20 minutes.

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