Bar cookies are perfect for a picnic

  • By Andrea Weigl Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer
  • Tuesday, July 16, 2013 8:25pm
  • Life

Here are two words about what dessert to bring to a picnic, cookout or any summertime gathering: bar cookies.

Bar cookies are easy to make. Who has time to bake tray upon tray of individual cookies?

Bar cookies are served in the same pan in which they are baked. Who has time to clean all those cookie sheets?

Bar cookies travel well. Snap on a plastic lid or cover with plastic wrap and they are ready to go.

And as cookbook author Taylor Mathis noted, you don’t even have to cut them ahead of time.

“People can decide how big or small a serving they want,” said Mathis, whose first cookbook, “The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, and the South,” comes out next month from UNC Press.

Mathis spent three years photographing and tasting the tailgating spreads at 35 college football games across the South and beyond.

Mathis’ cookbook contains a recipe for “Training Table Brownies,” based on the brownies his grandfather, a former athletic director at Duke University, used to sneak home from home football games.

“My mom remembers the brownies as huge rectangles of chocolate covered in a rich, delicious chocolate — the biggest dessert she’d ever eaten,” Mathis wrote.

Mathis comes by his love of bar cookies honestly: “I’ll eat any bar cookie that you put in front of me.”

Check out recipes for these bar cookies on Page D2. We’ll bet your friends and family will agree.

Raspberry crumb bars

2cups (9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

11/2cups old-fashioned oats

1cup packed dark brown sugar

1teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2teaspoon table salt

1cup (1/2pound) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1cup (4 ounces) sliced almonds

1(1 15 1/4-ounce) jar seedless raspberry fruit spread

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in large bowl with an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until well combined. Add butter and mix on medium until butter is mostly blended and the mixture appears moist and begins to pull together, about 3 minutes. Stir in the almonds. Reserve 1 1/2cups of crumb mixture and refrigerate. Firmly press the remaining mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

Bake until almonds are just beginning to brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes.

Spread raspberry fruit spread evenly on top, leaving a 1/8-inch border around the edge of the crust. Crumble the reserved crumb mixture over the top, letting the fruit show through in places.

Continue baking until lightly browned and the fruit filling is bubbling all over, including the center of the pan, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing into bars.

Makes 18 bars.

From “Fine Cooking Cookies: 200 Favorite Recipes for Cookies, Brownies, Bars &More,” by Editors and Contributors of Fine Cooking

Chocolate chunk blondies

1/2pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2cup granulated sugar

2teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2extra-large eggs, at room temperature

2cups all-purpose flour

1teaspoon baking soda

1teaspoon kosher salt

11/2cups chopped walnuts

11/4pounds semisweet chocolate chunks

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 1/2-by-12-by-2-inch baking pan.

Cream butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, add vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, and mix well, scraping down the bowl after each addition. In small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. With mixer still on low, slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chunks with a rubber spatula.

Spread batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t over bake. The toothpick may have melted chocolate on it but it shouldn’t have wet batter. Cool completely in the pan and cut into 12 bars.

Makes 12 large bars.

Note: Blondies have a tendency to be dry, but there are two solutions: Under-bake them a little, and store them in the refrigerator wrapped tightly with plastic wrap.

From “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust,” by Ina Garten

Donna’s cherry bars

3cups all-purpose flour

11/2teaspoon baking powder

1/2teaspoon salt

1cup butter, room temperature

13/4cups sugar

11/2teaspoons almond extract, divided

4eggs

221-ounce cans cherry pie filling

1cup powdered sugar, sifted

2tablespoons milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15-by-10-by-1-inch jelly-roll pan; set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Cream together butter, sugar and 1 teaspoon almond extract in another large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just combined.

Reserve 11/2 cups batter and set aside. Spread remaining batter in the prepared pan.

Spread cherry filling evenly over the batter. Finish by gently spreading the remaining batter over the cherry filling. (There will be gaps where the cherry filling shows through.)

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Prepare glaze: Combine powdered sugar, milk and remaining 1/2 teaspoon almond extract in a medium bowl. Mix until smooth. Allow bars to cool for 3 to 4 minutes, then pour glaze over them. Allow bars to cool before cutting.

Makes18 to 24 bars.

Note: You can make these in a 9-by-13-inch pan, but use only one can of cherry pie filling; it will take 50 to 60 minutes to bake.

From “Two Chicks From the Sticks: Back Home Baking,” by Jill Schwalbe Means and Jamie Greenland Gorey

Training table brownies

For brownies:

2sticks plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

4(1-ounce) squares unsweetened baking chocolate

2cups granulated sugar

1cup light brown sugar

7large eggs

1/2teaspoon salt

2teaspoons vanilla extract

11/2cups all-purpose flour

3/4cup cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)

1/2teaspoon baking powder

For frosting:

1stick unsalted butter, softened

3cups confectioners’ sugar

4-6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Make brownies: melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and add baking chocolate. Stir until chocolate has melted. Remove pot from heat. Add sugars and stir until incorporated into butter and chocolate. Let mixture cool for 10 minutes.

Crack eggs into a medium-sized bowl. Beat with a fork. Add salt and vanilla extract to the eggs and stir to combine. Pour beaten eggs into cooled chocolate mixture and stir together.

Mix flour, cocoa powder and baking powder in a large bowl. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and stir until a thick batter forms.

Grease a 18-by-13-inch sheet pan with butter. Line bottom of sheet pan with parchment paper and grease top of parchment paper. Lightly flour. Pour batter onto the sheet pan and spread in an even layer. Bake for 25 minutes.

Make frosting: place butter in a stand mixer. Add confectioners’ sugar, 4 tablespoons of whipping cream, vanilla and salt. Turn mixer on low until the sugar is incorporated, then increase speed to medium and mix until a thick frosting forms.

Melt chocolate chips over a double boiler. With mixer running on low, pour warm melted chocolate into the frosting. Mix until chocolate is incorporated into the frosting. Increase speed to medium. Beat until frosting is fluffy, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of whipping cream, if needed. Immediately frost cooled brownies. Let frosting set for an hour before wrapping in plastic wrap. Cut into squares before serving.

Makes 16 to 20 bars.

From “The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, &the South,” by Taylor Mathis

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