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How-To

Plenty of Bar Cookies for Family and Friends

Fine Cooking Issue 68
Photos: Scott Phillips
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While I’ll readily admit to being a cookie-baking fool come holiday time, I know that not everyone in the universe is like me. But just about everyone I know does love to eat cookies, so for holiday gift-giving, I know just what to do: I make bar cookies. These cookies—baked in a simple 9×13-inch pan and then cut into squares (or rectangles or triangles)—are not only unfussy to make, but they also yield a big batch of pretty and delicious treats.

Each of my three favorite recipes—rich and chocolatey Kahlúa Fudge Bites, chewy Butterscotch Bars, and crumbly Lemon Cornmeal Shortbread Bars—is terrific on its own. But put a few of each together, and you’ve got a  great gift assortment. Just one warning: I don’t guarantee that every one of these fun-to-make, irresistible cookies will make it into a gift tin. Each has an interesting flavor twist that makes it familiar yet intriguingly different…and a little too difficult to give away the whole batch. You’ll definitely want to save a few for yourself.

Simple tools give a professional look

One of the advantgages of m aking bar cookies is that you don’t need any fancy equipment. Though not essential, a couple of s imple tools will make your bar cookies look more professional.

Straight-sided 9×13-inch metal pans, such as those made by ­Parrish and Doughmakers, are my favorites for baking these ­cookies. Regular Pyrex pans, with their rounded corners, are fine, but your yield will be smaller because you’ll need to trim to get sharp edges.

Small offset spatulas are great for lifting out squares neatly; I especially like the short, square 2-inch-wide size. For evenly spreading batters and glazes, a 3- or 4-inch-long offset icing spatula is perfect.

Parchment is great for lining the bottom of the pan—it makes lifting out the bar cookies much easier.

A bench scraper is the tool I like for cutting bar cookies. Its squared-off shape allows you to see just what you’re doing and lets you aim straight down for the cleanest cut.

A ruler helps you measure, so you get an even and consistent yield if you’re making multiple batches.

Toothpicks are helpful for marking off where you’ll need to cut.

Wrapping it up

For a special gift, I love to give bar cookies in the pan in which I baked them, but there are all kinds of other ways to gift-wrap these goodies: in pretty cookie tins, in an oversize coffee cup, in brightly colored takeout containers, or in funky flea-market pottery. Or you can stack them neatly on a cardboard cake round and wrap the whole thing in colorful cellophane. Just use your imagination and, remember, your friends will love the cookies, no matter how they’re delivered.

Sources for pans and wrappings

For making bar cookies, we like heavy-duty, straight sided, ­rectangular metal baking pans. Parrish brand pans are good ones to try; they’re sold at Broadway Panhandler. There, you’ll also find parchment, a range of offset spatulas, ­including a 412-inch Ateco offset icing spatula, and bench scrapers (also called dough scrapers) for cutting bar cookies.

For creative presentation, pack your bar cookies in colorful takeout containers. The Container Store carries several styles. Visit Sweet Celebrationsfor cardboard cake rounds in several sizes. This company carries square and rectangular cake cardboards as well.

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