raise the bar

December 12th, 2012

I feel like I go through phases with my baking. There are times where I feel like a machine – endless reserves of energy and inspiration, and the cookies and cakes just keep on coming.

And then there are times when I’m completely uninspired, and I just want easy. You know, minimal effort, but still expecting maximum results.

So what do I do when I’m feeling less than stoked?

Bar cookies.

When it comes to baking, bar cookies are both crowd pleaser and a dream for the baker. Whip up the batter, spread it in the pan, bake, cool and cut ‘em up.

If I have a last-minute “will you bring?” or need to add “just one more” item to a dessert table, or if I’ve simply misplaced my baking mojo – well, it will almost always be a bar cookie.

Which is not to say that I don’t have my standards. I want the cookies to be neat, crisp little rectangles (no crumbly, uneven edges and sloped sides here. Uh-uh.). And I love nothing more than a little surprise tucked inside a seemingly ordinary bar (not unlike the milk dud cookies from last year).

So here are a few easy tips for creating perfect-looking bars that will positively measure up to any of the fancier cookies on your table.

The pan. I swear by this pan. It’s heavy duty, with straight sides and sharp corners. This results in nice square edges on all sides of your cookies.

The “sling”. I always make a parchment paper sling for the bottom of my pan. It allows you to easily remove the entire bar from the pan, for neat and easy slicing. To make a sling, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit into the bottom of the pan, with longer edges on the short sides. It should look like this:

Chocolate Chip Bars With a Salty Pretzel Crust

You can also use aluminum foil – just grease it so that the cookies don’t stick.

The chill. Cool the cookies completely in the pan, and then transfer the bar (in one piece) to your cutting board, using the sling to assist. Stick the whole thing in the fridge for a few hours, or even overnight. Nice clean cuts are much easier to make when the bars are cold.

Chocolate Chip Bars With a Salty Pretzel Crust

Chocolate Chip Bars With a Salty Pretzel Crust

At this point you can either put them on your serving plate or freeze for future use. As most bar cookies have a high butter content they freeze beautifully.

And did you really think I’d tease you with pictures of these beauties and NOT give you the recipe? Of course not….

Chocolate Chip Bars With a Salty Pretzel Crust

Chocolate Chip Bars With a Salty Pretzel Crust

for baking tips and tricks
on weighing ingredients

Chocolate Chip Bars With a Salty Pretzel Crust
adapted from Simply Scratch

For the crust:
5 cups pretzel sticks, crushed into tiny pieces
¾ cups unsalted butter, melted

For the cookie dough:
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup  (150 g.) sugar
¾ cup (144 g.) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 ¼ cups (297 g.) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounces milk chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350. Line a 9 x 13 x 2 baking pan with a parchment sling – set aside.

In a medium bowl stir pretzel pieces and butter till well combined – pour into the prepared baking pan and spread pieces evenly. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly while proceeding with the recipe.

In a mixer bowl beat butter and both sugars till light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat till blended.

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to butter/sugar mixture, beating just till blended. Scrape down the sides and fold in chocolate chips.

Dollop cookie dough over the pretzel “crust” and, using your fingers or a small angled spatula, spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or till bars are golden and a tester comes out clean. Place pan on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Using the parchment sling, remove bar from pan and transfer to a cutting board. Chill for a few hours or overnight and cut into bars of desired size (I made 32 rectangular bars).

(print this recipe)

This delicious recipe brought to you by Donuts, Dresses and Dirt

Do you have a “go-to” easy dessert? Would you share it here?

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