Lemon Almond Bars

I’ve baked a lot of bars this summer. Why? Perhaps because they’re easy, in that you usually just need a few bowls and one pan. No need to prep your dough and roll it, or scoop individual portions for cookies. You make them, press or spoon them into your pan, and about a half-hour later you have a nice batch of treats.

Some bars are more complicated than others, especially those with a bottom crust, a filling, and a topping or glaze. While this sounds complicated, in most cases it’s really not. These lemon almond bars, a King Arthur Flour recipe, were easy to make and taste even better after they’ve had a few days to “age.” These treats actually remind me of a pie in bar form; the bottom crust might seem very thin, but it’s really all you need with the filling.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the filling

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped roasted unsalted almonds
  • 1/4 cup flour

For the glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • zest from 1 medium lemon
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Make the crust: In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you get a crumb-like texture that sticks together when you scoop up a handful. Press into the bottom of your baking pan and bake for 12 minutes.

While crust is baking, make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine eggs, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and vanilla extract; stir in almonds and flour. Once crust is baked, pour filling over top, smoothing out as much as possible. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top looks set.

While the filling is baking, make the glaze: in a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, butter, and lemon zest; slowly stir in lemon juice to make a very watery, runny glaze.

Remove bars from oven and allow them to sit for 2-3 minutes, then pour glaze all over the top, spreading gently with an offset spatula; the glaze will soak into the bars right away. Allow bars to cool completely before cutting; store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

Makes 24.

 

 

Linzer Cookie Bars

I’ve never had a linzer torte, or even a linzer cookie. Until I made these linzer  cookie bars, I had no idea how delicious the combination of almonds, cinnamon, raspberry jam, and lemon zest could be. Granted, these things are all delicious on their own, but together in bar form you get a whole new level of flavor.

A linzer torte is actually a pastry from the Austrian city of Linz, involving crust made with ground hazelnuts and a jam filling. The linzer cookie is adapted from the tart with similar ingredients. And the bar version, thanks to the geniuses at King Arthur Flour, is an easy, tasty twist on both the pastry and the cookie. I used almond flour instead of ground hazelnuts, but you could swap hazelnuts or even walnuts for the nut flour in this recipe. The end result is a wonderful combination of flavor and texture that is part pastry, part cookie. This is one of my favorite recipes I’ve made in a while, and I look forward to making them again.

Ingredients

For the crust and topping

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • generous 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 2 cups flour

For the filling

  • 1 1/4 cups raspberry jam
  • zest from 1 medium lemon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

To make the crust and topping, cream the butter, sugars, salt, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon, and almond extract until fluffy. Add egg and beat well, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times. Add almond flour and flour, mixing until just combined.

Reserve 1 cup mixture for topping and spread remaining mix in the bottom of the baking pan, pressing it flat with your fingers to get an even layer. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until the edges are golden and the middle is set.

While the crust is baking, make the filling: place jam and lemon zest in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth and just hot. Remove the crust from the oven and spread it evenly with the jam. Break up the reserved crust mixture into crumbs with your fingers and sprinkle evenly over the jam layer.

Bake for another 22-25 minutes, until the jam bubbles around the edge of the pan and the topping looks set; the bars won’t brown except at the edges. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes 24.

Peach Pie Crumb Bars

What can you do with overripe peaches? Since I haven’t learned to make jam (yet), I decided to bake these fun peach pie crumb bars. I found this recipe at Just So Tasty and adapted it just slightly, omitting the icing on the top and using a combination of yellow and white peaches.

Since I don’t like cooked fruit, I actually didn’t try them, but Mike assured me that they were delicious. I suspect that these bars would be delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or perhaps some fresh whipped cream. Next time, I think I’ll cut back on a few of the peaches and stir some raspberries or blackberries into the filling.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the filling

  • 6 small (or 4 large) peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water

For the crumb topping

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with parchment paper, extending the paper over the sides.

In a large bowl, combine flour, powdered sugar, and salt. Add melted butter and mix well to form a soft dough. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 15 minutes, until edges are golden.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling and crumb topping. In a large bowl, combine peaches, sugar, cornstarch, and water, tossing to coat completely. In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter; stir until the mixture looks like wet sand.

Remove crust from oven and pour filling over top, then top with crumb mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Makes 12 bars.

Coconut Bars (Version One)

I’ve had many a coconut bar over the years, but never made them until yesterday. This version from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion is billed as a less-sweet version of a more classic coconut bar, and it offers delicious flavor and great texture.

I’ve listed these as “version one” because there are several other recipes that I’d like to try, and I imagine some are much sweeter than this one. The subtle flavor profile of the topping – a delightful blend of toasted pecans, coconut, and dark brown sugar – is a nice balance to the shortbread-like crust. It’s definitely a good option if you’re looking for something with great flavor that’s not too sweet.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

For the topping

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Make the crust: in a mixing bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, and salt; cream together until light and fluffy. Add flour and beat until just combined; the texture will look like coarse crumbs. Press into the bottom of the baking pan; bake for 15 minutes, until edges are light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly while you make the topping.

To make the topping, in a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside. In a mixer, beat eggs until they’re light and lemon-colored. Add brown sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add flour mixture, coconut, and pecans; stir to combine.

Pour topping onto crust and spread evenly with a small offset spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan before cutting.

Makes 24 bars.

Coconut Caramel Chocolate Bars

Back when I could eat chocolate, this was exactly the kind of treat I would have loved. Reminiscent of the Samoa Girl Scout cookie, it combines toasted coconut, chocolate, and caramel – a wonderful flavor and texture combination.

I adapted this recipe slightly from the original, titled Coconut-Caramel Candy Bars, in the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. I used caramel baking bits, rather than chopped up caramel candies, and a slightly higher quantity of bittersweet chocolate chips to cover the tops of my bars completely with chocolate. The end result is a beautiful (and according to Mike, delicious) creation.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking poader
  • 3 cups shredded sweetened coconut, toasted*

For the topping

  • 1 cup caramel baking bits
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

*To toast coconut, place it in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees, stirring every 3-5 minutes, until browned. My coconut took about 15 minutes to toast; keep a close eye on your coconut, as it can burn quickly. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, and 2 1/2 cups toasted coconut; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and egg. Stir in flour/coconut mixture until well blended.

Press crust mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and top with caramel bits; return to oven and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until caramels are melted and slightly bubbly (mine didn’t bubble much, so that’s okay). Remove from oven and sprinkle with bittersweet chocolate chips; allow to sit for 5 minutes, then spread chocolate evenly over the bars. Sprinkle with remaining toasted coconut. Allow bars to cool completely; cut into 24 squares.

Sugar Cookie Bars

What do you do when you want sugar cookies, but you don’t have time for all the rolling and cutting? You bake sugar cookie bars, complete with delicious whipped buttercream frosting.

This recipe comes from Brown Eyed Baker, another Pittsburgh baking blogger, and yields a delicious and very low-maintenance treat. If you think the frosting is going to be too much, trust me, it’s not. It’s a whipped vanilla buttercream, and it complements the bars perfectly. Fear not: this frosting is not that whipped cream frosting you get on grocery store cakes that nobody likes – it’s made with butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and is whipped for several minutes to a light and fluffy texture while maintaining delicious buttercream flavor. These were a huge hit at our family visit in Maryland this week!

Ingredients

For the bars

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the whipped vanilla buttercream

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Rainbow sprinkles, for decorating

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper (or lightly grease the pan).

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, beating to combine. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add flour mixture until just combined; I used my hands to finish the mixing to ensure there were no pockets of flour.

Press into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is very light golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the pan completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, use the whisk attachment to whip the butter in your mixer for 5-7 minutes, scraping the bowl a few times, until very smooth. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the powdered sugar, whipping to combine completely. Add the vanilla extract and continue whipping at medium-high speed for another 2-4 minutes, until frosting is very light and fluffy.

To frost: remove bars from pan and carefully peel off parchment, then return bars to the pan. Spread frosting in an even layer, then add sprinkles. Cut into 24 bars and store at room temperature for up to 3 days (bars will also last in the fridge up to 1 week).

Fudge Bars with Peanut Butter Chips

As I’ve mentioned before, I love the recipes that come on packages. This recipe comes from a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter baking chips, and can be baked either as cookies or bars.

I chose to bake mine as bars, and I have an important caveat for you, my fellow bakers. These definitely baked over the edges of my jelly roll pan, so the next time I make them, I’ll place some parchment beneath the pan to catch the overflow. Mike proclaimed these very fudgy, with a nice hint of peanut butter. They’re coming to work with me tomorrow for a video shoot, and I’m hoping they’ll be a hit.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 10-ounce package Reese’s Peanut Butter baking chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 15 x 10 x 1 baking pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda; set aside.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine.

Add flour mixture in two batches, beating well and scraping the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in peanut butter chips.

Spread dough in prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes, until set. Allow to cool completely before cutting; use a bench knife to cut into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Makes 36.