Cinnamon Bars

In addition to my bread baking endeavors, I’m working my way through the Better Homes & Gardens Fall Baking magazine. These delicious cinnamon bars are one of many creative treats therein, offering an interesting and spicy alternative to the blondie.

These bars are supposed to bake in a 9-inch square pan; I used an 8-inch square, and I think the additional inch would make a difference in the end result (and next time, I’ll bake them another 5 minutes or so). Although these are delicious – and kind of fudgy, if something cinnamon-based can be fudgy – they fell a bit while cooling and the tops broke apart somewhat when I cut them. Mike loves them, though, so I must have done something right. I can see these served slightly warm with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel, but they’re perfectly delicious as-is.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan with foil and spray with baking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and cool for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add eggs and vanilla, stirring to combine. Pour into flour mixture, stirring until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Brush top of bars with melted butter, then sprinkle sugar and cinnamon mixture over the top. Cool completely; using the foil, lift the bars out and place them on a cutting board. Cut into squares.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 16.

Peanut Butter & Jam Bars

My new Better Homes & Gardens Fall Baking magazine has a chapter on peanut butter treats, including these peanut butter and jam bars. While the original recipe called for tossing some chocolate-covered peanuts into the top crumb mixture, I omitted them because a) I can’t eat chocolate and b) that just seemed like an odd addition to me. You could certainly leave them in if you like, but I think my plain bars are absolutely delicious.

I chose strawberry jam, but you could use raspberry or blackberry with equal success. The sweetness of the strawberry jam pairs very well with the sweet/salty combination in the peanut butter, without yielding a treat that’s too sweet. They remind me of something you’d find at an old-fashioned bakery or on the menu at a school bake sale, the type of treat that sells out quickly because once you have one, you really want another.

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 2 cups flour
  • 12-ounce jar strawberry jam

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil; lightly grease the foil or spray it with baking spray.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and peanut butter on medium speed until smooth. Add brown sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and salt, beating until well combined, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times. Add oats and beat to combine, then add flour in two batches and beat to combine. The mixture will be crumbly.

Reserve 2 cups of the oat mixture; press the remainder into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Stir jam until smooth, then spread over crust within about 1 inch of the edges. Top with remaining oat mixture, covering jam completely.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden. Cool in pan on a wire rack; when completely cool, use edges of foil to lift bars out and place on a cutting board. Cut into squares.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 32.

Peanut Butter Smoothies

What do you do when you want something like a brownie, but you can’t eat chocolate? You make these peanut butter smoothies, another treat from my beloved King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. It’s funny to describe something chocolate-free as fudgy, but these absolutely are.

While the original recipe calls for baking in a 9 x 9 pan, I made mine in an 8 x 8. The edges are definitely darker than I wanted them to be, but the end result is delicious nonetheless. I covered mine for the last 5 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning on the top, and the center of my squares fell as it cooled, which was fine. You could substitute chocolate chips or lightly salted peanuts for the peanut butter chips if you like, and I’m sure they’d be equally delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 baking pan.

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

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add sugars and beat to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add vanilla and beat to combine.

Add flour and beat on low speed until just combined, then mix in peanut butter chips.

Spread batter in the baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and pull away from the pan; if you use a cake tester on the center, it should have some moist crumbs sticking to it. I covered my bars for the last 5 minutes of baking to prevent them from over-browning on the top.

Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan before cutting. Cut into 16 bars.

Dark Chocolate Crumb Bars

Sometimes recipes work out exactly how you plan. Sometimes…not so much. Such was the experience with these dark chocolate crumb bars, a recipe I got from the back of a bag of dark chocolate chips. I expected the middle layer, a combination of dark chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk, to bubble up and allow the top layer to bake into it, securing the crumbs, dark chocolate chips, and chopped almonds. Alas.

Much of the crumb topping fell off when I cut the bars, so if I make them again, I’ll either add a bit more crumb mixture to the bottom crust or press the top layer into the chocolate layer with the back of a spoon to help it hold. I adapted the recipe to include unsalted almonds instead of walnuts, but I suspect walnuts or pecans would be good as well.

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces dark chocolate chips, divided
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup whole almonds, chopped

Preparation

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

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter for 1-2 minutes, until creamy. Add flour, sugar, and salt and beat until crumbly. With floured fingers, press 2 cups of the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare chocolate layer. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate chips melt and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla; pour over hot crust.

Stir remaining chocolate chips and chopped almonds into remaining crust mixture and sprinkle over chocolate layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes; remove from oven and cool completely. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 24 bars.

Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

Peanut butter cookies are among my favorites. But what if you don’t want to go through the process of making the dough, rolling it into balls, dipping them in sugar, then making that crisscross pattern in the tops? You make peanut butter cookie bars.

The original recipe for these bars came from the Nestle Very Best Baking blog and included chocolate chunks, but I substituted peanut butter chips instead for an extra kick of peanut butter flavor. Next time, I might also add some melted peanut butter chips in a drizzle on the top. You could very easily substitute my peanut butter chips for chocolate chips or chunks if you like; I’m sure it would be delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10-ounce package peanut butter chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine flour and baking soda; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine light brown sugar, sugar, butter, and peanut butter; cream together on medium speed until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, beating again until smooth.

Add flour mixture and beat to combine, then stir in peanut butter chips.

Press dough into the bottom of an ungreased 9 x 13 baking pan and bake for 18-22 minutes, until edges are light brown and a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs when inserted in the center.

Cool completely in pan; cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Chocolate Raspberry Walnut Bars

Chocolate and raspberry are great flavor friends, so I have no doubt that these chocolate raspberry walnut bars are delicious. This recipe is a slight adaptation on Marlita’s Chocolate Raspberry Bars from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, using Dutch process cocoa and adding 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts to the top of the bars.

The next time I make these, I might line the pan with parchment instead of greasing it; the bars on the edges were difficult to remove, so I had to cut a very thin sliver of outer edge from each edge piece in order to pop them out of the pan. The first bar out crumbled into several pieces, so it ended up as a sacrifice to the baking gods!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups finely chopped walnuts, divided
  • 1 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan, or line the pan with parchment paper, extending the parchment over the sides.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, shortening, sugar, salt, and baking powder until light and fluffy. Add cocoa and mix until well-combined.

Add flour and 1 cup walnuts, mixing until well-combined and thick, about 3-4 minutes. Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the baking pan.

Place jam in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until the jam becomes thinner and easy to spread. Pour jam over bottom crust, spreading to each edge. Crumble remaining dough over jam, then sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup walnuts.

Bake for 35 minutes, until the jam bubbles at the edges of the pan; the top layer may look slightly underdone, but that’s fine; it will set up as the bars cool.

Remove from oven and cool bars completely in the pan; cut into 24 squares.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Coconut Dream Bars

coconut-dream-barsIn the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion (also known as my bible), there is a recipe called Build-a-Bars. It begins with a basic crust, then the rest is up to you…whether you add coconut, nuts, caramel, various types of chips, dried fruit, mini marshmallows, crushed cereal pieces, or whatever your heart desires, the bars become whatever you want them to be.

I love recipes like this, those make-it-your-own versions that can be tweaked time and again to create various new treats based on what you have handy in your pantry. I fully intend to make a version of this with pecans, butterscotch chips, and toffee bits, but I didn’t have enough pecans in my pantry this weekend. I did have plenty of coconut, plus bittersweet chocolate chips and almonds. According to Mike and my coworkers, they’re absolutely delicious.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons milk

For the filling

  • 3 cups shredded coconut
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup whole blanched almonds, chopped*

For the topping

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5 ounces evaporated milk

*Next time, I’ll toast and cool the almonds before adding them to the filling. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper, extending the paper to cover the edges of the pan.

Make the crust: place 1/2 cup flour and walnuts in a food processor and pulse until nuts are finely ground. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk in remaining flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Cut butter into pea-sized pieces and add to flour mixture. Beat on low speed until the mixture looks crumbly.

Whisk the honey and milk together, then pour over the dry mixture and continue to mix until evenly moistened.

Pour crust mixture into the baking pan and press down to cover the surface in an even layer.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until set. The edges will be just golden brown.

Allow the crust to cool completely before adding filling and topping; I put my crust in the fridge for just a few minutes to speed the cooling process.

Make the filling: in a large mixing bowl, combine coconut, bittersweet chocolate chips, and almonds. Pour in an even layer over crust.

Make the topping: in a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, salt, and egg until no lumps remain; this will take a few minutes, and you’ll need to scrape the sides and bottom of your bowl several times to make sure all of the ingredients blend evenly. Add evaporated milk and beat until the mixture is smooth. Pour evenly over filling.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are just bubbly and the center is set.

Remove from oven and cool bars in pan completely before cutting.

Cut into 24 bars and store in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper.