Patchwork Bars Recipe

Bar cookies are a fast route to a delicious dessert. And while they may often be the utility players of the sweet treat team sitting dutifully atop buffet tables at all manner of get-togethers from baby showers to church basement suppers, they certainly don’t need to be utilitarian. You can “raise the bar” with a variety of decorations and seasonal flavors—for whatever you are celebrating. Plus, they are sturdy and pack well, making them great for gifting.

The beauty of these bars is that you can use whatever decorations you wish, says cookbook author Lauren Chattman, who created this recipe for Real Food. Blue and gold nonpareils will transform these sweet treats into Hanukkah bars, and chopped nuts, seeds, and toasted coconut can give them a more natural look. For Christmas, crushed candy canes add a minty bite. You can always vary the size to your liking, too. For smaller bars, cut each rectangle into several cookies.

But just because they are called “bar” cookies doesn’t mean you always have to cut them into the same shape. Cut them into squares, triangles, diamonds, and rectangles of varying sizes for visual appeal, suggests Chattman.

Top Tips for Baking Bars
While they are easy to make, there are some guidelines that Chattman suggests for good results:
• Use the right pan. Baking your bars in a smaller or larger pan than called for in a recipe will throw off baking time and change the texture of the finished product.
• Line the pan. A layer of foil or parchment paper makes for easy removal and cleanup.
• Watch the clock. The edges of bar cookies will dry out if the batter in the center of the pan bakes completely. Remove from the oven when a few moist crumbs stick to a toothpick inserted into the center.
• To preserve freshness, pack bars in airtight containers or cookie tins. Or use cellophane to seal them tightly in open containers such as baskets, gift bags, ceramic mugs, or baking dishes. Bars with delicate or sticky toppings should be packed between layers of parchment paper.

Patchwork Bars

Makes 18 servings

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 ounces chocolate chips
finely chopped peppermint candies, chopped nuts, sanding sugar, nonpareils, and flaked coconut for decorating

1. Place rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

2. Using an electric mixer on medium-high, mix butter and brown sugar 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour, baking soda, and salt until just combined. Use lightly floured hands to pat into an even layer in pan. Bake 20 to 23 minutes, until firm and lightly browned.

3. Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle over chocolate chips in an even layer. Let stand 3 minutes, until melted. Use a small, metal spatula to smooth.

4. Using a sharp paring knife, mark 6 equal rectangles in chocolate. Sprinkle each with a different decoration. While still warm, cut into 6 rectangles then into 3 cookies (don’t wait until cooled as crust may crack). Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.

Nutrition info (per serving) CALORIES 298 (145 From Fat); FAT 17g (Sat. 10g); CHOL 37mg; SODIUM 114mg; CARB 38g; FIBER 2g; PROTEIN 3g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.