Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sugar High

Jill & "Smalls" at 23.5 weeks on September 17

I love frosted sugar cookies. Is the love of sugar cookies an inherited trait? Jill is a fan. Brent is not. Time will tell whether or not Smalls inherits the penchant for melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookie taste topped with a smear of almond-flavored frosting.

But I'm not a fan of having to chill sugar cookie dough, rolling and cutting them all out and then frosting them. So I was excited to see a recipe for Sugar Cookie Bars. I'm always looking for new bar cookie recipes to save time and effort in the kitchen. Sugar cookie bars? That's a bonus!

When we were visiting Jill for her birthday last weekend, I gave her several options for treats or a special cake. She chose Sugar Cookie Bars, which I found on a baking blog, Brandy's Baking.

My "baby" girl may have turned 26 with this birthday, but I still wanted to make her birthday special, so I did a little "doctoring" to the recipe. Both Jill and I love almond flavoring in sugar cookies and frosting. So while the original recipe didn't call for almond flavoring, that's what my girl requested.

The recipe was for a 13- by 18-inch rimmed baking sheet. I don't have a pan that big, so I made the dough without any flavoring at all. Then I "guesstimated" and took out about 1/4 of the dough.

To the remaining 3/4 of the dough, I added 2 teaspoons of almond extract and mixed well. I patted that part into my sheet cake pan and baked as directed.

Then to the remaining 1/4 of the dough, I zested a lemon and added part of it and about a teaspoon of vanilla . I used a small cookie scoop and then dropped the dough into sugar. After rolling the dough in the sugar, I put them on regular cookie sheets and flattened with the bottom of a drinking glass before baking.

A lemon version made into drop cookies

When it came to the frosting, I made the basic frosting without any flavorings. I took out about 1/4 of the frosting and added the rest of the lemon zest and some freshly-squeezed lemon juice, along with a little extra powdered sugar until it was spreading consistency.

Then I added a teaspoon of almond extract to the rest. Before coloring the frosting purple for my birthday girl, I took out a small portion to use to use for piping, "Happy Birthday Jill."

I arranged it all on a wooden serving platter and a birthday celebration was born! The finished bar cookie product seemed a little dry to me, so maybe I baked them a little too long. The individual cookies were somewhat better, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a quick and easy bar cookie recipe.

They definitely aren't as good as my sister Lisa's frosted Christmas cookies, but they will work in a pinch. Enjoy!

Sugar Cookie Bars
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract (I used almond flavoring, *see my explanation above)
Zest from 1 lemon (* see above)

1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract (or lemon juice)
Pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar
5 tbsp. milk
Food coloring (optional)
Sprinkles (optional)

Cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking spray and prepare a 13- by 18-inch rimmed baking sheet. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Combine flour, salt and soda. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, beating on low speed just until incorporated. Add the flavorings, as you desire, mixing well. (See above. If you have a big pan and are going to use the same flavoring for the whole recipe, you can add the flavoring when you mix in the eggs.)

Press cookie dough into the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer. Bake 13 to 17 minutes or until light golden brown. Transfer pan to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Frosting: Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Blend in powdered sugar and salt until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add milk and mix well. Add flavorings as desired. Tint frosting with food coloring, if desired. Spread over the cooled bars.

Decorate with sprinkles or as desired. Cut into bars.

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