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Published: Tuesday, 9/20/2005

Bar cookies: Quick to make and easy to pack for tailgating

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Sunny Lemon Bars. Sunny Lemon Bars.
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When planning a tailgate picnic, a bar cookie is the perfect answer to, "What's for dessert?"

Bar cookies travel well; they don't crumble or crack. Plus, they are so versatile, you could make a different bar cookie for every game of the season: 10, 12, or 14 versions - or more.

When tailgating, it's difficult to keep cream and custard-based pies cold, cake frosting might melt during the trip to the game, and chocolate-covered doughnuts or sticky, hard-to-eat confections are best left at home.

By far, the best dessert to travel with is bar cookies, or cookies that are baked in square or rectangular pans and cut into squares, rectangles or other shapes. Bar cookies may be one layer such as classic brownies. Or they may have several layers consisting of crusts, fillings, and sometimes toppings.

Take Magic Cookie Bars, for example: There's a graham cracker crust topped with condensed milk, topped with chopped walnuts, shredded coconut, and chocolate chips, and then baked.

Berry Berry Oatmeal Bars. Berry Berry Oatmeal Bars.
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In fact, a bar cookie can be dressed up or down by adding a topping or garnish, a layer of chocolate or fresh fruit, or a dusting of powdered sugar. It can also be cut into dessert-size squares and eaten with a fork.

Berry Berry Oatmeal Bars have an oatmeal crust with a very simple fresh blueberry topping. Fresh juicy blueberries are accented with lemon zest and lightly coated with raspberry or strawberry preserves. A portion of the crust mixture is reserved for sprinkling on top of the filling before baking. Note that frozen berries can be substituted for fresh when fresh are out of season. These are berry, berry good. They hold up well.

For Sunny Lemon Bars, a pouch of sugar cookie mix helps create a perfect crust. Then a very light, easy-to-make lemon filling is prepared. The flavor of this cookie is good, and it is mellow enough for a child's taste buds. It is not tart.

One Bowl Cappuccino Brownies are a coffee lover's dream. They are made with instant coffee or espresso powder, and are easy enough to prepare in one bowl. Do not overbake this recipe. Let it cool in the pan. Instant coffee results in a milder flavor than espresso powder.

In fact, in Good Housekeeping's Favorite Recipes Cookies! (Hearst Books, $14.95), the editors advise that all bar cookies be cooled completely in the pan before cutting, then stored in their baking pan, tightly covered with foil or plastic wrap.

This is what makes bar cookies so easy to transport for a picnic, potluck, or tailgate party.

Store cakelike cookies that don't contain perishable ingredients in a cookie jar or tin with a lid in a cool spot in the kitchen for up to three days. To help keep the cookies moist, put a piece of bread in the jar and change it every other day.

Refrigerate or put in a cooler (when tailgating or picnicking) any cookies with perishable ingredients such as eggs and cream, and use within several days. This includes lemon bars, cheesecake-type cookies, and any cookies with custard or cream filling.

The best part about bar cookies is that they bake all at once. You don't have to roll them out or drop them by the spoonful on a baking sheet, baking only a dozen or two at a time. Because you spread the dough into the pan, it all bakes at the same time.

Bar cookies can be cut into generous portions, or they can stretch to feed a whole classroom of kids. In a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, you can get 12 brownies or 36 tasty morsels.

Sometimes bar cookies are frosted. Put a chocolate frosting on brownies or a praline topping. Cut bar cookies into wedges or cut lengthwise into strips like fingers.

You just can't beat bar cookies when tailgating.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

Contact her at: food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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