Bar cookies are a great ‘first recipe’ for someone who’s baking for the first time. They’re one of the easiest cookies to make, in terms of preparation: you just pour the cookie dough into the pan, and shove it in a preheated oven.
Even now, after more than a decade of baking, I prefer making bar cookies when I’m tired or running short on time. I don’t have to shape the cookies or worry that the cookie drops are all the same size, and I don’t have to wait for the dough to chill as I do with refrigerator cookies. Here are the basics of making bar cookies.
Bar cookies are somewhere between a cake and a cookie. They come out of the oven in one big block, which you cut up into squares. While some bar cookies do have a cake-like texture, there are many recipes that yield thick and chewy or thin and crispy cookies. Some even have a combination of textures, with a crispy outer shell and a rich and soft center.
Bar cookies are usually baked in a moderate to moderately low oven. The lower the temperature and the slower it bakes, the denser and more moist the bar cookie will be. That’s why many recipes that call for a shortbread or a crumb base will require that you lower the cooking temperature somewhere in the middle of the process.
To make bar cookies, you need a baking pan. Use the size recommended in the recipe. IF you use a smaller pan, the bar cookies will be thicker—which means that you need to adjust the cooking time. You may also get a different textured cookie, since it will alter the proportion of crust to cake.
You know a bar cookie is ready when a toothpick you insert in the pan comes out clean. However, for a chewy bar cookie that’s slightly softer and fudgier, take it out just as soon as the center is set and the edges are pulling away from the pan.
Allow soft, chewy cookies to cool before you cut them. Crisper bar cookies must be cut ten minutes after they become firm. You can store bar cookies in the baking pan covered with foil.
To prevent bar cookies from sticking to the pan, rub butter or spray a non-stick spray on the pan before you pour the batter. You can also line the pans with parchment or baking paper, leaving about an inch of paper to stick out from all sides—this will let you lift up the baked bar cookies.
Photo from eatingoutloud.com