Friday, February 10, 2012

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie Bars

These cookies started out with lofty aspirations. I was going to bake a pan of pink and a pan of white. And then I was going to cut them in squares and then use a cookie cutter to cut a small heart out of the center of each square. And then I was going to put the white hearts inside the pink squares and the pink hearts in the white squares. I reasoned that, since these were easy bar cookies and I wouldn't have to roll these out and cut them into shapes, I would have plenty of time to actually do something cute. And I do use the word 'reasoned' quite loosely, just so you know.

And then there was a slight time crunch. And by slight time crunch, I mean a wandering around in my bathrobe at 9:00 when I'm supposed to be at a cookie exchange at 10:00 time crunch. So I lowered my expectations, but was still going to swirl a white and pink batter together. Because that would be easy and still beautiful, right. And then there was a slight pan malfunction. And by slight pan malfunction, I mean that it became clear that the amount of cookie bar batter was way too little for the pan they were in, so it had to go into another, smaller pan. And after all that shifting of batters, well, there wasn't too much left to swirl, so we pretty much had a pink cookie bar. Which isn't the end of the world on Valentine's Day.

And then the malfunctions continued. Like that when I pulled them out to see if they were done, the partially-cooked batter went smoosh to one side of the pan, so then I had to tilt the pan the other way and swoosh it to the other side. Which left some cracks and other issues that those of us familiar with the aging process might call wrinkles. But when they were actually cooked, I covered them with white cream cheese frosting and sprinkles in a heart shape and all was well.

And then I went to my party unshowered and hopefully everyone forgave me for that. And then on the way home, Emma stepped on the remaining cookie bars. And what is it with my kids and stepping on baked goods, but at least it was after the party and not before.

Oh, and did I mention that the cookies were dreamy. Yeah, because they were. When I got home Kip ate a whole bunch, which wouldn't be noteworthy except that Kip generally only appreciates chocolate desserts and there wasn't a lick of chocolate to be found on these and he wasn't just, like, politely eating them, but was--to be honest--a little on the shamelessly snarfing side. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...) So, yes, these are good. With the frosting they're kind of over-the-top good, but they'd even be good without it. And they'd be good as little hearts in other-colored squares. And they'd be good pink and white swirled. But as it was they were still good, great, even, as their wrinkled, stepped on, imperfect selves. That's what I call a cookie. 

Sugar Cookie Bars
adapted just a tinge from jamiecooksitup
Makes one 9x13 inch pan
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cost: $2.20
(sugar: .25, butter: .60, cream cheese: 1.00, egg: .10, flour: .25)
for frosting: $1.20
(butter: .30, cream cheese: .50, sugar: .40)

1 1/2 C sugar
1 C butter, quite soft, maybe even a little melty (I don't like to have to work too hard when I'm mixing a cookie)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 C flour
food coloring if you wish

1/2 C butter, softened or slightly melted
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
food coloring if you wish

Beat butter, cream cheese, sugar, and egg until nice and whippy. Add vanilla and almond extract and beat.

Add flour, baking powder and baking soda. You can mix the dry ingredients beforehand, but I usually don't because I'm hopelessly lazy and don't believe in most recipes that require anything more from me.

Beat it all until incorporated. If you're going to color your batter, beat in the food coloring.

Put into slightly greased 9x13 inch pan and spread evenly with a spatula.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Let cool completely. (Ha, that was another malfunction we may or may not have had. I was just hoping that when I threw the hot pan in the refrigerator it wouldn't melt the milk carton. Here's to cooking like a pro.)

For frosting:

Beat butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla and sugar. Beat until creamy. Add food coloring or sprinkles if you like.

Spread on cooled cake, or, um, the cake you pull from the refrigerator with the slightly warm bottom that you consider to be 'probably fine.' Here's to things that are 'probably fine.' And you know what, they probably are.

Take them in the car to your (hopefully) showers-optional Valentine's Day party. Take care not to let your toddler or preschooler step anywhere near them as they will surely be compelled to step directly into the middle of the pan if allowed within two feet of it.

Cut into bars at the party when they (the bars not the party) really have cooled completely (or gotten close enough).


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