Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Culinary IQ: Tuesday, December 13, 2011; Bar Cookies

Raising the Bar!

Cookies have existed since the documentation of baking began and are descendants of the cake. What makes cookies different from cakes is the absence of water or a high moisture content ingredient.  A high ratio of moisture in a batter forms the air bubbles that create the crumb of a cake. These air bubbles are absent in cookies.

Some cookies have traveled farther down the chain of evolution than others. Bar cookies are probably the most direct defendant of their ancestor the cake. Bar cookies can be pressed, poured or layered into a baking pan and baked then cut into small individual servings.

Bar cookies can be a shortbread crust with a softer filling on top in the example of lemon bars. Nuts and dried fruit are often popular ingredients in bar cookies as well as grains like oatmeal and flaxseed. Ingredients are layered to give the bar a nice chewy crust with a rich fruit filling on top and then often topped with a streusel type topping. Batter type bar cookies are also very popular, the most popular of all is the brownie. Brownies can be in a variety of flavors with chocolate being the most popular by far, they can be chewy, gooey or cake type.

Bar cookies probably allow for the greatest amount of creativity in ingredients as long as the basic ingredients of fat, flour, eggs and sugar are present. Chocolate brownies are my favorite and here is a simple tip for making them holiday festive:

  • Using your favorite chocolate brownie recipe or a box mix. Make the batter as directed. Spread half of the batter in a pan lined with greased foil. Cover the batter with a layer of York Peppermint Patties leaving a small amount of space between each one. Spread the remaining half of the batter over the peppermint patties and bake as directed. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Lift the brownies out of the pan with the foil and place on a cutting board. With holiday shaped cookie cutters cut out brownies to reveal the peppermint layer.  Decorate with icing and holiday sprinkles.
If you are just in the mood for some rich and delicious brownies, here is my favorite recipe for Candy Top Brownies.

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