Bar Cookie Recipes for a Stress-Free Holiday

Each year, as the month transitions from November to December, the thought of holiday baking energizes me for the rest of the year. Esoteric German cakes and breads that take an inordinate amount of time to make? Love they. Intricately layered cakes or stretched and rolled strudels? Sign me up. I love a challenging baking project, and the holidays are the perfect time for them.

But I know that most people are not like that. The thought of rolling out the dough on the counter and wrestling with the cutter to loosen the soft cookie dough without breaking it may break what little resolve you have left. So, in an effort to make Christmas baking as relaxed as possible, I went against type this year and developed a half dozen festive Christmas cookies that require no rolling, cookie cutting, or scooping: bar cookies. Think blondies, brownies, biscotti, and any number of cookies you get by simply baking a giant slab of dough, then dividing it into portions with a few quick slashes of a long knife. However, what they lack in complexity, they more than make up for in flavor and festive appeal.

My Salted Peppermint and Macadamia Biscotti are the Christmas manifesto in a cookie. Inspired by tozzetti, the Roman version, which are made from a pourable dough and baked in a skillet instead of a log, the crispy biscotti are packed with salty macadamia nuts, rum and mint extract. They are then dipped in melted white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy canes and a pinch of flaky sea salt. All that salt balances out the cloying nature of the mint and white chocolate beautifully.

If you are a lover of crunchy cookies, my Almond Mocha Shortbread will be your new favorite. Inspired by Almendra Roca sweets, the ultimate nostalgic Christmas treat for me, I bake a pan dulce pan made with browned butter and scented with instant coffee powder, cocoa nibs, and sliced ​​almonds. To add even more crunch and a bit of richness, I melt Heath toffee bits on top of the batter, so that after it bakes, the toffee bits re-solidify and become an incredibly crunchy toffee topping, like in Almond Roca candies.

For a softer approach that still has a satisfying crunch, try my Sticky Toffee Date Bars, which are a mix between a thick, chewy molasses gingerbread cookie and a sticky toffee date cake, a classic British holiday treat. The molasses balances out the sweetness of the dates and gives the dough intense chewiness balanced by a shower of turbinado sugar on top, which adds plenty of sweet, golden crunch to balance out the cookie.

If a bite of Christmas spice is your jam, you’ll love my Candied Ginger Lebkuchen, which takes the traditional German cakey cookie and boosts the flavor of ginger to bring it to the forefront. All the usual spices are present, but there’s plenty more ground ginger for extra heat, and a bit of candied ginger dotting the batter to add hints of bright sweetness. A simple white frosting helps tame the spices and allows for a perfect canvas for the festive red and green sprinkles.

I return to the UK to inspire my Ruby Orange Layered Trifle Blondies, a bar biscuit take on the classic British trifle dessert. The dessert is usually made with sponge cake topped with custard and cream and then sealed with jelly; Here, I swap out the cake for chewy brown sugar blonde cakes, then top them with a cheesecake-like layer sprinkled with fresh raspberries and top the whole thing with a layer of gelatin-hardened orange juice. The berries and juice add color and nice acidity to the sweet cookie.

And finally, for all of you who love chocolate and/or brownies, my Caramel Eggnog Brownies are for you. Freshly grated nutmeg, a dash of ground cloves, golden rum, and egg yolks add the distinctive flavor of eggnog to a simple caramel sauce that’s then stirred atop a sweet-tart brownie base sprinkled with white chocolate chips. . The spices in the eggnog complement the chocolate beautifully, and the white chocolate chips add a necessary “creamy” element that also feels like you’re eating little pockets of eggnog in your brownie. Whether you love or hate eggnog, you have to try these and I promise you will convert.

Whether you go for crunchy and salty or soft and chewy this year, take a break from the usual cookie-cutter hassle and make these simple bar cookies, which will make your holidays that much more relaxed, festive, and delicious.

Savory Macadamia and Mint Biscotti

This cookie has all the mint aroma you expect for the holidays, but balanced with warm, rich macadamia nuts. An extra pinch of flaked sea salt helps ground the white chocolate and mint flavors and keeps them from being too cloying.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 2 hours.

Biscotti slices on a platter sprinkled with candy cane pieces.

(Hannah Mills/For The Times)

Almond and mocha shortbread

Inspired by Brown & Haley Almond Roca candies, these butter bars are warm and nutty with browned butter, sliced ​​almonds and cocoa nibs, and are enlivened with instant coffee powder for a touch of mocha chocolate. Easily available at the grocery store where you find chocolate chips, toffee bits are baked into the shortbread batter, melting and then hardening back into an incredibly crunchy topping.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 45 minutes, plus 1 hour unattended.

Rectangular cookies viewed from above on a metal baking sheet.

(Hannah Mills/For The Times)

Sticky Caramel Date Bars

This recipe takes the flavor of sticky toffee pudding, a classic British dessert, especially around the holidays, and packs it into an irresistibly chewy biscuit rectangle. Diced dates and molasses add a sticky richness, while a turbinado sugar topping offers plenty of crunch to contrast the soft cookie.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 1 hour.

Golden rectangular cookies spaced out on a metal baking sheet.

(Hannah Mills/For The Times)

Candied ginger lebkuchen

The inspiration for these cookies is the iconic German lebkuchen, a highly spiced cookie that is often baked and cut into large squares or divided into large round portions and topped with whole almonds. Here, most of the traditional spices fade into the background to allow the spiciness of ginger to shine to the fore.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 1 1/2 hours.

Cookies cut into squares and topped with white dollops of icing and red and green sprinkles.

(Hannah Mills/For The Times)

Ruby Orange Trifle Blondies

These blondies take the traditional British trifle—usually a light-colored cake topped with whipped cream or custard and then fruit jelly—and transform it into stunning bar cookies. Serve these cookies cold, as you would a truffle, for the best texture, but they’re also good at room temperature for up to two hours.
Get the recipe.
Cook Time: 3 1/2 hours, mostly unattended.

Square cookies in a checkerboard pattern on a metal tray.

(Hannah Mills/For The Times)

Eggnog Caramel Brownies

Lots of nutmeg, a dash of cloves, and a shot of rum flavor the caramel sauce in these festive brownies. The caramel is enriched with egg yolks, which add the necessary eggy flavor but also help keep the sauce on top of the brownie batter, so you can smell its warm aroma with every bite.
Get the recipe.
Cooking time: 1 1/2 hours, plus 1 hour unattended.

Brownies are viewed from above on a red decorative tray.

(Hannah Mills/For The Times)

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