31 March 2012

Weekend Cooking: Bar Cookies A to Z by Marie Simmons

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Today I'm introducing you to a little cookbook that I'm sorry to see might be a bit difficult to track down, although a couple of popular online bookstores had copies. Marie Simmons's Bar Cookies A to Z is one of my go-to sources when I want to bake up a quick dessert.

Before I decribe my latest baking adventures, I should tell you that Simmons is a fairly prolific cookbook author. Her résumé includes a number of Williams-Sonoma books, a couple about rice, a few on light or vegetarian cooking, two or three "A to Z" titles, and at least two "Fast & Fresh" books. I own three or four of her books, and I've always found Marie Simmons's recipes to be reliable.

Bar Cookies A to Z is a slim volume at just over 100 pages, but it's chockfull of recipes for and photos of delicious baked goods to suit pretty much every taste. The recipes are, as you probably already figured out, arranged alphabetically by title, and most letters contain more than one recipe.

There are chocolate and coffee cookies under C, gingery goodies under G, and tasty toffee treats under T. (You can relax, I just ran out of alliterations.) Here are some recipes I've made over the years:
  • Carrot-Pecan Bars with Cream Cheese and Nutmeg Frosting
  • Dark Ginger Bars with Dark Chocolate Frosting
  • Orange and Cranberry Ginger-Oat Bars
  • Queen Victoria Bream Bars (orange-flavored)
  • Vanilla Shortbread Bars
Last night I had a hankering for Hermits. As Simmons says in the recipe introduction, there are a lot of variations on this cookie. I love her version because it has maple in it.

Makes 36 bars
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 6-8 tablespoons half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or ½ teaspoon maple flavoring
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 15 × 10 × 1-inch baking pan.

2. Make the Batter: Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Combine the walnuts and the dark and golden raisins in a bowl. Add about 1 tablespoon of the four mixture; toss to coat; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in the maple syrup; add the vanilla.

4. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until blended. Fold in the dried fruits and nuts.

5. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges turn golden and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on a wire rack.

6. Make the Icing: Sift the confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Gradually stir in 6 tablespoons of half-and-half until the mixture is thick and smooth. Add the vanilla. Add more cream if needed to make a smooth spreadable consistency. Spread the cooled bars with the icing and let set for 1 to 2 hours before cutting into bars.

Beth F's notes: I use whatever dried fruit I have on hand. The bars shown here were made with 1 cup of craisins and ½ cup of dark raisins. I used pecans instead of walnuts. In addition, I happened to have had fresh orange zest that needed to be used up, so I added a tablespoon to the icing.

Published by Chapters Publishing, 1994
ISBN-13: 9781881527558
Source: bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Marg 3/31/12, 6:24 AM  

I had no idea what Hermits were, or that you can get dark and golden raisins! That might be my one thing that I learn for today!

I don't know why, but I don't really make any slices/bars. I should get the little chef to whip some up!

Laurie C 3/31/12, 6:58 AM  

My husband has always liked hermits and I've never really seen the appeal, but frosting and maple syrup might make the difference for me. Will have to try this recipe!

Uniflame 3/31/12, 7:09 AM  

I thought that author sounded familiar :) I reviewed her Fast and Fresh Vegetarian :) I would love to look into this book from her as well :)

jama 3/31/12, 7:48 AM  

Oh yum! Love the "A-Z" format and like making bar cookies since they're less time consuming that baking batches of regular cookies.

I like using golden raisins since they're less cloying than regular raisins. These Hermits look delicious and moist!

Would like to invite everyone to the Alphabet Soup Poetry Potluck. Each weekday in April, a guest poet will share a poem and favorite recipe. Enter the giveaway and comment during the week to win door prizes. :)

Julie P. 3/31/12, 7:53 AM  

Love bar cookies recipes because they are so much quicker than traditional cookies ones. I have a bar recipes that I love and make every Christmas.

caite 3/31/12, 7:58 AM  

ohhhh..they look delicious! I have never had a hermit, but they look like something I need to make soon, very soon.
But then all those bars you mentioned sound good. I must say the Carrot-Pecan Bars with Cream Cheese and Nutmeg Frosting sound excellent.

Libby 3/31/12, 8:11 AM  

Those look SO good! I especially like the glaze...and now I am craving cookies for breakfast :/

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 3/31/12, 8:27 AM  

ah, hermits! I was so happy to finally track down my Gram's recipe for these (a recipe which calls for Crisco!).

This recipe looks like it might be lighter :)

A good book to look for the next time we're at Bonnie Slotnick's in NYC!

Peggy Ann 3/31/12, 8:30 AM  

I have made regular cookie hermits for years but never the bar version this would be so much quicker! Thanks!

(Diane) bookchickdi 3/31/12, 8:30 AM  

I haven't made Hermits in a long time, and those Carrot-Pecan Cookies sound so good. Thanks for sharing!

Joy Weese Moll 3/31/12, 8:45 AM  

I love bar cookies for being so much quicker and easier than other desserts. I will sometimes fiddle with the recipes until they work well in an 8x8 pan which works better in our small household.

These look delicious -- I think I'd love them with the orange zest.

Unknown 3/31/12, 8:48 AM  

I love bar cookies, and while I've never heard of hermits I might be checking this one out!!

Julie Goucher 3/31/12, 9:33 AM  

They look great. Like Marg I have never heard of Hermits before and am not much of a cookie maker. When I joined the Blog cookie exchange last Christmas I had a real until to find a quick and easy recipe.

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 3/31/12, 9:53 AM  

I've heard of Hermits but never had one, they look so good. I like that you can use what's on hand. The book sounds like a nice one!

SprungAtLast 3/31/12, 10:04 AM  

Oh, I may have to try to track this book down. The recipes sound really good. I love the addition of maple to these bars. I love anything maple, really!

Heather S-G 3/31/12, 10:20 AM  

Yum - hermits! I'm a big fan of bar cookies, this looks like one that would get a lot of use in my kitchen. I'll try to track it down.

Heather 3/31/12, 10:33 AM  

Love it when I find a cookbook that works for so many recipes. Will have to keep and eye out for this author. I agree with the other commentors, bar cookies are so convenient. One pan in the oven, no watching and hovering tray after tray.

Sorry I have missed you all for so many weeks. Have been rather busy with my parents, but we can see the light in the tunnel and it's a good one. Mom and dad are making soup a couple times a week now and rather enjoying it. I think they cooking better now than they have in years. Thanks to everyone for the wonderful soup recipes.

Darlene 3/31/12, 10:58 AM  

I have never had a hermit probably because they have nuts in them. I wonder, would they still taste good if you took out the nuts? They sure sound and look tasty!

Esme 3/31/12, 12:09 PM  

I am a huge fan of bar cookies and hermits have always been one of my favourites although I always did them in a drop.

Lisa@ButteryBooks 3/31/12, 12:14 PM  

Carrot-Pecan Bars with Cream Cheese and Nutmeg Frosting - it seems like the longer the title, the more delicious it sounds :)

bermudaonion 3/31/12, 1:56 PM  

I don't think I've ever made bar cookies but these look delicious and easy!

Carole 3/31/12, 2:35 PM  

Thanks, again, Beth for hosting this. It is quite a highlight of my week - looking at all the links your readers put up.

Margot 3/31/12, 4:09 PM  

I love to bake bar cookies, primarily because of how much faster they are. A Hermit bar cookie is new to me. I want to try this one to see how much faster this one is, in addition to checking out that maple syrup. Sounds good.

Stacy 4/1/12, 9:30 AM  

My mom made bar cookies only a few times while I was growing and I am not sure why she stopped because they were so good. If not from this book, I think I will track down a recipe and try making them.

Fay 4/1/12, 2:46 PM  

Bar cookies were a great discovery when the children were small and needed to be driven all around. Such a time saver. Just put the same old chocolate chip dough in the pan and bake.

Christine 4/1/12, 2:53 PM  

I love bar cookies! They're always moist, tender and so flavorful!

Unknown 4/1/12, 6:12 PM  

These make me wish I liked cookies.

Daryl 4/2/12, 5:37 AM  

lots of busy and a yummy brunch

Zibilee 4/2/12, 4:16 PM  

Those hermits look delicious, and I don't think I have ever come across a cookbook that focuses just on bar cookies. I can't eat a lot of sweets, but this might be nice to have on hand when I need to make something for a special event. Great post today!

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