Chewy, tasty bar cookies -- first choice for busy cooks

No doubt the bar cookie was created by a busy mother. Having no time to roll and cut, or even drop cookie dough, she simply dumped the batter into a greased pan, pressed it down, and baked it. Then she cut it into squares. Later on she added nuts or bits of fruit or peanut butter . . . and, lo, the bar cookie was born.

She was so right. Cookie bars are easy to make. They travel and freeze well, make delightful extra gifts, and are good to have on hand for holiday guests and snackers.

Try several varieties, and make your own combinations of toppings or little flavorings. Freeze extra for spur-of-the-moment entertaining. Oatmeal Jam Bars 2 cups oatmeal, uncooked 1 cup flour 3/4 cup brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup margarine 1 cup favorite jam (strawberry is excellent)

Blend thoroughly all ingredients except jam. Spreadhalf of mixture in greased, floured 9-by-9-by-2-inch pan. Spread jam over dough. Sprinkle remaining dough, lightly patting with fingers.

Bake at 350 degrees F. 25 or 30 minutes or until light tan. Cool. Makes 24 bars. Bars are firm when cold. Lemon-Fresh Nut Squares 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar 1 cup butter or margarine 1/2 cup finely crushed walnuts Topping: 4 eggs 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Combine flour and sugar cut in butter to coarse-crumb stage. Add nuts. Press into ungreased 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. For topping, beat ingredients together until fluffy. Pour over baked crust and bake 15 or 20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool before cutting. Makes about 30 bars. Double-Deck Brownies 2/3 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup sugar 2 eggs, well beaten 1/3 cup butter or shortening, melted 1/3 cup flaked coconut 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 1 1/2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted

Mix flour with baking powder and salt. Gradually add sugar to eggs, beating thoroughly. Blend in butter. Add flour mixture and mix well.

Pour 1/2 cup of batter into a small bowl; stir in coconut and almond extract. Add chocolate to remaining batter and spread evenly in greased 8-inch square pan. Drop coconut batter by teaspoonfuls over chocolate batter in pan; then spread carefully to form a thin even layer.

Bake at 350 degrees F. 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool in pan on rack. Cut in bars or squares. Makes about 16 2-inch squares. Lemony Pecan Bars 1/2 cup butter or margarine 2 cups unsifted flour 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar 4 eggs, slightly beaten 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1 cup chopped pecans Confectioners' sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In medium mixing bowl, cream together butter, flour, and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar.

Pat mixture evenly into bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes.

In medium bowl combine eggs, sugar, lemon juice, baking powder, and pecans; stir well. Pour over baked crust.

Return to oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until evenly browned. Cool. Cut into bars. Sprinkle with additional confectioners' sugar if desired. Makes 24 bars. Lemon-Walnut Drops 1/2 cup butter or margarine 1 1/3 cups sugar 1 cup sour cream 1/3 cup lemon juice 2 1/4 cups unsifted flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large mixing bowl cream together butter and sugar. Blend in sour cream and lemon juice. Blend dry ingredients; add to butter mixture. Mix well. Stir in nuts.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheets. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool. Frost with Lemon Icing. Makes about 4 dozen cookies. Lemon Icing 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar 1 tablespoon water 1 teaspoon lemon juice 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Combine all ingredients except walnuts; mix well. Spread on cooled cookies. If desired, sprinkle chopped walnuts on top. Nut Shortbread 1/2 cup softened butter, not margarine 1/4 cup sugar 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup crushed walnut meats Beaten egg white

Cream butter and sugar together until light. Add flour, mixing thoroughly with heavy or wooden spoon. Spread or pat into 9-inch square pan lined with wax paper. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool in pan.

With pastry-brush, lightly brush egg white over top. Sprinkle crushed nuts over top. When cool cut carefully into squares. Makes 16.

Store bar cookies in tightly covered container. Cookies freeze well for two months, double foil-wrapped.

For a colorful touch, trim cookies a bit with colored sugar, coconut, chocolate chips or sprinkles, or crushed nuts.

Crushed candy canes mixed with a little sugar make a lovely topping. Paint with beaten egg-white first if you haven't used glaze or icing.

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