by | Dec 4, 2019

Holiday bar cookies to share

By Heather Berry I

With a chill in the air and Christmas drawing near, our hearts are filled with the warmth and wonder of the season. Whether you’re serving snacks at a tree-trimming party or hosting a festive Yuletide gathering for friends, homemade holiday treats are one way of saying “Merry Christmas” to those we love.

One of the delicious ways to do that is to share gifts you’ve taken the time to bake, like these yummy cookie bars. While some bakers like to form cookies into festive shapes or drop them by the spoonful onto cookie sheets, bar cookies cut to the chase and simply get cut into squares or bar shapes before serving. No matter how they’re cut, Santa’s sure to enjoy them with a glass of milk on Christmas Eve.

If you’re mailing the holiday treats, here are some simple guidelines:

  • Pack treats in separate containers so the flavors don’t cross over.
  • Don’t pack soft cookies with crunchy cookies.
  • When wrapping bars, use waxed paper to separate each layer and place in a tight-lidded tin.
  • Cookies are best wrapped back to back in plastic wrap and packed tightly in a tin. Surround the container with bubble wrap, crumpled newspaper or even popped popcorn placed in zip-style bags to cushion the treats.

With a little care, your Christmas goodies should arrive in great shape for  your friends and loved ones to enjoy.

Gooey Caramel Chocolate Bars

1 box German chocolate cake mix
3/4 cup butter, melted
5-ounce can evaporated milk
14-ounce package caramels, unwrapped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan; set aside.  In large bowl, combine cake mix, melted butter and 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread half the dough in a prepared baking pan; set aside remaining dough.

In a heavy large saucepan; combine caramels and remaining evaporated milk. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until melted and smooth, reserving 1/4 cup to drizzle on top of baked bars, if desired. Pour caramel evenly over dough layer in pan. Sprinkle with nuts and chocolate pieces. Crumble remaining dough evenly over nuts and chocolate pieces.

Bake for 25 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Shortbread Bars

Three sticks butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
3 cups flour

Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, add the butter and blend with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and continue mixing until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and combine thoroughly.

Add flour and mix at low speed until well blended. The mixture will be crumbled and soft. Pat dough into an ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving the edges of the parchment paper hanging off the sides to make it easy to lift out the cookies. Alternatively you can roll out the dough so that it’s about 1/4 of an inch in thickness. Knead it a bit just so that the dough comes together, but don’t overwork it, then cut into your desired shape.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until edges begin to turn dark gold. Do not overbake.

Velvet Cheesecake Bars

1-1/3 cups milk chocolate chips
2 cups chocolate sandwich cookies with white filling, finely crushed
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons liquid red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving the parchment paper hanging off the sides to make it easy to lift out of pan. Lightly coat the paper with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium saucepan; heat and stir chocolate over low heat until melted. Allow to cool.

For crust: In a medium bowl combine crushed cookies and 2 tablespoons sugar; stir in the melted butter. Press mixture firmly into bottom of prepared pan.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sour cream, 1/3 cup sugar, red food coloring and vanilla with a mixer on medium until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate. Stir in eggs. Spread over crust.

Bake about 25 minutes or until edges are puffed and center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cover and chill 4 to 12 hours before serving, then cut into desired bars or squares, as we did on the right. (We also drizzled ours with extra melted chocolate chips.)

Cranberry Pecan Bars


For the crust:

1-1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
Powdered sugar (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare crust: Place flour, pecans, butter, salt and sugar in a food processor. Process until ingredients are combined. Mixture will appear dry and lumpy.

Spray a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour mixture into pan and press down with your hands. Press edges down so all surface area is even. Bake crust for 8 minutes.

For filling: While the crust bakes, put eggs, sugar and vanilla into the same food processor bowl. Process until combined.

Add dried cranberries. Pulse until cranberries are rough chopped. When crust comes out of oven, pour filling mixture over hot crust. Sprinkle pecans over filling. Continue baking for an additional 15 to 17 minutes. Allow bars to completely cool before cutting. 

Scandinavian Almond Bars

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
1-1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup almond flour or all-purpose flour if you don’t have almond flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon milk or cream
1/2 cup sliced almonds


1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Enough milk or cream until glaze is thin (adding only a teaspoon at a time)

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the egg and the almond extract.

Whisk the flours, baking powder, and salt together and add slowly to the bowl. Mix until everything is well combined.

Press the dough into the pan with your fingers, making sure it’s as even as possible. Brush the top of the dough with the milk or cream, and then top it with the sliced almonds. Press them down gently with your hands.

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until the dough is drying out and just beginning to brown along the edges. The bars will appear undercooked, but will firm up as they cool. Do not overbake.

Let the bars cool for 5 minutes in the pan, and then slice them. If they seem soft, cool a bit longer before cutting. Cool completely before icing.

For glaze: Stir the sugar together with the almond extract and enough milk or cream to thin glaze. Drizzle over the cooled bars. Bars will be chewy.

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