Tuesday, May 5, 2009

COOKIE BARS

SOMETHING TO PLEASE EVERYONE COOKIE BARS

BOYS WILL BE BOYS! I have always been amazed at the mysteriousness of my sons. I do not mean the mystery that is an adolescent male, their ever-changing facial features and physiognomy, their mood swings or even how they make me feel as if I have suddenly been cut off just below the knees and now stand nose to chest. No, the mystery that completely eludes me is how two young men, just two years separating them, raised together, fed the same meals, have such different tastes? For all of their differences, their strengths at school, their hobbies, pastimes and interests, the one that has always fascinated me the most are the differences in their eating habits.

Yes, you can call me Mrs. Moody raising these two...

For those of you who know me, this revelation comes as no surprise. Being married to a man who can eschew candy, sweets or dessert with the same nonchalance that most of us turn down the offer of dung beetles, I have gotten used to it, although it rarely makes me happy, seeing as it usually is a dessert that I have made myself or sweets that I have purchased. But I have accepted that this may in fact be due to cultural differences, a will power developed in a home that was more centered on pot au feu than tarte tatin. Or maybe it is a male thing, seeing as how my brother is the same, but I don’t think so.

A birthday celebration in Italy

Yet this difference in my sons is astounding. Clem, from the earliest age, has been gobbling down vegetables although he has to practically be bribed to eat a sweet, seasonal fruit. Simon, on the other hand, would never eat a vegetable come hell or high water., yet fruit, any kind of fruit, he would happily munch at any hour of the day. Clem has always had an adventurous palate, eating garlic and lemons, sharp cheeses or the national dishes of almost any country in the world, the more exotic the better. Simon grew up eating white rice, pasta and anything fried. Clem, left to his own devices, prepares himself a mixed salad, a cheese platter, hummous or reheats a slice of quiche. Simon? Breaded, fried chicken cutlets, chicken nuggets or, at best, a hamburger with lots of ketchup and a side of chips. And pizza. I have often thought that this was due to my pregnancy cravings – with Clem I had to absolutely eat couscous or something flavorful and spicy every day. With Simon, I stopped every single day at Burger King for hamburger and fries and finished it off with a brownie.

They were so sweet and such good friends...

But the strangest difference between my two sons is their sweet tooth or, in Simon’s case, the lack thereof. Clem has a sweet tooth in high gear – the creamier, the chocolatier, the richer the better for him. Chocolate mousse, tiramisu, lava cake, ice cream with hot chocolate sauce and whipped cream, actually, everything smothered in whipped cream! Any kind of cake or brownie or cookie or pie will do. And add ice cream and whipped cream.

Simon, on the other hand, will always choose a bowl of fresh strawberries doused in sugar. Other than that, he has his repertoire of 3, maybe 4 treats he will eat, all rather simple: a quick, plain coffee cake with mini chocolate chips in the streusel, chocolate chip cookies and my Special Chocolate Cake. And occasionally a bowl of vanilla ice cream with perhaps some colored sprinkles if he is feeling a little bit wild. His one great concession – his one big discovery this year – are Profiteroles, though hold back on too much chocolate sauce.

So trying to keep this family in treats is no easy thing. Simon stomps around accusing me of committing something on par with a federal crime if I stray from his Triple Crown of snack choices, Clem berates me for either having nothing to snack on in the house or going overboard and shoving food down their throats. And when I do make something, it is a delicate balance of too sweet or fancy, too simple and bland. Or anything in between. How to please everyone?


I first tasted these bars at Johey’s house and immediately asked for the recipe. These are truly the ideal cookie bar as one can blend in almost anything one likes, practically anything except the kitchen sink, a way to meet the challenge and handle all the persnickety ones in the family while satisfying the sweet tooth of the others. You can add some healthier ingredients like wheat germ or throw in whatever is at hand, changing the list from week to week.

SOMETHING TO PLEASE EVERYONE COOKIE BARS

2 ½ cups flour
2 cups brown sugar (I used half soft packed light brown and granulated brown)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, softened, really softened
2 tsps vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups oats (good old Quaker oatmeal worked for me)

Mix-ins of choice, some, all or other things :

1 cup (or more for the more gourmand among us) chocolate chips (I used mini chips)
½ cup – 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts of choice
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup grated coconut, toasted or not (I used lightly sweetened)
¼ - ½ cup wheat germ
¼ - ½ cup ground hazelnuts or almonds
1 cup raisins


I would have loved adding in the peanut butter, but peanut butter in baked goods is a definite no-no in both their books, strangely enough something they agree on. I added the cup of coconut and cup of chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan or do as I did and line it with foil leaving a “handle” of foil hanging over two opposite sides, then butter the foil.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and continue beating for about a minute until, well, light and fluffy.


Add the eggs, beating after each addition, until very well blended and creamy. Beat in the vanilla.


(If adding peanut butter, I would beat it in now).

Beat in the flour on low speed, adding it in two or three batches for easier working.


Now, blend in the oats and the additions. This is best done by hand. In fact, I had little luck with a wooden spoon as it is quite stiff and ended up practically kneading it all together with my hands just to make sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the mixture is smooth and homogeneous.


Spread the very stiff batter in the pan. I pressed it in and around with my fingers.


Bake for about 30 minutes until the cake is puffed and golden brown and seems set when pressed in the center.


Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for maybe 10 minutes.


Lift the “blondies”, if you will, out of the pan by the foil overhang on each side and set on a cooling rack to finish cooling.


Cutting into the bars while still warm (the cookies, not you) will give you a cookie bar that is gooey and moist and bordering on the uncooked, but truly scrumptious. As it continues to cool, it will firm up somewhat, giving you a chewier bar. These are really sinfully rich and buttery and delicious, a sweet treat without being overly, cloyingly sweet. Just very rich.


Now let’s see who eats them…..

33 comments:

Donna-FFW said...

Jamie- They certainly do sound like the ideal cookie bar. Delicious. They have so much yumminess in them they are sure to please all. On my to try list..

The Cooking Ninja said...

Those bars look yummy.

I was lucky that during my pregnancy I don't have much craving and I didn't eat any cheese at all. I was determined that Little V has a taste of everything ;) so I made sure I ate lots of curries, Jap, Asian, Italian food etc. So far so good, she eats everything. She loves anything that is 'laitage' even stinking blue cheese. But she isn't much into meats.

cooknkate said...

These look yummy. I have a similar bar recipe that I've used in the same manner; toss is a bit of this and that. It's always different, but delicious every time

Mary said...

Jamie, I love this recipe! Aren't kids amazing. I long ago concluded that the only thing my children have in common is their father and me.

Jamie said...

@The Cooking Ninja - that is exactly Like Clem - rarely meat, but loves any and all cheese all the time and eats most everything with gusto. Like you, we had him taste everything from day 1. Didn't do it for Simon and look what happened :-)

Jamie said...

@Mary - ROTFL! Good one!

Barbara Bakes said...

Great step by step photos. The bars look perfect to me too!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What delicious looking and sounding cookie bars!

Everybody has a different personality...

Cheers,

Rosa

doggybloggy said...

cookie bars are great and these are great cookie bars - I will be making this recipe soon - I am a budding baker so all the help I can get is accepted....I have only one boy but he evolves as if he is many...

Muriel said...

I've never made cookie bars,what I am waiting for ??
My sons have different tastes as well,one is very adventurous and the other one not at all,hard to make him try new things...

girlichef said...

These look amazing... so moist and delicious and perhaps perfect! I've always been amazed how brothers & sisters can be so different from one another, too! I marvel over both me & mine and my children...so baffling, yet so great. :)

Lien said...

Clever girl to find something to everyone's taste. Kids can be very difficult eaters, but that'll get better (they say).

pinkstripes said...

Great family pictures. I love the bar recipe. I'll have to try it.

Sara said...

These look great, I love all the mix in options. I bet you could make all kinds of delicious combinations!

Jamie said...

@Lien - they are already 18 and 20! When does it change? LOL

Juliana said...

Love the pictures...great bars!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Clem has been gobbling up veggies since he was a babe? Good God. That's every mother's dream. :) They're adorable.

Karen Brown Letarte said...

Making cookies drives me crazy-- the constantly moving baking sheets in and out of the oven, the continually dropping more batter onto them and getting sticky again, trying not to let them burn... so bar cookies are one of my favorite things!! These look wonderful!! I do think love of sweet things is a cultural thing. We are from the South and love sugar almost more than life itself, all 3 of us!! I am the world's worst mom: I've been known to take my son to Rocky Mtn Chocolate Factory for one of their huge caramel apples and call it Dinner! Hey, it's fruit, isn't it??) :D K

Claudia said...

Great cookie bars! Mmmm. Children are amazing. we stopped asking ours what they wanted to eat (or on friday eves - where they would like to eat because they couldn't agree). The couldn't be more different ... or closer!

The Cooking Photographer said...

Hi Jamie.

Your husband sounds like mine. He dislikes anything overly sweet. He won't even taste many of the desserts I make.

It's fascinating your children’s' tastes are so different from each other as well. I wonder where this all comes from.

Those bars look delicious and perfect for a work cookie day. I'm going to go print it out now.

Thanks!
~Laura

Lien said...

O Jamie, I think you can give up hope then, 18 & 20 o dear.
Well it was what I was holding on to, 'cause "they" told me it would get better all the time, so now I've lost my illusion too.

Jamie said...

@Lien - strangely enough, it has accentuated more and more as the years go by, though the persnickety one admitted to me that he eats veg and even sushi(!) when his friend's mom serves it! But actually, I think that if we had stayed in Italy, it would have gotten better as the choice of fresh products is so much better and more exciting.

Chef E said...

Isn't it wonderful how different our children can be, as we look back on their childhood! Mine were as yours different as day and night...

It is dangerous for my son and I to get together at times with our picky but yet solid sweet teeth...you would have to shoo me from the kitchen, as I would forever be picking at those cookie bars :)

Culinary Wannabe said...

Sounds like you have your hands full trying to please everyone! My hubby didn't come from a dessert family, but I have since converted him. Sometimes I think it's the best cooks that produce the pickiest eaters though. Their future wives will certainly have their work cut out for them! :)

Jamie said...

@Ashley - that actually makes sense, considering that often the opposite is true - my mom hated to cook and was only so-so, and 3 out of 4 of us love to cook and ain't half bad!

And hubby does absolutely love my desserts, he just has the will power of someone who would never give up anything under torture!

Jenn said...

Awesome cookie bars. Especially with the chocolate. I can eat a dozen of those depending how big the pieces are.

Looks delish!!

Mochachocolata Rita said...

oh yummmmm....my challenge is not to finish cookie dough before baking...this sounds so yummy!

creampuff said...

This is so true! My brother and I are the same way. Raised in the same house but very different in terms of food likes ... I guess personality has a lot to do with it!

Katherine Aucoin said...

These lookwonderful. I akm definitely going to try these Jamie! I have girls..but watching them grow and change and develop their individuality is astounding!

Ana Powell said...

Hi Jamie
Love reading your stories, I can even jump into your shoes because you write so well.
Yummy cookie bars, just perfect x

burpandslurp said...

amazing cookie bars! I'm totally droolng.
my brother and I have very different tastes in food, too! He loves his meat and will get sad without some carnivorous item on his dish, while I love my greens. he'll actually eat anything, though, while I'm really really picky about my food.

Maris said...

I love cookies. Any kind of cookie, but especially chocolate chip, chocolate chunk, anything chocolate!

asiangrrl said...

The bars look luscious. Too bad you didn't have me as a kid. I eat everything but water chestnuts, kiwi, and a few other things. In general, if you make it, I'll eat it.

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