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Friday, January 20, 2012

Bars, Bars, Bars!

Ok, not the meet people, drink, get tipsy, and dance type,  but the bake, eat, and get tipsy from the sugar high type.  I have a daunting task for which I signed up-no arm twisting or begging was involved.   I need to make 10 dozen NUTLESS bars for a party for my niece Mattie.  Who better to help me decide than Anna at Cookie Madness.   The bars applying for the job need the following qualifications:  They need to cut easily, hold their shape, keep for a few days, and travel well.  I know.  Lofty expectations.  Well, as usual, Cookie Madness did not disappoint!   First of all, I decided to "hire" 4 bars.  The first bars I made were  Iced Lemon Bars.  As usual, I used salted butter and did not add any extra salt.  I also used regular sugar and not powdered sugar. Okay, I also added the zest of one lemon to the batter.  I didn't make any other changes. Okay, I did use a different glaze found here Cookie Madness lemon icing, but that's it!!!   They were still delicious on the third day.  You ask "if they were so good, then why did they last three days?" Well, I wanted to save a few to see how long they would last because I can't (don't want to) make 10 dozen bars in one day.

Iced Lemon Shortbread Bars

10 dozen bars. Whew!   I thought: how can I make this process easier for me? I have an idea!  Let's see if I can make jam bars with the same shortbread dough I used for the lemon bars.  Guess what? You can and I did. I thought they turned out great plus my reviewers texted me saying they liked the jam bars better than the brownies they love.  I followed Anna's recipe with my changes above including the zest.  I substituted about 2 cups of plum jam (which I first put into a bowl and hand mixed until it was smooth) for the lemon mixture.  I spread it evenly over the pre- baked crust while the crust was warm, added the streusel topping, and baked them for another 20 to 25 minutes. After completely cool, they cut like a dream!
Here is a picture of my dreamy jam bars.  You can use any flavor jam.  The plum jam reminds me of a garnet jewel.

Dreamy Plum Jam Shortbread Bars

Well, my third choice needed to have some chocolate in it because my niece would be disappointed without it.  I chose an EASY Toffee Bar recipe from Allrecipes.  The only changes I made were:  Used a 9 x 13 pan, lined it with nonstick foil, substituted 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for the vanilla (for the party I won't use almond extract because that qualifies as a nut), and used about 5 ounces of semisweet chips and 5 ounces of butterscotch chips to melt on top of the hot crust.    They were a hit with my reviewers, but they would prefer to have less butterscotch and more chocolate on the top so I would go 70% semi sweet and 30% butterscotch next time.

Easy Chocolate Butterscotch Toffee Bars
My fourth bar ended up being boxed brownies (cringe).  However, to a 9 x 13 pan I added about 4 inches of mashed banana, an extra tablespoon of Hershey's cocoa, 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, and about a 1/16 of a teaspoon salt, or a big pinch.  Most of that odd box mix flavor disappeared.  No pictures of this brownie, but here are a few pictures from my trip to Florida.

Roseate Spoonbills splashing around Sanibel Island

More spoonbills..I am infatuated with them!

Great Blue Heron in front of my condo. 
Me "roof" hopping in FM. 
Enjoy "bar" hopping!