Blondies

Makes about 2 to 3 dozen bars.

Note: Adapted from “Genius Desserts: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Bake,” by Kristen Miglore (Ten Speed Press). Miglore, creative director of Food52, noted that this recipe — from America’s Test Kitchen — is heavy on the vanilla extract. “You might think of vanilla as a volatile ingredient, like cayenne or salt — all but impossible to correct once overdone,” writes Miglore. “But it’s much harder to overdo than you think. And once you stop putting in a single teaspoon into baking recipes because it’s what you’ve always done, you can embrace vanilla as a flavor all its own — complex, haunting, memorable. Measure out 4 teaspoons or feel free to just upend the bottle.” Coconut fans can add 1 cup of shredded sweetened coconut.

• 1 c. pecan or walnut halves

• 1 1/2 c. flour

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

• 3/4 c. unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled, plus extra unmelted butter for pan

• 1 1/2 c. lightly packed light brown sugar

• 2 eggs, lightly beaten

• 4 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 c. white chocolate chips, or 1/2 c. white chocolate chips and 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

• 1 c. sweetened shredded coconut, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.

Spread nuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until they turn deep golden brown and smell toasty, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let nuts cool, then transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop them.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, and reserve. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts (and coconut, optional) and scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Bake until the top is shiny, cracked and lightly golden at the edges, about 22 minutes. Err on the side of underbaking, so the bars don’t dry out. Remove pan from oven, transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely. Cut into bars.

Nutrition information per each of 36 bars:

Calories 135 Fat 7 g Sodium 65 mg

Carbohydrates 16 g Saturated fat 4 g Added sugar 11 mg

Protein 2 g Cholesterol 20 mg Dietary fiber 0 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 1 fat.

Salted Vanilla Bean Shortbread Bars

Makes about 2 to 3 dozen bars.

Note: Adapted from “Tasty Dessert” (Clarkson Potter).

• 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pan

• 1 1/2 c. sugar

• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out

• 3 c. flour

• 1 tsp. flaky sea salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the butter, sugar, kosher salt and vanilla bean seeds, and beat until pale and very fluffy, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add flour and mix until mixture is just combined and no dry pockets of flour are visible.

Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and use the bottom of a measuring cup to press it into an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Using a paring knife, score the dough into rectangles, squares or other desired shape. Sprinkle the dough evenly with sea salt and press lightly to adhere it to the dough. Bake until the dough is golden brown all over and no longer shiny, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove from oven and transfer pan to a wire rack. Immediately cut the dough along the scored lines to separate the bars. Let the bars cool completely in the pan on the wire rack. Separate the bars fully from one another and serve.

Nutrition information per each of 36 bars:

Calories 120 Fat 5 g Sodium 90 mg

Carbohydrates 16 g Saturated fat 3 g Added sugars 8 mg

Protein 1 g Cholesterol 15 mg Dietary fiber 0 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, 1 fat.

Oatmeal-Jam Bars

Makes about 2 to 3 dozen bars.

Note: Adapted from “Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook” (17th edition), by editors Jessica Christensen and Jan Miller.

• 1 lemon

• 1 1/3 c. flour

• 1/4 tsp. baking soda

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• 3/4 c. quick-cooking rolled oats

• 1/3 c. packed brown sugar

• 6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

• 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pan

• 3/4 c. seedless raspberry jam

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.

Remove 1 teaspoon zest and 1 teaspoon juice from the lemon. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in oats, brown sugar and lemon zest.

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, combine cream cheese and butter and beat until smooth, about 30 seconds. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and beat until crumbly. Remove 1 cup of the crumb mixture and reserve.

Evenly press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer the pan to a wire rack.

In a small bowl, combine jam and lemon juice, and spread mixture over hot crust. Sprinkle top of bars with reserved 1 cup crumb mixture. Return pan to oven and bake until top is golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven, transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely. Cut into bars.

Nutrition information per each of 36 bars:

Calories 80 Fat 3 g Sodium 55 mg

Carbohydrates 12 g Saturated fat 2 g Added sugars 5 mg

Protein 1 g Cholesterol 8 mg Dietary fiber 0 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, ½ fat.

Apricot Coconut Squares

Makes about 2 to 3 dozen bars.

Note: Adapted from “At Home With Magnolia,” by Allysa Torey (Wiley).

For crust:

• 2 c. flour

• 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces

• 6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into small pieces

• 1/4 tsp. salt

 

For topping:

• 1/2 c. sugar

• 2 eggs, at room temperature

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 2 c. sweetened shredded coconut

• 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For filling:

• 2/3 c. apricot preserves

Directions

To prepare crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the flour, butter, cream cheese and salt, until the mixture is crumbly and well-combined. Transfer the mixture to an ungreased 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Using your hands, pat the dough firmly and evenly into the pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.

To prepare topping: In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until well-combined. Stir in the coconut and melted butter.

To prepare filling: Gently spread a thin layer of the apricot preserves over the prepared crust. Then, very carefully, spread the coconut topping over the entire top of the bars, being sure to go all the way to the edge. Bake for 18 minutes. Remove pan from oven, transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely. Cut into bars.

Nutrition information per each of 36 bars:

Calories 170 Fat 12 g Sodium 50 mg

Carbohydrates 15 g Saturated fat 7 g Added sugars 7 mg

Protein 2 g Cholesterol 35 mg Dietary fiber 1 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, 2 fat.