These cookie bars always remind me of my Grandma Gorman. I made them for the family room at my Grandma’s wake. She was a spectacular woman. She loved fiercely, had the most beautiful white hair, always told you what she was praying about for you (mine always seemed to be for finding a husband), she always give you 1,000 kisses when she first saw you, she baked often, and was one of the most honest people in my life. She told you what she was thinking, even if you didn’t want to hear it sometimes. I hope that she would have told me that she loved these cookie bars as much as my friends and family did when they tried them this week. I try to make these for fun events now, so that the memories that get added to these cookies are happy and help to neutralize the sadness of making these for her wake. It helps me to think about her and how much I loved her and all the things about her that made her such a special and wonderful lady.
The ingredients for the cookie part of this recipe are 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 room temperature egg, 1 1/2 tablespoon room temperature sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon almond extract.
As most recipes start, I began by lining my 9-by-13 inch pan with crumpled parchment paper and used binder clips to hold the paper in place. I also preheated the oven to 375 F degrees. I combined my dry ingredients, flour, baking soda and salt, in a bowl and whisked them together. Then I used my stand mixer to cream together my softened butter and granulated sugar until it was light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Next, I added in the egg and mixed it until it was all combined. I added in the sour cream, vanilla and almond extracts and made sure to mix until the dough was nice and light. I added the dry ingredients to the batter 1/2 cup at a time. I made sure to stop about halfway through adding and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure that there were no pockets of flour. Then I dumped the mixture into my prepared pan and pressed down on it to spread it out all over the pan into an even layer. I used a small piece of parchment paper between the batter and my hand to make sure I didn’t stick to the dough. Then I baked the dough for 20 minutes and took them out right when I saw the edges beginning to brown and the middle did not look wet anymore. I let the cookie layer cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
While the cookie layer was cooling, I made the icing to go on top. The ingredient are 1/2 cup of softened butter, 4 cups of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup of whipping cream (half and half or whole milk will work here too), 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, a few drops of gel food coloring (I used deep pink by AmeriColor) and sprinkles.
I used my hand mixer while I was making this icing. I find them sometimes when I am making a smaller batch of icing that the hand mixer does a better of job of incorporating all of the ingredients together than my stand mixer, which can sometimes miss the bottom of the bowl. I added the cream to the bowl with the butter and powdered sugar and then mixed to make sure everything was evenly combined. I went slow at first to make sure I didn’t end up with a powdered sugar explosion. Then I added in my vanilla and food coloring. If you want, you could also add a pinch of salt at this point, but I didn’t because I used salted butter. Once the icing was nice and fluffy and the right shade of pink, I dumped it all in the middle of the cookie layer and used a large offset spatula to spread it out. I then topped it with what every soft, iced sugar cookie needs- sprinkles! I love the way rainbow nonperils make everything look happy. They add just the right amount of crunch and color to these cookies. Finally, I sliced these into more of a rectangular finger shape than a square bar shape. They are pretty sweet and this is just the right amount without being too much.
I hope next time you are wanting a sweet and cheery treat to make you will think about these iced sugar cookie bars. Many of my kind taste testers commented on how much they liked the subtle almond flavor that come through without being overpowering. That little bit of different flavor really makes these cookie bars a little more mature and keeps them from being cloyingly sweet. You never know, if you make these, you might inherit some of my Grandma Gorman’s most valuable traits – she really did have a heart of gold.
**Interesting fact that I recently learned- my almond extract does not have any actual almond in it. Most is made from bitter almond oil which is extracted from the pits of stone fruits. So almond extract is safe for my son with his tree nut allergies. It is always worth checking each manufacturer, but most that I have checked do not contain any tree nuts.**
Recipe: Iced Sugar Cookie Bars
- Cookie Layer
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons softened butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 room temperature egg
- 1 1/2 tablespoons room temperature sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 8 tablespoons softened butter
- 4 cups of powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup whipping cream, half and half or whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- pinch of salt (optional)
- Few drops of gel food coloring of your choice
- Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees and line a 9-by-13 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk and set aside.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides and then add the egg and beat to combine.
- Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined and smooth.
- Add the dry ingredients a 1/2 cup at a time and be sure to stop half way through and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.
- Dump the dough into the prepared pan and use a piece of parchment paper to help you press the dough into the pan in a nice even layer. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until you see the edges begin to brown and the middle not look wet.
- Cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.
- While the cookie is cooling make the frosting. Combine the powdered sugar, butter and cream and use a hand mixer to whip into a cohesive mixture. Then add the vanilla and food coloring (start with a few drops and add more until you reach your desired color) whip again until it is all combined and nice and fluffy.
- Spread the icing over the top of the cookie layer and top with sprinkles.
- Slice into the size and shape of cookie bar you desire.
Recipe adapted from High Heels and Grills