Cranberry Bliss Bars

I can’t remember exactly when I had my first Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bar but I do remember thinking (in no particular order): it could become a very expensive habit, sitting out in the air too long would make them go stale quickly, and only having them available during Christmas holidays was not an option…. I mean, what’s a girl to have as a treat with her coffee mid-March? A cake pop?! Pfft! That’s so last fad.  Never to be outfoxed by a baked good, I went searching into the ether and came back with a promising knock-off recipe … which I further knocked off.  Peace and sanity were restored and mah belly was happy.

One recipe makes a generous batch, enough for your cookie tray and a lucky one or two others.  I’ve never tried to double the recipe into a half sheet pan since I think that’d become too unwieldy for my skill level.  If you’re game, send me pics.  I’ll be amazed!  If by some strange happenstance you get a wild hair and make three batches and find you DO have a few left over, they freeze beautifully in a vacuum-sealed bag.  I can’t begin to tell you how fun it is to do a freezer clean out and find these hiding there.

Fear not non-coffee drinkers, cranberry bliss bars go well with a tall glass of milk, a hot mug of tea and, I hear, a nice dram of bourbon.

Onto the rooftops and down the chimneys, one and all (if you can fit after all the goodies)!

CRANBERRY BLISS BARS

(adapted from Top Secret Recipes version of Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bar by Todd Wilbur)

CAKE:
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1 ¼ cups light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp ginger (powdered)
¼ tsp Kosher salt
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup dried cranberries(I use unsweetened), chopped, divided
6 oz. white chocolate chips

FROSTING:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
4-5 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of one orange (no pith)
½ tsp vanilla

CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350F. For a cake-like (more authentic) bar, use a quarter-sheet pan.  For a more cookie-like bar, use a 15×11 jellyroll pan.  Line the pan with parchment paper or butter it well.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Mix in eggs, vanilla, ginger and salt and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.  On low speed, gradually add in the flour, scraping down the sides once or twice.  Stir in ¾ of the cup of chopped cranberries and the white chocolate chips.

Spread the batter in the pan, being sure to distribute it evenly to all sides and corners.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until edges are just starting to brown.  Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack.

FROSTING: Combine all of the frosting ingredients in a mixer using the whisk attachment (though a paddle will work) until smooth.  Spread the frosting evenly from side to side, corner to corner.  If you remembered to keep the divided ¼ cup of chopped cranberries, sprinkle them over the frosted bars.

Cut into desired shapes and either serve or store (for up to a week I’ve found) in an airtight container as they do tend to dry out in a cookie tin.

Mintywiches – Andes Candies Sandwich Cookies

These cookies are the absolute favorites of both Gladys of the Suburbs and Mahatma Sissypants (according to my recipe notes from 1999).  I’ve given their nicknames here because right now they’re stepping out on old Minty … looking for greener (literally in one cookie’s case) pastures in the chocolate-mint cookie combo… but I know they’ll be back and I don’t want to out their infidelity to the world for this minor blip.

I don’t know where the recipe originated, just that Mom’s been making them as long as I can remember and I’ve carried on the tradition.  In full disclosure, however, I really prefer to make these cookies with someone else – anyone else (as long as their hands have been washed, natch) – because I loathe rolling the balls.  My uniformity skills are sorely lacking and I end up with a variety of shapes and sizes which are okay in a stand-alone cookie but, um, not so aesthetically pleasing in a sandwich cookie.  You have been warned!

Since we’re coming onto Christmas like a freight train without brakes into a downhill station on a freezing rainy night, I’ve been remiss in photographing these latest cookie recipes.  Fortunately, my verbosity will be of great use here.  To wit, how to make these no-fail cookies in five(ish) steps:

1) Mix the ingredients together following the directions outlined below. 2) Chill the dough (overnight is best but sixish hours should do it).  3) Preheat the oven, 3a) roll the dough in sugar, 3b) bake, 3c) sandwich the Andes candies between two like-sized cookies. 4 or 3a1 … I erred on the side of a stand-alone hint ) The more uniform your dough balls, the less likely you will burn your fingers picking up and putting down cookies until you find the right size to match. 5) Eat.  And done.

Mom used to put a little rosette of red and green frosting on each cookie before serving … I never remember but it is pretty if you want to dude up these otherwise plain cookies.

If the directions above and below still leave you scratching your head as to why I’m recommending these perennial favorites and/or how to make them in more detail, drop me a line.  If I’m not too far into me grog cups, I’ll answer promptly.  I may even let the locusts answer for me since their sadly frequent (and sometimes successful by my count) attempts at pilfering make me think they may be experts in all things Mintywich.

Hope you bake these little lovelies – unless you’re Gladys and/or Mahatma and are out there in your come-hither baking get-ups looking for some Minty-come-lately – they are a real crowd pleaser.

Merry! Merry!

Mintywiches

2/3 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 egg
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
¼ cup light corn syrup
1 ¾ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
granulated sugar
60 creme de menthe wafers (Andes Crème de Menthe Thins)

Combine butter, sugar and egg in large mixing bowl and beat until light and creamy.  Blend in melted chocolate and corn syrup.  Sift together flour, soda and salt.  Stir into chocolate mixture.  Chill several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Using a level teaspoon of dough, shape into a ball and roll in granulated sugar.  Place  an even number of balls on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove each batch from oven and let it stand just a few seconds.  Do NOT cool.  Turn half of each batch upside down and top with a mint wafer.  Top with a like-sized cookie.  Place mintywiches in freezer to harden (or on counter for an hour).  HINT:  This dough becomes sticky at room temperature; return it to the refrigerator between batches.  If you’ve rolled a pan and they waiting (first, wow, you’re good!), put them in the refrigerator to keep them from getting melty.

Store, layered between parchment or waxed paper in a cookie tin.

Makes 50 cookies when using 1 level tsp measure for the balls.

If you prefer a higher filling to cookie ratio, measure out 1/2 tsp of dough for the balls.

Absolutely Marvelous Caramel Matzoh Crunch

And it is … absolutely marvelous.

Every year when I bake the matzoh crunch, I’m reminded of a fictional account of a near-death experience in a blinding snowstorm with four of five siblings and one Mario-Andretti-Wanna-Be sister-in-law behind the wheel of a rented minivan.  As the story goes, there was a tradition, some years back, when available siblings and MAWB would make a weekend road trip between Thanksgiving and Christmas to a place within driving distance of their homes to sample and pick up beers and other provisions for Christmas.  One of these trips was to Montreal. Continue Reading