Food columnist Judi Leaming delves into the world of cookie bars, snickerdoodle blondies and pretzel M&M blondies and provides a few simple recipes so you can try them, too.


With only four matches left to go in this year’s high school tennis season, I look at the stack of 20 or 30 recipes still to be tested and realize that when the record book is closed for the 2012 season, I’m still going to have piles of these recipes to test. The Queen Anne’s tennis teams have graciously taste-tested and thanked me for each and every recipe — even the one that contained coconut. (I discovered that about half of the boys do not like coconut but the girls loved it.)

Observe that I’ve offered you a choice of “complicated” and super-easy recipes. You’ll have to decide which one you want to try but we recommend them all.

It is a good idea to always cool the pans on a wire rack after they come out of the oven in order to allow the pan to cool off. This is especially true if you use Pyrex because a Pyrex baking dish placed on a counter top or stove top with the rack to cool will continue to “bake” the bottom of the dough.

If I were eligible to compete in this year’s Delaware State Fair I could go on with my baking but since I’m on the “administrative” side of the Grand Bar Cookie Competition that will be held on Thursday, July 26 during this year’s Fair, I have no excuse and I do have a need to move on to other Fair planning. Therefore I’ll leave it to you to bake your way through these recipes and decide which one has the best chance of earning you a blue ribbon AND a check for $100. Not a bad reason to indulge in baking, is it?

Motherlode Layered Cookie Bars

(adapted from

This recipe is made in four layers in a 9x13-inch baking dish.

Layer 1:

1 (16.5-ounce) roll Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Dough

Layer 2:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup baking cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

Dash of salt

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Layer 3:

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

Layer 4:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. Press cookie dough evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan; refrigerate. Make Layer 2 by creaming together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until well combined. In a separate bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Remove chilled pan from the refrigerator and spread Layer 2 over sugar cookie layer. (HINT: Using slightly dampened finger tips works well for this.) Return pan to refrigerator while you prepare the peanut butter layer. Make Layer 3 by stirring together peanut butter, sugar and egg in a small bowl. Spread this mixture over the chocolate mixture in pan. (Again  using those dampened fingers may work the best for this.) Return pan to refrigerator and prepare Layer 4. With an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Stir this flour mixture into the butter mixture until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Using a spoon (or your fingers) dollop chocolate chip dough evenly over peanut butter layer. Do not press down. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the center of the dough is mostly cooked through. (Test with a toothpick.) Check bars during the last 10 minutes of cooking time. If the top or edges are very brown, cover with foil for the remainder of the necessary baking time. Cool on wire rack then cut into bars or squares.


Snickerdoodle Blondies

(adapted from a blogspot)

2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups brown sugar, packed

1 cup butter, softened

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tablespoon (YES — tablespoon) pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 pinch of ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and/or line with parchment paper a 9x13-inch baking pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and salt; set aside. In a large bowl cream the softened butter and sugars for 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until well-blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan. (Mixture will be somewhat cookie-batter-ish, so it’s best to spread it out with a greased spatula or your dampened finger tips.) Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and pinch of nutmeg in a small bowl and blend. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool on a wire rack before cutting into bars or squares. (Note from Judi: I had some Heath chips on hand and so I also added about 1 cup of them to the batter with the vanilla extract.)


Pretzel M&M Blondies

1/2 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup pretzel M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Line an 8x8-inch pan with foil with some hanging over the sides. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, vanilla and salt. On low speed, beat in the flour just to blend well. Stir in the M&Ms. Pour into the prepared pan and spread to even out. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack in the pan. Lift up the foil and cut into squares.