Making sugar cookies is one of those activities that is high on my list of Things That Sound Fun in Theory But Usually Just End Up Being a Royal Pain (other items include carving jack-o-lanterns, shopping at thrift stores, and anything involving a sewing machine). At least once every October/December/February, I get to thinking about how it would be oh-so-cute of me to create pumpkin/star/heart-shaped sugar cookies to take to work/neighbors/a party. So I do it. And inevitably end up thinking “never again” as I’m rolling out dough for the millionth time while every surface of my kitchen is covered in either flour or powdered sugar.
The worst part is that, for me at least, all the repetitive rolling, cutting, baking, and frosting don’t really end up being worth it. Sugar cookies are fine and all, but I’d take a simple drop ‘n bake chocolate chip version over them any day of the week and twice on Sunday. In fact, if chocolate chip cookies required that kind of effort I would still make them on a regular basis because that is the kind of love I have for them.
These bars solve both of my sugar cookie issues, since they are both dead simple to make and a whole lot tastier than your average sugar cookie. All the recipe requires is making a simple dough, spreading it into a pan, and baking. No refrigeration, no rolling pins, no cutters. And making the cookies in bar form eliminates the issue of overbaked edges or dry, rolled-too-thin shapes. The end result is dense and buttery without being too heavy, and moist without becoming too light or fluffy. Plus the recipe is incredibly versatile, as you could serve these bars in whole, sheet-cake fashion, or cut and pile them on a plate for a different sort of presentation. Hell, you could even cut the unfrosted bars with cookie cutters and then decorate them if that’s the kind of crazy you’re into.
Sugar Cookie Bars (from the Keeping Up Coookbook)
1 cup butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 3/4 cups flour
1) Combine butter, cream cheese, and sugar until smooth.
2) Beat in egg, almond extract and vanilla.
3) Add dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated.
4) With a floured knife (I used an offset spatula) spread dough into a greased and floured 12x17 sheet pan (sometimes known as a jelly roll pan).
5) Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, or until light golden brown on top.
6) Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting (recipe follows).
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
splash of milk
food coloring (optional)
1) Blend butter and cream cheese well
2) Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
3) Add vanilla and splash of milk to reach spreadable consistency.
4) Stir in food coloring, if desired.