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07/17/2015

~ Andrew's Favorite: His Mom's Cherry Cookie Bars ~

IMG_9986Cherries and cherry desserts -- more specifically sour cherries and sour cherry desserts -- I don't know anyone who doesn't love cherries.  My husband picked 150 pounds of pie cherries from our backyard tree last week, and ever since, I've been "making hay while the sun shines" -- posting as many of my favorite cherry recipes  as I am physically capable in order to use up all of these culinary jewels.  Click on the Related Article links below to get the most recent ones.

IMG_9984Andrew is the Production Manager for WHVL-TV here in State College, PA.  He's the host of their For the Record show, and, the man behind the cameras for my Kitchen Encounters cooking segments on their Sunday morning Centre of it All show too.  For my segment last week, I made cheese-filled blintzes with sour cherry topping.  While chatting about cherries during a break, Andrew mentioned his favorite cherry dessert, he texted mom and she responded almost immediately with her recipe!

A cross between a little cake and a little cookie...

IMG_9965... simple, straightforward, easy-to-make, totally-tasty goodness:

IMG_9874A bit about the recipe and my version of it:  First of all, it is simple and straightforward goodness -- there can never be too many easy-to-make totally-tasty dessert recipes in my food world.  It's fun to watch the batter rise up around pie filling as it bakes, which, to my amazement, happens absent the aid of any leavening agents like baking powder or soda (which I honestly questioned at first).  As for ingredients:  Andrew's mom uses margarine, and I use butter, and, while I currently have a pint of homemade cherry pie filling on- IMG_9497hand in my refrigerator, and I am using it,  Andrew's mom uses a can of pie filling when she doesn't have the time to make, or the cherries to make her own (which, because of the short growing season for cherries, is ok by me).  For flavorings, I use my favorite trio of extracts, flavors that complement a whole host of cherry desserts. Lastly, Andrew's mom uses lemon juice in place of extract, which is pure, simple and classic too!

Andrew's Favorite:  His Mom's Cherry Cookie Bars! 

IMG_98798  ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 cup/2 sticks) 

1 1/2  cups sugar

4  large eggs, at room temperature

2  cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon pure cherry extract

1/2  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2  teaspoon: almond extract 

2  cups of my homemade ~ Seriously Simple Stovetop Sour Cherry Pie Filling ~ (Note:  Just click on the Related Article link below to get my recipe.)

No-stick cooking spray, for preparing pan

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting tops of cookie bars

IMG_9881 IMG_9886 IMG_9889 IMG_9895~Steps 1 & 2.  Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Starting on low speed of electric mixer and working your way up to high speed, cream the two together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Lower mixer speed to medium and, one at a time, beat in the eggs, beating well after each addition, then, add all of the extracts and beat well again, about 1 minute.

IMG_9898 IMG_9901~ Step 3.  Add flour and salt and continue to beat until a smooth, sticky, spreadable batter forms, about 2 more minutes.  The texture is best described as softer than the average drop-cookie batter and stiffer than the average cake batter.

IMG_9919~ Step 4.  Transfer batter to a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" x 1" baking pan (also known as a standard-sized jelly roll pan) that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.  

IMG_9921Using an offset spatula, spread the batter across the bottom of the pan to form a thin, even layer.  

IMG_9930~ Step 5.  Using a sharp knife, lightly score (try not cut through to the bottom but it won't matter of you do as the batter closes up as it bakes) the top of the batter to mark the size  bars or squares you want.

Note:  I have divided the long side of the pan into 8, 2" wide sections and the short side of the pan into 4, 3" sections.  This will  yield 32, 4" x 2" bar shapes.

IMG_9937~ Step 6.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of cherry pie filling into the center of each bar or square (I place 3-4 cherries on each bar).  Do not press the filling down into the batter.  The batter will bake up around the filling as it bakes.

~ Step 7.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven 30-35 minutes, or until the batter is nicely golden and a cake tester or a toothpick inserted into the middle of the batter comes out clean.

Here's what they look like going into the oven:

IMG_9935Here's what they look like coming out of the oven:

IMG_9960Place pan on a cooling rack, about 1 1/2 hours, before slicing...

IMG_9978... and serving with a light dusting of Confectioners' sugar! 

IMG_0002Andrew's Favorite:  His Mom's Cherry Cookie Bars:  Recipe yields 32 bar cookies.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" x 1" baking pan (jelly roll pan); offset spatula; sharp knife; ordinary tablespoon; cake tester or toothpick; cooling rack

IMG_9891Cook's Note:  In the event the occasion you're baking for requires an entire cake, I'd like to suggest you give ~ My Buttery Sour-Cream Sour-Cherry Pound-Cake ~ recipe a try.  It's full of the same flavors and buttery goodness as today's cookie bars.  You can find the recipe by clicking into Categories 6, 9, or 19!

"We are all in this food world together." Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)

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