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Dessrt bars to the rescue!

Need something quick to make and easy to transport to a family gathering, picnic or potluck?

Dessert bars are the answer.

They can be made ahead of time. They require no utensils to eat. Unlike cookies, they don’t need to be portioned, scooped out onto a pan and then baked in batches. They can be transported in the pan you bake them in.

And they can be any flavor your want: Chocolate. Caramel. Blueberry. Pecan. Even marshmallow.

Get creative and have fun.

The mild heat and berry undertones of guajillo chilies make them ideal for adding to desserts, especially this layered bar cookie.

Salted Guajillo Caramel Chocolate Chunk Bars

For the caramel sauce:

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, cut into chunks

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons ground roasted guajillo chile

1/2 teaspoon Sicilian sea salt

For the chocolate chunk bars:

2-1/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon ground roasted guajillo chile

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks

For the caramel sauce: Melt butter in medium saucepan on medium heat. Add sugar; cook and stir with wire whisk 6 to 7 minutes or until mixture turns a deep amber color. Carefully stir in cream, vanilla, ground guajillo chile and sea salt. (Mixture will be bubbly.) Whisking constantly, cook 1 to 2 minutes until sauce thickens and coats back of spoon. Let stand 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

For the bars: Mix flour, ground guajillo chile, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside. Mix butter and sugars in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add flour mixture; mix just until moistened. Stir in chocolate chunks. Reserve 1 cup of the batter. Spread remaining batter in foil-lined 13-by-9-inch baking pan sprayed with no stick cooking spray. Bake 15 minutes.

Pour caramel sauce over baked layer in pan, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edges. Drop reserved 1 cup batter by spoonfuls over caramel layer. Cut through batter with knife several times for a marble effect.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until top is golden brown and center is set. Cool in pan on wire rack. Use foil handles to remove dessert from pan. Place on cutting board and cut into bars.

Makes 24 servings.

Recipe from: McCormick

Bars don’t get more fudgey than this. The toffee bits and chocolate chips, along with the condensed milk, make the bars gooey and chewy.

Fudgey Toffee Bars

1/2 cup butter, melted

1-1/2 cups graham wafer crumbs (about 22 wafers)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup toffee bits

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 13-by-9-inch cake pan.

In a bowl, mix together butter and graham wafer crumbs. Press evenly into prepared pan.

Pour condensed milk evenly over base. Sprinkle an even layer of toffee bits over it, then a layer of chocolate chips, and finally a layer of nuts.

Use a spatula and firmly the press top onto the base.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Place pan on a rack to cool completely, then cut into bars.

Makes 36 bars.

Recipe from: “The 250 Best Brownies, Bars & Squares” by Esther Brody

“Broiling the marshmallows right to the brink of charred gives these bars a smoky taste reminiscent of a campfire cookout. Keep an eye on the marshmallows through the oven door as you would with marshmallows over a fire — charred is good, burnt is bad.” — Genevieve Ko

Campfire Marshmallow Bars

Start to finish: 30 minutes

6 cups crisped rice cereal

4 tablespoons salted butter, cut in slices

1 bag (10 ounces) mini marshmallows

Position an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element. Heat the oven to broil, on a medium setting if possible, and turn on the oven light. Put the cereal in a large bowl.

Scatter the butter in a 13-by-9-inch cake pan and place in the oven to cook until the butter melts and its milk solids turn light golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Watch it carefully. Immediately remove the pan from the oven and carefully tilt it to evenly coat the bottom with the butter. Quickly spread the marshmallows in a single layer in the pan.

Return the pan to the oven rack and broil, watching its progress the whole time, until the tops of the marshmallows are very dark golden brown and the marshmallows are puffed, 2 to 4 minutes. Carefully and immediately slide the marshmallows out of the pan and into the bowl with the cereal. Leave behind any butter slicking the pan; don’t scrape anything out.

Carefully fold the marshmallow mixture together until the cereal is evenly coated. Scrape the mixture into the pan and press it in an even layer. Cool completely, then cut into 24 bars to serve.

Makes 2 dozen bars.

S’mores Bars: After pressing the marshmallow treats into the pan, arrange 24 squares of milk chocolate in a 6-by-4 grid on top. Return to the oven and heat just until the chocolate has softened, about 1 minute. Cut 6 graham cracker squares into 4 smaller squares each. Press each square into a piece of chocolate.

Big Batch Campfire Marshmallow Bars: Follow the method above using a half sheet pan (17 by 11 inches) and 9-1/2 cups of crisped rice cereal, 6-1/2 tablespoons salted butter and one 16-ounce bag of marshmallows.

Make ahead: The bars can be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe from: Genevieve Ko

These decadent bars are inspired by Hello Dollies, a popular Southern dessert.

Chocolate-Coconut Bars

3 cups finely ground cookies, such as graham crackers or chocolate wafers, or a combination

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup pecan pieces

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1-1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly splash a 15-by-10-inch rimmed baking sheet evenly with water; then line with parchment paper.

In a large baking bowl, stir together cookie crumbs, sugar and butter until combined. Evenly press onto bottom and up sides of prepared baking sheet. Bake, rotating halfway through, until firm, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle cooled crust evenly with pecans and chocolate. Pour condensed milk over the top, spreading to cover completely (do not let it drip over the edges). Sprinkle with coconut.

Bake until coconut is toasted, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool completely. Trim edges, if desired, and cut into equal-size bars.

Makes 20 bars.

Recipe from: Everyday Food magazine, June 2005

Pecan bars are compact enough to count as cookie — no need for fork, fridge or fear.

Pecan Bars

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Baking time: 20 minutes


2-1/2 cups pecan halves


1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

10 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup dark chocolate disks, chips or chunks

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread out pecans on a rimmed baking sheet; slide into oven and toast until nuts darken slightly and give off a sweet, nutty fragrance, about 6 minutes. Pull out pan; leave oven on. Pour nuts onto a work surface to cool.

Measure 1/2 cup toasted pecans into the food processor. Pile in all pastry ingredients, in order. Process to a soft dough, about 30 seconds.

Line a 9-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang. Pat in pastry. (Cover pastry with waxed paper while patting if dough is sticky). Bake until dry to the touch, but still soft, 10 minutes. Pull out pan; leave oven on.

To make the top, scatter sugar into a heavy skillet. Heat over medium-high until sugar melts and turns caramel brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in remaining toasted pecans and turn down heat to low. Stir in the butter, cream, salt and vanilla. Pull pan off heat. Scatter in chocolate and stir once, just enough to mix in, not completely melt, the chocolate.

Scrape nut mixture over par-baked pastry. Bake, 10 minutes. Cool completely. Grasp parchment overhang and lift out. Slice into 2-by-1-inch bars; you should have 32. Enjoy.

Makes 32 cookies.

Recipe from: Leah Eskin

Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

Preparation time: 1 hour plus time to cool

Baking time: 25 minutes

For the swirl:

6 ounces fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the crust:

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

For the filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

6 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For swirl, heap berries, sugar and zest in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook until berries collapse, about 5 minutes. Press through a medium-mesh sieve; discard seeds. Chill.

For crust, measure flour, sugar, butter and salt into the food processor. Pulse to damp clumps. Slide in toasted almonds and pulse a few times. Dump this crumble into an 8-inch square baking pan lined with parchment paper (leave some overhang) and pat firmly into the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees F until tan and fragrant, about 18 minutes. Cool.

For filling, measure all ingredients into the food processor and swirl smooth. Spread over crust.

Pour raspberry puree into stripes over the cheesecake batter. Use a fork to swirl pink into white.

Bake at 350 until wiggly in the center, about 25 minutes. Cool. Chill. Grasp parchment and pull cheesecake out of pan. Cut into 12 bars.

Makes 12 bars.

Recipe from: Leah Eskin

Chocolate-Butterscotch Crispy Bars

1 cup honey

1/4 cup sugar

1-1/4 cups crunchy peanut butter

6 cups crisp rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies

1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate morsels

1 12-ounce package butterscotch morsels

1/2 cup chopped honey-roasted peanuts

Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, stir together honey and sugar over medium-high heat. Bring just to a boil; remove from heat. Add peanut butter stirring well until combined. Add cereal, stirring until evenly coated. (Mixture will be thick.)

Press cereal mixture into prepared pan.

In a medium bowl, place chocolate and butterscotch. Microwave in 30-second intervals until they melt, stirring after each interval.

Spread chocolate mixture in an even layer over cereal mixture. Top with peanuts. Let cool until chocolate hardens; cut into squares.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Recipe from: Taste of the South magazine, Fall Baking 2015 issue

“These Chocolate Cheesecake Bars require mainly pantry ingredients and are simple to put together. When making them, be sure to plan on the chilling time. They need to chill at least four hours in the refrigerator, but overnight is best.

“If you need a lot, cut them smaller or double the recipe. Use a large (10-by-15-inch) sided baking sheet. Bake as directed, but plan on about 10 to 15 minutes more baking time. The center should be just almost set. Be sure to cool thoroughly before refrigerating. To serve, cut bars into desired-size squares, but keep in mind these are rich; a small taste is all you need.” — Susan Selasky

This recipe easily doubles.

Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 hour (plus chilling time)

For crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons baking cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed

1 egg yolk (reserve white for filling)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

For filling:

1 package (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons grated orange peel, optional

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 whole egg, lightly beaten

1 egg white, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate shavings or sprinkles, optional

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 11-by-7-inch pan with foil, allowing foil to overhang on short sides of dish; grease the foil.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking cocoa, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in egg yolk, vanilla and walnuts. Press onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in sour cream, flour, orange peel and salt. Beat in egg, egg white and vanilla on low speed just until combined. Pour filling over warm crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until center is almost set. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 1 hour.

Garnish with chocolate shavings or sprinkles if desired. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, lift out of pan and remove foil. Cut into 1-inch to 2-inch squares.

Makes 25 bars.

Recipe from:

Terri Hahn of Osceola has worked in food media for more than 30 years and has won numerous state and national awards for her writing. Email her at [email protected]


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