A Bar-rel of Fun

Sheet pans have been getting lots of attention lately. They have been touted in many culinary publications for the delicious results when used to roast fish, poultry and meat or veggies. But let’s not forget the sheet pan’s original purpose — baking sweet treats! Of course, they are great for evenly baked cookies and rugelach but even better, sheet pans are perfect for baking big batches of bar cookies. Bar cookies are the easiest way to whip up sweet treats with minimal effort.

When making bar cookies, pay close attention to the size of the pan called for in each recipe. Using the wrong pan can throw off baking times and could affect the texture too. If the pan is too large the dough may dry out and the bars will be too thin. If the pan is too small the bars may become gooey in the center or cakeier than they should be. Always bake bar cookies in heavyweight baking pans or jelly roll pans. Baking bar cookies in disposable pans will result in the end bars being over-baked while the middle is underdone.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan using a moistened spatula, so that the finished bars aren’t thin and dried out in one corner and thick and underdone in another. Ideally, only bake one pan of bar cookies at a time, placing it on a rack in the middle of the oven. When baking two pans at the same time, rotate the pans from top to bottom and turn them front to back halfway through the baking time.

As oven temperatures fluctuate, be sure to check your bar cookies at least 5 minutes before the suggested baking time. Generally, bar cookies are done when a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean or a moist crumb is adhered to it. Brownies should still have some wet crumbs clinging to the tester.

Most bar cookies should be cooled and cut right after they have cooled. Some crisp type bars should be cut while still warm to avoid crumbling. Bar cookies are usually cut into uniform portions such as squares or rectangles with a sharp knife and ruler. I find it easier to use a bench scraper to cut the bars directly in the pan. It’s got a wide straight blade and handle that’s made for cutting straight down.

Now you’re ready to bake some bars.

Chocolate Chunk Brownie Bars

  • 1 1/3 cups canola oil
  • 3 cups light brown sugar,
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 ½ cups flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups mini chocolate chips, approximately 16 ounces
  • 6 ounces chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or line a 12”x18” standard jelly roll pan.

Beat shortening, brown sugar, water, and vanilla in your mixer until well blended. Add eggs and combine. Stir together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to creamed ingredients, mixing just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and chunks.

Spread batter into prepared pan using an offset spatula. If the batter sticks to the spatula, wet it with hot water to make it easier to spread the batter. Bake 30-35 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch. Do not over-bake or the bars will be crumbly and dry. Cool for 10 minutes and cut into bars. Cut the brownies in half down the length of the pan. Cut each half in half again down the length of the pan. Cut each of the 4 strips into 1” bars. Cool completely.

Many ingredients are prone to infestation. Please consult a local Rav for specific guidelines on how to avoid transgressions related to insects.

Readers may submit questions to the Culinary Connoisseur, c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230 or via e-mail to peppermill@hamodia.com. This weekly column has been brought to you by The Peppermill, the world’s first kosher kitchenware store, located at 5015 16th Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. (718) 871-4022. You can also read a selection of previous columns in their comprehensive cookbook, The Culinary Connoisseur, available now at your local Judaica and kitchenware stores. Jam-packed with delicious recipes, insightful food information and helpful cooking tips, this book is certain to become your constant companion in the kitchen.