Sugar Cookie Bars
These sugar cookie bars, which are adapted from “American Girl Cookies,” are happiness in a 9-by-13 pan. The addition of cream cheese in the batter makes them very tender and slightly tangy, a perfect counterpoint to the sweet buttercream frosting. You can, and should, experiment with frosting colors and use sprinkles with abandon. Whatever you do, do not overbake these beauties. When testing for doneness, you want a few moist crumbs to cling to the toothpick.
- Serves: 20 persons
- 1cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- 2 ¾cups/350 grams all-purpose flour
- ½teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1(8-ounce/225-gram) package cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 ½cups/300 grams granulated sugar
- 1large egg
- 2teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter (3/4 stick), at room temperature
- 2cups/245 grams confectioners’ sugar
- 1tablespoon milk or heavy cream, plus more as needed
- 1teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
- 1teaspoon vanilla extract, plus more as needed
- ¼teaspoon fine sea salt
- A drop or two of gel food coloring (optional)
- Assorted sprinkles, for decorating (optional)
Step 1Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, running it up the two long sides of the pan and letting it extend past the rim by about 2 inches.
Step 2Make the bars: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing on low speed just until blended, about 1 minute.
Step 3Using a spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared baking pan and spread it into an even layer. Bake just until the edges are starting to turn light golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle has moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. (Do not overbake! The bars should be quite moist, and almost slightly underbaked in the middle.) Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Let cool completely. When fully cooled, remove the bars from the pan using the overhanging parchment paper.
Step 4Make the frosting: Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed until fully combined, then repeat with remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. Add the 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, the vanilla, salt and food coloring, if using, and beat on medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides halfway through, about 4 minutes. Add more milk if needed to thin out the mixture. Add lemon juice and vanilla to taste.
Step 5Using a spatula, spread the frosting on top, then decorate with sprinkles, if using. Cut into 20 bars and serve.