Thursday, December 18, 2008

Love Dish: Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookie Bars

Hello, my name is Lisa and I'm a recovering Starbucks addict. I'm proud to say that the siren call of the cafe mocha rarely has even a weekly pull for me, much less the daily one it used to command. However, come wintertime, sneaking away from work for a warm shot of comfort and caffeine is ever present in the back of my mind. And, thanks to a delicious treat this fancy shmancy coffee chain features each holiday season, it's even harder for me to resist right now.

The cranberry bliss bar beckons to me from behind the glass display. I don't even notice its espresso and toffee crunch cousins sitting nearby who used to tempt me so. A blondie brownie base, topped with a snowy drift of creamy icing and a festive sprinkling of tart really is just that - bliss in a little brown bag.
Come January, it's always so sad to see them go; as if the end of the holidays isn't depressing enough. So, I figured, why not recreate this divine concoction at home so I can enjoy them anytime I want? (And, of course, what sweet creation couldn't be improved upon by adding a little chocolate?) The result: definitely blissful, and the perfect holiday treat - no $4 coffee required.

Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookie Bars
For the cookie base:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
6 oz (half a bag) of semi-sweet chocolate chips
For the icing:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, or in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugars and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add each egg one at a time, beating well after each. Add the flour in three shifts, mixing fully after each addition. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray. Spread the cookie mixture evenly across the sheet, about 1/2 inch thick, leaving an even amount of space around the edges (the cookie with expand when cooked). Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the cookie/bar is firm and cooked through, but not too brown. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for a few minutes. Loosen from the pan using a rubber spatula and transfer cookie bar to large cutting board (you can cut in in half to transfer it if that makes things easier).

For the icing: Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Sift the powdered sugar and add it to the bowl, beating for about 3 minutes until shiny and smooth. Spread the icing over the cookie bars, sprinkle with the cranberries and refrigerate for about an hour. Cut into squares.

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