Cookies and Bars

PPQ: Cherry Pie Bars

by Shawnda on July 17, 2012

in Cherries,Cookies and Bars,Pies and Tarts,Project Pastry Queen

Cherry Pie Bars

I was super excited to see the recipe that Amanda selected for this week’s Project Pastry Queen challenge: Blackberry Pie Bars.

Redemption. Sweet, cherry-studded redemption.

Because the last time I made them, I totally bonked the recipe. Hard. There would be no bonking this time!

I made a few changes this go ’round:
– I actually read the recipe before getting started. Knowledge is power, people.
– I made half the recipe in an 8×8 pan with halved fresh cherries.
– I reduced the sugar by 1/3 and used fat-free Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream.
– I only reduced the almond extract by 25% from the full recipe. Because almond extract is magical, especially when paired with cherries.

The shortbread crust makes these bars a cookie-cobbler-pie hybrid. The almond extract and cherry-studded middle layer is a glass of milk away from heaven. The best part? No forks required. So grab a bag of cherries while you still can and give this one ago!



Alfajore Moon Pies

Quirk Books contacted me a while back about participating in Marsh Madness to celebrate Shauna Sever’s new cookbook release, Marshmallow Madness. And I jumped all over it.

Because it combines two things that are quite dear to me: Tourney-style brackets in March. And dessert.

Marsh Madness

Everyone wins! Totally unlike the office pot where the intern who makes her Final 4 picks based on uniform color and point guard hotness manages to take everyone’s money. (I knock it like it hasn’t proved to be a winning strategy.)

Shauna’s new book is 90+ pages devoted to the sweet and sticky art of homemade marshmallow. Interested in making marshmallows? Marshmallow Madness is more than a cookbook, it’s a great resource full of marshmallow-making tips, tools, troubleshooting, and dozens of recipes and suggested variations.

And once you make your own, you’ll be quite disappointed when you have to turn back to the store bought variety. Believe me. I know.

The challenge from Quirk Books and Serious Eats to 16 bloggers was simple enough: take Shauna’s Classic Vanilla Marshmallow recipe and modify it into… whatever we wanted.

I know what you’re thinking. And I assure you, I went there. Even before the book arrived at my doorstep, I went there. I flipped passed Maple Bacon, Concord Grape, and Chocolate Malt to find that, yes, Shauna already had a Margarita Marshmallow recipe! And here I thought I was being so clever :)

Alfajore Moon Pies

I decided to merge two beloved treats: the alfajore, a dulce de leche-filled sandwich cookie, and the Southern (and a personal childhood) favorite, the Moon Pie.

I modified the Classic Vanilla Marshmallow into a Dulce de Leche Marshmallow. And I modified my favorite shortbread cookie recipe to more closely mimic the texture of traditional alfajore cookies. Alone, the “marshmallow alfajores” are a tender and buttery vanilla bean sandwich cookie spiked with plenty of vanilla and caramel notes. But after being dunked in chocolate? You get an incredibly fancy, homemade moon pie at which, let’s be honest, my 8-year-old-self would have totally turned up her nose.

Alfajore Moon Pies

So that’s me and my “Alfajore Moon Pies” hanging out at the bottom of the Southwest Bracket. If you’re following along on Twitter, check out #marshmadness to follow the entrants’ creations from rest of The Sweet 16.

Quirk Books has also provided an extra copy for a lucky reader. Want it?

Update: JoVonn is the winner with comment #8. Congratulations!

Leave a comment below with the answer to this question: What’s your favorite food that incorporates marshmallows?

The fine print:
– Maximum of one comment per person.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm (Texas time!) on Wednesday night.
– Winner will be selected by one of those cold, soulless, unfeeling random number generator thingies and announced on this post after selected.
– Winner will receive a copy of Marshmallow Madness by Shauna Sever (maximum total retail value of prize = $20).
– Prize must be claimed within 7 days or it will be forfeited and an alternate winner selected.
– Prize can only be shipped to a US address.
– Official giveaway rules can be found here.

Good luck!

Alfajore Moon Pies

Homemade dulce de Leche marshmallow and vanilla bean shortbread take the moon pie to a new level.


  • For the cookies:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the dulce de leche marshmallow:
  • 1 envelope (~2 1/2 tsp) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup dulce de leche (purchased or homemade)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • For the chocolate coating:
  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 2 tsp shortening


  1. To make the cookies, cream the butter and powdered sugar together on medium-high for 2-3 minutes, until fluffy. If you start with cold butter like I do, 3-4 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to low and add the extract and the scrapings of the vanilla pod.
  3. Add flour, cornstarch, and baking powder, and mix on medium just until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated.
  4. Turn dough out onto plastic wrap, shape into a disc, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out your dough (it's easier for me to divide it into 2 portions first) to ~1/3 inch thickness. The dough, even chilled, will be pretty delicate so keep the flour close by.
  6. Cut 2.5-inch circles with a floured cookie cutter, reflouring between each cookie.
  7. Lightly knead the scraps, re-roll, and continue cutting the cookies - you should get 24 cookies.
  8. Transfer cookies to a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the fridge while the oven is preheating.
  9. Preheat oven to 350.
  10. Bake ~12 minutes, until the cookies just begin to brown around the edges.
  11. Let cool completely before transferring to your work surface, "pretty side" down.
  12. Make the marshmallow: Place 1/4 cup cold water in the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the gelatin over top.
  13. Over medium heat in a small pot fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the sugar, corn syrup, dulce de leche, water, and salt to 236-238 degrees. (Any higher, and the sugar begins to burn. You'll need to stir constantly so it doesn't stick to the pan and burn).
  14. Slowly and carefully pour the dulce de leche mixture into the stand mixer bowl and whisk on low for 1-2 minutes, until combined.
  15. Increase speed to medium and whisk for 5 minutes.
  16. Increase speed to medium-high and whisk another 5 minutes.
  17. While the mixture is whisking, prepare a gallon zip-top bag by snipping off the corner creating a ~1/2-inch opening and fit the opening with a decorating coupler (you can probably get by without the coupler, but I wanted the opening round and stable).
  18. Switch mixer to the highest speed and mix for 3-5 minutes, until the marshmallow is light, fluffy, and mostly holds its shape when scooped onto a spoon or small spatula (if it's too soft and runs off the spatula, it will run off of the cookie - whisk another 1-2 minutes, if necessary).
  19. Immediately transfer the marshmallow into your zip-top bag.
  20. Pipe generous rounds of marshmallow onto 12 of the cookies.
  21. Place the remaining cookies "pretty side" up, and very lightly press down onto the marshmallow filling.
  22. Let sit for 15 minutes before coating in chocolate.
  23. To coat in chocolate, melt chocolate and shortening in a bowl.
  24. Heat chocolate and shortening in the microwave until completely melted.
  25. Holding the bottom cookie with your fingertips, dip the cookies in the chocolate and shake to remove excess. Set on a rack above a baking sheet to catch any drips (I didn't coat the very bottom with chocolate).
  26. Refrigerate until set. Store the cookies in an airtight container, each separated by wax paper or like I did - in the fridge on a plate.


Yields: 12 servings

Marshmallow recipe adapted from Marshmallow Madness, cookies adapted from The Pastry Queen

Estimated time: 2 hours


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Pink Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies

It’s a girl! One of my favorite bloggers and friend Courtney of Cook Like a Champion and her husband are expecting a sweet baby girl soon. (She also has one of the funnest blog names ever.) And our friend Josie has put together a virtual shower to celebrate!

I chose to make Pink (er, Ruby Red) Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies: pretty, little sugar cookies infused with grapefruit juice and zest, and then filled with a grapefruit-spiked buttercream. The delicate, citrusy two-bite cookies are perfect for a pretty pink shower or an afternoon tea.

And I kind of have this thing for grapefruit… and an abundance of them (not that you’d have guessed).

You can see the full shower menu over at Pink Parsley and Cook Like a Champion – it’s full of wonderful food by wonderful friends and super talented food bloggers!

And a really super important note about the recipe. It was supposed to make 15 2-inch round sandwich cookies. I made 15 2-inch round sandwich cookies – and still had half of the dough left, and this was after double-checking that I had grabbed the 2-inch cutter and my 1/8-inch rolling pin bands. I froze the other half because no one in this house needs easy access to 30 insanely addicting cookies. The recipe below is the full recipe. If it’s just going to be you and your new grapefruit-flavored friends for the weekend, maybe you only make half the recipe.

Or maybe you don’t :)

Pink Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies

Grapefruit juice and zest flavor these light, cream-filled, sandwich cookies.


  • For the cookies:
  • 1 stick butter, at room temp
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 large grapefruit, zested and juiced
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • For the filling:
  • 1 stick butter, at room temp
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp grapefruit zest (unpacked)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp grapefruit juice
  • 1 drop red food coloring (optional)


  1. Zest and juice the grapefruit. Reserve 1 unpacked tablespoon of zest for the filling and add the rest of the zest to the mixer bowl.
  2. Cream butter, zest, and sugar on high for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg yolk and mix, scraping down the bowl of the mixer.
  4. Whisk together the flours, salt, and baking powder.
  5. Add half of the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl, followed by 1/4 cup of grapefruit juice, and then the remaining dry ingredients, mixing each addition until thoroughly combined.
  6. Turn dough out onto plastic wrap and press into a 1-inch thick disk. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  8. Flour your work surface and divide the chilled dough into quarters.
  9. Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thick and cut using a 2-inch round cutter. Repeat until all the dough is used, you should get ~60 cookies.
  10. Transfer to prepared baking sheets and bake in batches, 8-12 minutes, until puffy and the cookies are just barely beginning to brown around the edges.
  11. Let cool a few minutes on the pan and then transfer to a rack to cool complete.
  12. To make the filling, cream the butter, powdered sugar, salt, and grapefruit zest on high 3-4 minutes.
  13. Add the tiniest drop of red food coloring and the grapefruit juice and mix for another minute.
  14. Spread 2 tsp - 1 Tbsp of filling onto half of the cookies. Top with remaining cookies (the browned bottoms of each cookie should be touching the frosting).
  15. Store in an airtight container in layers separated by wax paper.


Yields: 30 sandwich cookies

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Estimated time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Nutritional Information
Calories: 148.9 | Fat: 6.2g | Fiber 0.3g | Protein 1.1g | Carbs 22.9g
Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 4



Grapefruit Bars

Surpriiiiise! It’s another grapefruit recipe! I hope you’re not tired of them. Because I’m not.

If you’re thinking that I must have an entire counter piled high with citrus, you wouldn’t be too terribly wrong. We’ve been cooking, eating, drinking, and baking with it a lot lately. It’s hard to pass up those dirt-cheap bags of citrus at the grocery store!

These grapefruit bars started out as an ordinary lemon bar, but as you can see from the picture above, (clears throat for Yoda voice) ordinary lemon bars these are not!

Grapefruit Bars

We swapped the lemon for Texas ruby red grapefruit, reduced the sugar a bit, and added zest to the crust and more zest to the filling. Because there’s no such thing as too much grapefruit.

What you get is a shortbread base infused with grapefruit and a thick, creamy layer of faux-grapefruit curd on top. It’s the topping that really sets them apart. Of course, had we made them with lemon, ordinary lemon bars they still wouldn’t be!

It’s refreshing, it’s bright, and it’s indulgent. It’s a dessert fit for any grapefruit lover. As confirmed by this grapefruit lover :)

Grapefruit Curd Squares

Ruby red grapefruit steals the spotlight from an ordinary lemon bar.


  • For the cookie base:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Zest from 1/2 a grapefruit
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cold and cut into 8 pieces
  • For the filling:
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used half sugar, half sugar substitute)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Zest from 1/2 a grapefruit
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice (from the zested fruit)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp fat-free Greek yogurt
  • Powdered sugar, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray an 8x8 baking pan with non-stick spray.
  3. Add flour, salt, sugar, grapefruit zest, and butter pieces to the bowl of your food processor and process for ~1 minute, until the butter has been completely distributed into the dry ingredients and there are no traces of powder left. (You can do this by hand, it will just take longer.)
  4. Spread mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan and press down firmly.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, until the edges brown.
  6. Let cool for 20 minutes.
  7. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  8. Whisk in the grapefruit zest, juice, eggs, and yogurt until thoroughly combined and lump-free.
  9. Pour over cookie crust and bake for 20-25 minutes, until just set - the center should jiggle but not be fluid when you gently shake the pan.
  10. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes and then run the tip of a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen.
  11. Allow to cool completely before cutting into 12 squares and serving dusted with powdered sugar.


Yields: 12 servings

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Estimated time: 2 hours

Nutritional Information
Calories: 164.4 | Fat: 9.0g | Fiber 3.0g | Protein 2.9g | Carbs 19.7g
Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 5