Cookies and Bars

PPQ: Texas Pecan Pie Bars

by Shawnda on September 5, 2011

in Cookies and Bars,Holiday Favorites,Project Pastry Queen

Texas Pecan Pie Bars

Every fall, we’d return home from my grandparents’ little farm in northeast Texas with a car full of kids and pecans. Brown paper sacks filled to the top with whole pecans sat on the floorboards and left very little room for 8 feet on that 5-hour car ride. Then the real work began.

We’d spend hours shelling pecans, cracking and picking shells, for a bucket destined for the freezer. There was no way to escape – an “accidently” smashed finger courtesy of the nutcracker – or a good actor – would only garner so much pity and a few minutes on the sideline.

Texas Pecan Pie Bars

This week’s Project Pastry Queen challenge, “Texas Pecan Pie Bars,” is a fun take on the fall favorite. The dessert is aptly named: you get all the flavors of pecan pie, baked into a convenient bar. A gooey layer hides between a buttery shortbread crust and a crunchy top. Sweet tooth and glass of milk required. Fork optional.

And it’s probably best if you make them for friends, cutting them and giving them away immediately. Or at least have some sort of support system because even as sweet as they are, it’s hard to stop at one.

I took a few liberties with the recipe:
– I made 1/4 of the recipe in a 8-inch square pan and cut it into 9 squares. The original recipe is a doozy (doozie?), baked in a 12×17 – which is perfect if you need dessert for you & 29 of your closest friends.
– I replaced half of the flour with whole wheat flour.
– Because I live with a coconut hater, I replaced the coconut with rolled oats (not instant oatmeal, the kind you have to cook for ~5 minutes).
– I doubled the bourbon because… because it’s bourbon :)

They can be eaten by hand so they’d be perfect to bring for a holiday potluck this fall. To get the full recipe, head on over to Powdered Plum. And check out how the other members tackled the pecan pie bars. Next week, we’re going classic Texas comfort food: King Ranch Chicken.



Red Velvet Ice Cream Sandwiches

If you are what you eat, we are currently part margarita (although I think we’re permanently part Margarita :) ), part zucchini, part peach, and part ice cream sandwich.

We’ve been making ice cream sandwiches as a fun way to cool down at the end of the 100+ degree days. The possibilities for homemade ice cream sandwiches are nearly endless: any ice cream, sandwiched between any two cookies. It can be as quick and easy as you need, or as fussy as you want.

For the last batch that I made, we chose fussy over quick. Festive over classic. I converted a standard chocolate ice cream sandwich cookie recipe into a red velvet cookie. A soft, very red cookie with barely a hint of cocoa. Very pretty. And since red velvet is often paired with cream cheese, we filled the sandwiches with a tangy frozen yogurt.

You can cut any shape you like with that drawer full of cookie cutters or simply opt for the classic rectangle cookie. Either way, it will be a little messy. And a lot of fun.

Red Velvet Ice Cream Sandwiches

A festive twist on the classic ice cream sandwich.


  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work area
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp red gel coloring
  • 1 1/2 pints softened ice cream or frozen yogurt


  1. Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add vanilla and egg, mixing until combined.
  4. Add red food coloring to the bowl and then slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixer and mix on low.
  5. Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap, press into a disk, wrap well, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  6. Roll dough out to 1/8-inch thick on a well floured surface.
  7. Cut 12 4-inch circles out of the dough and transfer to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Re-roll any dough scraps to cut more cookies.
  8. Poke holes in the cookies with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat oven to 350.
  10. Bake cookies for 7-8 minutes for soft cookies, 8-10 for crunchier cookies (the crunchier cookies hold up better to all the handling/smooshing/filling).
  11. Let cool before sandwiching cookies with ~1/2 cup softened ice cream.
  12. Place into the freezer for at least 15 minutes to refreeze the ice cream.
  13. Store in the freezer.


Yields: 6-8 ice cream sandwiches

Cookie recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Estimated time: 1 hour 45 minutes



Homemade Moon Pies

When I hear “Moon Pies,” I smile.

Do you have a favorite childhood summer memory? I have several. Nearly all of them involve piling in the car, hair hanging in messy damp wringlets, the smell of chlorine heavy in the air. Mom would make the 20-minute drive to Humble (the H is silent!) to the bakery to get bread. And Moon Pies.

My other favorite memories involve picking blackberries, canning preserves at Grandma’s, and entire days spent running between the XLR8 and the Tidal Wave at Astroworld. There were Moon Pies then, too.

If you’re not familiar with Moon Pies, you’re really missing out. They’re graham-cracker like cookies filled with plain marshmallow and dunked in chocolate.

This is my week to host Project Pastry Queen. In the very back of the book, there is a recipe for “Mars Pies.” Mars Pies are a fancier, more complicated version of Moon Pies. While there are times when I’m all about the fancier and more complicated, I don’t think Moon Pies need to be either.

The original recipe for Mars Pies had 4 components and were not a sandwich cookie like the traditional Moon Pie:
Cookie base
A layer of Chocolate-Caramel Ganache
A layer of Chocolate Marshmallow
Chocolate coating

I changed up the recipe so that they would be a sandwich cookie. I chose to skip the ganache since Moon Pies were never that fancy. And it sounded horribly messy in the form of a sandwich cookie. I also chose to forgo the chocolate marshmallow filling for a plain marshmallow filling – and then changed my mind and made dulce de leche marshmallows. My Moon Pies were never that fancy either but, man, that was the best decision I made all day :) Especially the part where I dunked leftover marshmallow squares into melted chocolate and called that lunch.

The Moon Pies won’t actually take you too terribly long to make, just get organized. I made the cookie dough. While the dough was chilling, I cooked the marshmallow filling. I rolled the cookies while the marshmallows where whipping. I put the cookies in the freezer when they came out of the oven to quickly chill them, and then I piped on the marshmallow filling. After the filled cookies sat up in the fridge, I pulled out the chocolate for coating. For a 3 component dessert, they came together relatively quickly! (I said relatively.)

Homemade Moon Pies

The southern favorite Moon Pie gets a homemade makeover with dark chocolate and dulce de leche marshmallow filling.


  • For the cookies
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat or graham flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • For the Dulce De Leche Marshmallow Filling
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup dulce de leche (for plain marshmallows, substitute 1/3 cup water)
  • For Chocolate Coating
  • 8 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp shortening


  1. To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
  2. Cream butter and the sugar on medium until fluffy.
  3. Add both flours, the salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Beat on medium until thoroughly combined.
  4. Turn out dough onto plastic wrap and press into a flat round. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes, just until firm enough to roll.
  5. On a floured surface, roll the dough to ~1/8- to 1/3-inch thick and use a 3-inch round cutter to cut 12 circles (knead the scraps together and re-roll to get all of the cookies).
  6. Place the cookie rounds on the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Cookies must be at least room temp before filling so you can put them in the freezer to do this quickly.
  8. To make the marshmallow filling: Place 1/3 cup cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle gelatin over top.
  9. In a medium sauce pan, heat sugar, corn syrup, salt, and dulce de leche (or water) over medium heat and stir constantly until the temperature reaches soft ball stage (234F).
  10. Add the heated sugar mixture in a slow, thin stream to the stand mixer while on low. Increase speed to high and whip for ~15 minutes, until thickened and cooled (the side of your mixer bowl should feel like room temp).
  11. Transfer mixture to a pastry bag or large zipper bag (using a buttered spoon or spatula is helpful), and snip off one corner.
  12. Pipe 2-3 Tbsp of marshmallow onto the center 6 of the cookies.
  13. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to set.
  14. Top with the other cookies.
  15. To make the chocolate coating: Heat chocolate and shortening in the microwave until completely melted.
  16. 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).
  17. 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: 6 servings

Adapted from The Pastry Queen

Estimated time: 1 hour 30 minutes

You can check out the other Project Pastry Queen members Moon Pies:
Smells Like Home
I Heart Yummy



Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

by Shawnda on June 2, 2011

in Chocolate,Cookies and Bars

Chewy Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Sometimes you just want something a little different. And sometimes you don’t, but you keep such terrible inventory of your pantry that you’re left with no choice. Everyone wants something chocolate to munch on at 11pm. But no one wants to run to the store at 11pm for chocolate.

So we took our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and swapped the chocolate chips for chopped peanut butter cups. Same fantastically chewy cookie, but with the added goodness of peanut butter cups. Chocolate and peanut butter really do make everything better!

Chewy Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Thick and chewy cookies studded with chopped peanut butter cups.


  • 2 cups + 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 12 oz package mini peanut butter cups, unwrapped and rough chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 325. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a silicon mat.
  2. Place butter and sugars in a mixer bowl, mix on medium high until well-combined, 2-3 minutes.
  3. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla.
  4. Add dry ingredients and mix on low just until combined. Add peanut butter cups until distributed.
  5. Chill dough 15 minutes. Scoop 1/4-cup dough balls onto a lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake 12-16 minutes, until the edges brown and the center is still soft.
  7. Let cool on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.


    Yields: 18 cookies

    Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Estimated time: 40 minutes