Simple Sugar Cookie Bars save time without compromising on flavor. These quick and easy bars are soft and chewy with a crunchy sugar topping and creamy vanilla bean flavor.
Why you'll love this recipe
“Keep it simple” is my mantra right now. I don’t always pay attention to that mantra, but I’m trying. I’ve had a fun, travel-packed few months, and it’s about to get a wee bit more travel-packed.
In April I was in South Carolina to spend a week with my mother. In May I learned and networked at the Everything Food Conference in Salt Lake City.
In addition to the excitement of the conference, I had never been to beautiful Salt Lake City and was awed by the surroundings. My two weeks of travel in June start next week and I am off to…..Bosnia!!
I am relatively sure that anyone reading this is thinking the same thing that everyone else has said when I told them my plans. Bosnia? Why Bosnia?
The answer, is a story that is special to me. To be more exact, the answer is a friend that is special to me.
Six years ago, I began volunteering for the Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Program. I was trained as an English tutor and matched with a student.
The tutors and students meet twice a week in the student’s home for English class. I thought, that because I speak not-quite-fluent Spanish, my student might be Hispanic. Nope.
I was matched with Sehada, a Bosnian woman now a permanent US resident, living in St. Louis with her husband and two sons. Did you know that St. Louis has the largest Bosnian population outside of Bosnia? I didn’t, and I live in St. Louis!
Sehada and I bonded over children and cooking. Over time, our student-teacher relationship deepened into friendship.
For the first two years we worked on English and the US Citizenship Exam. Sehada worked two jobs, plus all of her mothering and household tasks, yet never cancelled a class.
I tried to live up to her dedication. Then, at the age of 40, she had a stroke that required brain surgery which resulted in seizures and numerous physical and cognitive challenges.
Recovery hasn’t been easy. For the past three years, instead of English and citizenship, we have been working together to navigate through a maze of doctors, paper work, therapists, paper work, insurance, and more paper work.
It has been overwhelming to me, and I speak English. For someone whose English is limited, all of this would have been impossible.
One of the things that saddened my friend the most, was her fear that her physical limitations would keep her from ever traveling again. Her aging parents and some of her siblings still live in Bosnia and Sehada worried that she would never see them again.
This winter, the outlook brightened. Therapy was having a positive effect and many of Sehada’s challenges, though not gone, were diminished. Her medication dosage seems to be keeping the seizures from reoccurring.
So, when Sehada’s husband heard that airfare to Bosnia this summer was half of what it had been previously, the family excitedly made plans to go. My inclusion in these plans was certainly unexpected, but incredibly exciting.
It went like this. I was driving Sehada to therapy like usual, when she told me that her family might be going to Bosnia this summer if they could get the excellent airfare they had heard about. She was glowing with happiness.
I told her that was wonderful news, to which she answered, “You should come with us!” Sehada has told me I should go with them to Bosnia the next time they go, for years.
My standard answer has always been, “Wouldn’t that be great!” So I repeated that answer, only this time Sehada had an exact date in mind. I said I would have to think about it. She said, “No problem. Just let me know by 3 o’clock today. We are buying the tickets.” It was noon.
While Sehada was in therapy, I made a few calls. My husband. My kids. I wasn’t asking for permission. I was asking for a sanity check.
The thing is, I believe that given enough time, we can come up with reasons not to do just about anything. My heart was telling me to go for it.
What an opportunity to see a country through the eyes of people who live there. Two weeks immersed in Bosnian life and language (I currently speak approximately 10 words of Bosnian)! So, I said yes. In one week, I will be flying from Chicago to Zurich, Switzerland and Zurich to Sarajevo, Bosnia!
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Simple Sugar Cookie Bars
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 4 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled slightly
- ¼ cup sparkling decorating sugar I used Bob’s Red Mill Sparkling Decorating Sugar
- Preheat oven to 325° F. Lightly coat an 8” x 8” baking pan with non-stick spray. Line with parchment paper, then lightly coat again with non-stick spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and cornstarch. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla 2-3 minutes or until mixture thickens and is light in color.
- Beat in melted butter.
- Gradually fold in flour mixture.
- Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the surface generously with sparkling sugar.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until edges just begin to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely. Use the overhanging parchment paper to lift the cookie out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Slice into individual bars.
- Simple Sugar Cookie Bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for at least 2 weeks.
- Wrap small stacks of 2-3 bars in plastic wrap. Place stacks in a column in a freezer weight zip lock bag.
- The long lasting chewiness of these bars (2+ weeks) makes them a good choice for military care packages, however, only in cooler temperatures.
- These bars are not desert safe due to the butter in the recipe.
First Published: June 12, 2016. Last Updated: December 29, 2022. Updated for better reader experience.
shannon @ a periodic table
Wendy, HOW EXCITING FOR YOU! So much going on and now you get to head to Bosnia for such an amazing reason; clearly we need to catch up once you return and are settled down a bit from being super on the move. 🙂 These bars are lovely. I've actually never made a successful sugar cookie bar (honestly, i can't begin to say why - every time i try, it ends up a massive fail as though i'm cursed), but i trust you, and these look amazing (and fail-proof!) Happy and safe travels to you, my friend!
The Monday Box
Thanks, Shannon! I would love to catch up with you. Perhaps once the Wee One heads back to school? Scary, but that is around the corner! Quick, grab onto what remains of summer and enjoy! (p.s. I honestly can not imagine ANYTHING failing in your kitchen!)
How heartwarming - you really are a kind sweet soul! Have a safe trip and a wonderful time! Can't wait to hear all about it. The cookie bars look delicious - I'm all for simple recipes that produce great results.
The Monday Box
Thanks for your good wishes, Reeni! Most of the time I really enjoy the playing with recipes and decorating, but sometimes there is just no time or energy for it. Having a few reliable simple recipes for those times is great!
Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust
Oh my gosh, I hope you have a fabulous trip. What a great friend!
The Monday Box
Thank you, Dorothy!
Wendy, Sehada is so fortunate to have you as a friend. Your spirit of generosity is really inspiring. I hope you'll post about the trip so we can see Bosnia through your eyes.
The sugar cookies are so pretty. "Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy” is such a great cookbook. It never fails to deliver.
The Monday Box
Thanks, Cindy! My friendship with Sehada has enriched my life immeasurably. I feel like the fortunate one. Sometimes amazing coincidences happen to put two people together at just the right time (bashert). This trip is the icing on the cake. I never in a million years thought this would be a reality! 🙂 I agree completely that "Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy" never fails (PLUS is gives shelf-life estimates!).
What a wonderful story! My cousin volunteers this same way down in South Carolina and loves it! I have a question, is the amount of vanilla correct or should it be one teaspoon, one Tablespoon sounds like a lot for an 8x8 pan of bars.
The Monday Box
Thanks, Paula. 🙂 The vanilla amount is correct. Of course, my philosophy is that there is never too much vanilla! 😉 Vanilla is the main flavor here and the bars are rather thick. A thinner bar could probably be made in a larger (9x13?) pan. 1 vanilla bean=1 tablespoon of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (my favorite).
Sugar-cookies are childhood cookies here
You have not idea how much I looooooooooooove them
Yet - I've never made them.....
Now reading your story and seeing these cookies really give me the urge to just go and bake them
The Monday Box
Thanks, Winnie! This batter can be used to make thin, crunchy wafer cookies or these chewy bars. Either way the vanilla flavor makes them comfort food. I hope you will give them a try!
What an incredible and beautiful story! Yet not at all surprising coming from someone like you. Your generosity of spirit—whether expressed in flour and sugar, or words, has created this opportunity. I know you will have a wonderful time. How lovely for Sehada to be able to the gift of home with you. Don't forget to do dessert research! and ps, I love the not permission/sanity check line 🙂
The Monday Box
Thank you so much, Gina, for your very kind words. I love the way you describe it as Sehada sharing the gift of home with me. That is exactly how I feel. Sehada is a great baker and she tells me her sister in Bosnia also loves to bake. I plan to do extensive dessert research! 🙂
Wendy! What an amazing story - really wonderful. You are a special person and your dedication and selflessness is a blessing to all who know you. From care packages to the troops to your adopted Bosnian family - I want to thank you for setting the bar just a little higher for the rest of us. You are a shinning example of how this world could be a different place is only we would lift one another up. Thank you. I am inspired! I think your trip sounds like an amazing opportunity. How wonderful to spend time with people that actually live there. Vacations never get deep enough in the culture and people of the places we visit. Please take tons of photos! Can't wait to hear all about it - and by the way, the cookie bars look great!
The Monday Box
Oh my, Tricia. Thank you for your sweet, kind compliments. I don't know about setting the bar. I'm just one regular person who enjoys reaching out to others when I can. Sometimes opportunity knocks, and if we answer, there is no telling where the path will lead. I always feel like I gain so much when I set out to give. It just plain feels good to have a positive impact on the lives of others. A "raison d'etre". 🙂 I'm super excited for my Bosnian immersion experience and hope to take lots of photos to share!