Vanilla Chai Sugar Cookie Bars

It’s going to be 86 degrees here today.

vanilla chai sugar cookie bars set two-3

And, maybe this recipe for Vanilla Chai Sugar Cookie Bars would be more appropriate for a fall post. But I might not be feeling Vanilla Chai Sugar Cookie Bars in October.  So here they are in May, on Cinco de Mayo, no less.  No worries though…I’ve got you covered for the day with some of my posts from last week, like Pico de Gallo or Pineapple Coconut Tres Leches Cake.

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Sugar cookie bars were a big trend a couple of years ago.  They are the perfect answer to making frosted sugar cookies in a short amount of time. There’s no rolling and cutting and individually decorating with sugar cookie bars.  Just spread the batter in a pan, bake, frost when cool and cut into nice little bars.  I’ve taken them to bake sales and class parties all dressed up with sprinkles. Everybody loves them.  But I wanted to make a new variation, one based on my favorite beverage, tea.

I’m a die hard tea drinker, hot or iced and almost always unsweetened. I enjoy a sweet tea every once in a while, but 99% of the time I drink it plain or with a bit of milk.  I don’t drink flavored teas often, but when I do, I really enjoy chai spices.  I love, love, love an authentic chai tea with all it’s milky, spicy sweet goodness, but in a pinch, I keep some vanilla chai tea bags around. Those warm spices were the flavors I was looking for when developing this recipe.

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The bar itself has cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves.  Then I brewed some vanilla chai tea and added it to both the bars and the icing.  Everyone loved the first round of the bars, but I wasn’t sold yet so I went through another trial to get the texture of the bar and the flavor of the frosting right.  I actually took an egg out and replaced it with a tablespoon of brewed chai tea and that gave me the perfect texture.

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I ended up with a lightly spiced bar covered with a sweet and creamy icing. I left some of the bars with just icing.  I sprinkled some with ground cinnamon. Then I used a little grinder I have that has chunks of sugar and cinnamon in it and ground a little of that on others, for extra texture.

It’s a little more sophisticated than a sugar cookie bar and it’s wonderful with a cup of tea, coffee or a big glass of cold milk, if that’s more your speed.  Vanilla Chai Sugar Cookie Bars.

vanilla chai sugar cookie bars set two-2

It’s what pastel frosted, rainbow sprinkle sugar cookie bars want to be when they grow up.

 

Vanilla Chai Sugar Cookie Bars

Ingredients

For the bars:

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon strong brewed chai tea I used Bigelow Vanilla Chai
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

For the frosting:

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons cream cheese I use Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tablespoons strong brewed chai tea
  • Topping:
  • ground cinnamon optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray an 8" square pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about a minute.
  3. Add egg, vanilla and 1 Tablespoon of the chai tea.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and spices.
  5. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and mix just until combined.
  6. Spread in prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until just lightly golden. Take care not to over bake or you'll have dry bars.
  8. Allow to cool completely.
  9. To make frosting, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and fully combined and fluffy.
  10. Add the sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla and beat until combined.
  11. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of tea, a little at a time, and beat until frosting is desired consistency.
  12. Frost cooled bars. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired. Store in refrigerator, tightly covered. You can serve cold, but I think the flavor is best at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

*Whenever I make a bar cookie, I line the pan with foil and then spray it. After they're cool, it's easy to lift the entire cookie out of the pan, peel off the foil and cut into bars.

*For really clean cuts, refrigerate before cutting for a couple of hours or until frosting is firm.

*For the strong brewed tea, I used one tea bag and about 1/4 cup or so of hot water and let it steep for a few minutes.

The Merchant Baker Copyright ยฉ 2015