There are so many Christmas cookies in the world that it’s hard to pick a favorite. When it’s time to bake, how are you supposed to choose between Buttery Spritz Cookies or soft Holiday Cutout Cookies or our all-time-favorite Peppermint Meltaways, or… well, something else? It’s impossible!
But then we stumbled upon a recipe for “Triple Treat Holiday Treat Bars” that Gold Medal Flour published in the 1970s. It starts with a single easy sugar cookie base, and adds a whipped sugar frosting and a variety of toppings to make three different delicious bar cookies, each one a crowd-pleaser.
Here’s what we learned when we made these retro three-in-one cookie bars ourselves.
How to Make Triple Treat Holiday Bars
1 cup sliced natural almonds, finely chopped
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup diced red candied cherries
2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
Whole almonds, for decorating
Tools You’ll Need
Step 1: Make the cookie base
Preheat your oven to 300°F. Set aside ¼ cup of the chopped almonds; add the remaining ¾ cup to a large mixing bowl with the brown sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and salt. Use a mixer to cream together until fluffy, then gradually mix in the flour on low speed.
Step 2: Time to bake!
Press the cookie dough evenly into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan. Bake 20-25 minutes until the cookie base is light brown. (It will still be soft.) Remove to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely.
Step 3: Make the frosting
Using a mixer, beat the softened butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and about 2 tablespoons of milk together until fluffy, adding another spoonful or two of milk if the frosting is too thick to be spreadable.
Step 4: Decorate the cookies
Spread the frosting over the crust, then lightly score the frosting into thirds. Sprinkle ¼ cup of finely chopped almonds over one section; in the center section, spread melted chocolate over the frosting. Decorate the last third with candied cherries, pressing down lightly to make them stick.
Chill for about 15 minutes, then cut into individual bars before the chocolate has fully set.
Here’s What I Thought
Maybe it’s because I have an adult palate on account of being, well, an adult, but these cookies were way too sweet for me, and that’s all because of the frosting.
Three cups of powdered sugar is a lot of sugar; when divided into 15 bar cookies, that comes out to a little less than ¼ cup of sugar per cookie! And that doesn’t take into account the sugar in the cookie base, or the sugar in the maraschino cherry topping. If you’d like to make this cookie, I highly suggest you use only two cups of confectioners’ sugar in the frosting, then give it a taste, and add additional sugar as you see fit.
The original recipe doesn’t call for lining your baking pan, because there’s enough butter in the dough to make sure the cookies won’t stick to the pan. However, this can make it tough to remove the cookies from the pan. To make things easier for yourself, line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper that overhangs the edges; once the cookies have set you can lift the parchment paper straight out of the pan.
Something I like about this recipe is how easily customizable it is. Once the cookies are frosted, you’re free to use whatever toppings you want, and because the base is so simple, you don’t have to worry much about clashing flavors. You can top your cookies with other chopped nuts, shredded coconut, sprinkles, caramel or anything else you think will be a crowd-pleaser.
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