Soft Baked Gingerbread Cookie Bars

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Tis the season for last minute cookies, fa la la la la la la la la. Tis the season to frantically bake and blog, fa la la la la la la la la.

Soft baked gingerbread bars

For real though, why do I always wait until the last minute to post epic recipes on here? Oh yeah – because I’m me. And I work 4 jobs.

bokeh

Regardless of that, I need to share these, and I don’t care if Christmas is in 2 days and you’re already cookied out. It’s the first holiday themed post I’ve put together in…like a year, so just let me have it.

gingerbread cookie bars

If we’re being honest, I don’t normally gravitate towards gingerbread. Now, I love the smell and the way it always reminds me of Christmas with my mom, but as a taste? It’s not my favorite. I’m more of a peanut butter thumbprint or chocolate chip kind of girl. But, I was feeling super festive this weekend (after binge-watching Lifetime holiday movies) and decided to give it another go.

homemade gingerbread cookie bars

Except, instead of traditional gingerbread men, I made cookie bars. With eggnog vanilla bean frosting and cranberries and crystallized ginger. And, instead of a heavy hand of ginger, I added some cardamom from India.

fresh ingredients

Holy Christmas, you guys. These bars totally changed the way I view gingerbread. They are SUPER soft, moist and chewy – and have just the right amount of spice. Plus, the addition of tart cranberries and sweet candied ginger truly bring them to life. In fact, I’m SO excited about them, I’m making a batch to bring to the queen of cookies herself -my mom!

cranberry ginger bars

Now, I know they don’t hold a flame to what she makes, but I’m hoping she likes them enough to give them some space on her world-renown cookie tray. Which is no easy feat, let me tell you. I may be her daughter, but she takes that ish SERIOUSLY. On Christmas Eve, before the appetizer baking and the ham basting, the three of us (my mom, myself and her best friend) put together the trays. She unpacks the coolers (yes, PLURAL) filled with the 8+ varieties of cookies she made that year. Then, like an artist, she arranges them. If a cookie is broken, has a blemish or isn’t perfect, it doesn’t make the cut.

ginger

A lot of cookies are sacrificed to my face during that tray preparation. But seriously, I’m not kidding. Cookies are a serious business with my mom. I like to think I got some of her talent in the baking department. We’ll see – if you find me crying on Christmas it’s because my soft baked squares didn’t make the cut, and I binge ate them out of sadness. And then I cried even more b/c my pants didn’t fit.

wine

Oh the holidays. At least there’s wine.

Soft Baked Gingerbread Cookie Bars

chewy

Yields about 22 bars. Adapted from Girl Who Ate Everything.
Prep time: 8 minutes
Cook time: 18 – 22 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

For the bars:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Dash of salt

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted
  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons eggnog*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cranberries

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper. Sprinkle with flour and spread. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attached, beat the butter, applesauce, brown sugar, white sugar, molasses, vanilla and egg together until smooth and creamy. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and salt together.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Spread the mixture over the parchment paper using a spatula. Bake for about 18 – 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool in pan. Remove from pan (on parchment paper) and let cool on a wire rack.
  5. Meanwhile, beat the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, eggnog and vanilla bean paste together in a mixer. Add additional eggnog if mixture is too thick.
  6. Once bars have cooled, spread frosting over liberally. Sprinkle with candied ginger and cranberries.

Nutritional information per bar:

Calories: 217
Fat: 7.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 35.2 grams
Fiber: <1 gram
Protein: 2.2 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 6

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