From lemon meringue bars to brownies to s’mores, tray bakes – a blanket term for all kinds of bar cookies and fruit slices – are really very versatile. You can use a crust to create a layered bar or a tart-like fruit treat, or use a single batter to make brownies or blondies. I’m a bit partial to cookie bars in particular for a couple of reasons. First, that you don’t need to spend all that time doling out batter onto baking sheets or hovering near the oven, waiting for the oven timer to go off every 10 minutes so that you can remove one batch and insert another to bake. With bar cookies, everything goes right into the pan and is done in one batch. Second, you can slice the resulting bars into any size you like – a feature that comes in handy when you’re dealing with this recipe.
These bars are nothing more than oatmeal cookies that come out in rectangles, rather than rounds. Almost nothing more, I should say. They are thicker than regular drop cookies, and consequently have a slight chew to them, but have the same great oat and butter flavor of regular cookies. Unlike some blondie recipes or brownie recipes, these cookies are not dense at all. Instead, they’re tender and a bit crumbly. The dough barely holds together and must be pressed into the pan, and the lack of liquid in the dough helps achieve this texture.
Instead of cinnamon and raisins or chocolate chips – all of which are typical oatmeal cookie additions – I opted to pack these full of pistachios and dried cherries. I used sweet cherries, not tart, and was incredibly pleased with the result. The cherry and pistachio flavors complemented each other very well, both in flavor and in texture. The cherries gave a nice chew to the cookies and the pistachios added a nice crunch, as well as a nice change from much more commonly used pecans and walnuts. I did not chop my cherries or pistachios up before adding them into the dough, but if you prefer your add-ins to be on the smaller side, give yours a coarse chop with a chefs knife before stirring them in.
Pistachio Cherry Oatmeal Cookie Bars
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch baking pan (or the Baker’s edge pan, which I did).
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, oats and brown sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in cooled, melted butter, egg and vanilla extract. Stir to combine. Mixture should be wet, but may still be a bit crumbly. Stir in pistachios and cherries.
Scrape cookie dough into prepared pan and press down into an even layer.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until light golden brown and just set in the center (8×8-inch pan may require a couple of extra minutes). Cool on a wire rack completely before slicing into bars.