Downsizing Bar Cookies

by Elizabeth Skipper | February 3rd, 2015 | Ask the Chef

Bar cookiesThe nest is getting smaller, so I need to figure out a way to make recipes smaller. Some of my teen’s favorite desserts are bar cookies. However, with only one child at home, there’s no need to make a 13×9 pan of cookies. Can I cut the recipe in half and bake it in a smaller pan, or do I just need to find a new recipe?

I would think that a large pan of favorite cookies wouldn’t be a problem with a child—especially a teen—in the house, but perhaps your family has more restraint than mine. The way I deal with excess baked goods like cookies is to divide them up into serving-size portions, wrap each individually, and freeze them. There’s a whole lot less temptation than having the baking pan sitting out on the counter or in the fridge, and some cookies I find even tastier when consumed partially frozen. Another benefit is that you only bake once, and enjoy the results longer. Think about this as an option.

Most bar cookie recipes can be halved successfully, though, unless they contain ingredients which would be awkward to break down, like an egg, or of which you wouldn’t want to store the excess, like a partial roll of marzipan. The two things you want to be most careful about when halving a baked recipe are pan size and cooking time.

You might think that a 9” square baking pan would be suitable for half the batter or dough for a 9” x 13” pan. Not so. While a 9” round baking pan would work, the 9” square is too big. What’s needed is an 8” square pan. Here’s the math:

9” x 13” = 117 square inches

9” x 9” = 81 square inches

8” x 8” = 64 square inches

Divide 117 by 2 and you get 58.5, which is much closer to 64 than 81 is. (All calculations assume the pans are the same depth, about 2”.) You want to keep the depth of the dough or batter consistent; it would spread out too much in the 9” x 9” pan and over-bake.

Cooking time will be slightly reduced when making half a batch of bar cookies. Start checking for doneness about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through the original baking time.

To make it easy when dividing ingredients, remember that when halving fractions, all you have to do is double the denominator, or bottom number. Half of ½ cup is ¼ cup, for example. It gets a little trickier when you need to break down a measurement like 2/3 of a cup. Using this method, half of that amount is 2/6 of a cup, and there aren’t any measures like that. Now you have to figure it out in tablespoons and teaspoons, which is a pain. In this case, it’s easier to weigh out the ingredients.

I’m a fan of weighing, anyway, especially in baking. Get yourself a chart of what common ingredients like flour, sugar, and butter weigh; then use a scale to obtain the correct amount. Digital scales easily weigh small amounts in grams or ounces, and the accuracy gained is especially helpful for baking.

Comments on Downsizing Bar Cookies

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.