Here’s another one for the “I Need a Cookie and I Need it NOW” file. From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, it’s a base recipe that invites endless variation. Today’s version is Oatmeal Coconut Bars, but tomorrow’s could be Chocolate Chip Walnut Bars, or Cherry Almond, or White Chocolate Macadamia, or Leftover Halloween Candy Bars, or all of the above. Use your imagination. It’s like Mary Poppins’ bottomless carpet bag: it will accommodate more than you think it will.
Another virtue of this recipe is that it only makes enough for an 8-inch square pan–just enough to eat up before they begin to get stale (or guilt sets in). On the other hand, it doubles nicely in a 9×13 pan, or even in a 10×15 sheet pan (cut them really small for a big party tray).
And just to gild the lily, you can make this in a single mixing bowl! Don’t dirty the mixer–you’ll want to dig right into these gooey bars and you don’t need a sink full of dirty dishes to postpone your pleasure.
Optional additions: 1/2-3/4 cup each of chocolate chips, oatmeal, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, dried fruits, etc.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Beat in brown sugar, egg, vanilla and salt with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add flour and stir until just incorporated. Stir in whichever additions you choose. Press dough into a greased 8×8 pan (my trick is to spray my fingers with nonstick spray and quickly press the dough flat) and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and set in the middle.