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Sour Cream Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Bars

December 4, 2020
At a Glance

Summary

More than just sugar cookies baked into a bar, these gluten free sugar cookie bars are extra tender and moist. The crackly vanilla sugar crust takes them over the top.

Categories

Prep / Cook Time

15 minutes / 22 to 30 minutes, depending on size

Rating

 5/5 (5 votes)
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Sour Cream Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Bars

No need for a mix for these extra tender gluten free sugar cookie bars made with sour cream. Instead of frosting, the vanilla sugar on top creates an ultra-thin crackling crust.

Sour cream sugar cookie bar on spatula

These sugar cookie bars aren’t just basic sugar cookies in bar form. Not that I’m throwing shade; I love basic sugar cookies.

From drop cookies to cutout cookies, vanilla to chocolate to maple-flavored, I adore them all. But these bars just aren’t essentially the same type of recipe but baked in a pan and sliced into bars.

They’re softer and more tender, with a mild tang from all that sour cream baked into the cookie dough. They aren’t burdened by the need to hold a shape and clean lines, so they devote themselves fully to flavor.

Sour cream sugar cookie bars overhead being sprinkled with sugar

How to make vanilla sugar

Sugar cookie bars are often served with a thick layer of buttercream frosting. I guess the inspiration is the Lofthouse-style cutout sugar cookies that have that gorgeous thick layer of frosting.

But this gluten free sugar cookie bars recipe is more delicate in texture. Along with the extra tender cookie bar, they have a razor-thin layer of vanilla sugar on top that bakes into a satisfying crackle topping.

To make vanilla sugar, place granulated sugar and as many vanilla bean seeds as you’re willing to spare in a food processor. Pulse a few times.

I use the seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean for each 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. That’s a relatively generous amount, so feel free to use fewer seeds since vanilla is just. so. expensive.

The mixture will clump, but it will still keep for a long time at room temperature. I store it in a sealed glass jar and press it with a spoon to break up clumps before using it.

Be sure to keep it in a glass container, not plastic. Plastic will absorb the aroma rather than preserve it in the sugar. And keep the jar covered, to keep that lovely smell contained.

Overhead image sour cream sugar cookie bars with small plates

Make these sugar cookie bars thinner or thicker

I’ve made these tender, flavorful cookie bars both about 1-inch thick, and about 1/2-inch thick. I prefer them thicker, but I’ve provided instructions for how to do either.

Regardless of thickness, doneness can’t be determined visually or with your hands. You can’t press gently in the center of the pan without cracking the thin sugar crust. And you can’t see underneath the crust to determine if it’s set in the center.

Thicker bars

In the photos here, the bars are nice and thick, with a generous crackly vanilla sugar crust. If you’d like them thick like that, just make them in a 9-inch square pan.

The baking time is about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Thinner bars

To make thinner bars, you’ll need a 9-inch x 13-inch x 2-inch pan. The baking time is about 22 minutes.

You can’t use a jelly roll pan, with sides that are less than 2-inches, because it doesn’t have enough volume. You’ll need something with higher sides.

Be sure your oven temperature is no higher than 350°F as indicated by a separate thermometer. A higher temperature will burn the underside in the center before the rest of the cookie dough has finished baking.

For cutout cookies

If you’re looking for cutout cookies that you can make into fancy shapes, I have plenty of other recipes for that. Have a look at our recipe for soft gluten free cutout sugar cookies.

For a tangier version that is more similar in taste to these sour cream sugar cookie bars, try our recipe for gluten free cream cheese cutout sugar cookies. For the tenderness and taste of the cookie alone, that recipe can’t be beat if you’re in need of a shaped cookie.

cookie bars on small plates, one with bite taken

Ingredients and substitution

Dairy

In place of the butter in this recipe, try using vegan butter. My favorite brands are Melt and Miyoko’s Kitchen.

In place of the sour cream, you can use plain Greek yogurt (dairy or nondairy). You cannot use plain yogurt of any kind that is the “regular” thickness, since that has too much moisture.

If you use an ingredient like plain “regular” yogurt with too much moisture in it, the recipe won’t work—and you can’t say I didn’t warn you! Plus, I will continue to push back on comments that blame me for errors that were not recipe-related, but execution-related.

If you have a nondairy sour cream brand that you love, you can use that, too. Just be sure it’s the proper thickness, and that you like the taste of it, since baking only intensifies the flavor.

Eggs

There is one egg and one egg yolk in this recipe. You should be able to replace each of those with an appropriate amount of a “chia egg.”

In place of the full egg, use 1 full chia egg. In place of the yolk, use just one half. The total would be 1 1/2 tablespoons ground white chia seeds + 1 1/2 tablespoons lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel.

vanilla sugar being shaken from a spoon

Sour cream sugar cookie bar on a spatula and on a plate with a bite taken

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 9 to 20 bars, depending on size

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups (315 g) all purpose flour gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

12 tablespoons (168 g) unsalted butter, at warm room temperature

3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar

1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) + 1 egg yolk (25 g) at room temperature, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (173 g) confectioners’ sugar

3/4 cup (192 g) sour cream, at warm room temperature

Vanilla sugar, for sprinkling (2 to 3 tablespoons) (See Recipe Notes).

Directions

  • Grease and line a 9-inch square baking pan or a 9-inch x 13-inch x 2-inch baking pan and set it aside. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

  • In a medium-sized bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and whisk to combine well. Set the dry ingredients aside.

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a handheld mixer, place the butter and granulated sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

  • Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat to combine. Add the confectioners’ sugar, and beat until smooth, then the sour cream and beat again until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The cookie dough will be thick but relatively soft.

  • Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared baking pan. Using a moistened spatula, spread it into an even layer in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top evenly with a thin layer of vanilla sugar (about 3 tablespoons). Turn the pan toward each side to distribute the sugar evenly over the top.

  • Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until set all the way to the center and a toothpick comes out clean (about 30 minutes for the square pan; about 22 minutes for the rectangular pan). Allow to cool completely in the pan before slicing into squares and serving.

Love,
Nicole

Comments are closed.

  • Summer
    March 25, 2021 at 7:29 PM

    Hi there! I was wondering if you knew the link for your extra flaky pie crust recipe is broken 😕 it says error decoding. I can’t wait until it’s fixed so I can try it out for pop tarts and empanadas! I also can’t wait to try this recipe this weekend. It. Looks. So. Good.

    • Nicole Hunn
      March 26, 2021 at 8:45 AM

      Hi, Summer, there’s no link in this post to my extra flaky pie crust. And that post is functioning properly. I would clear your browser’s cache and then just use the search function. Everything is ready for you! I do have separate recipes for pop tarts and empanadas, though, if you’re looking to make those. The crust isn’t the same.

  • Bridget
    March 14, 2021 at 6:03 PM

    These have become a favorite! I’ve made at least 3 batches in the last month. Moist and tangy. Loved by my gluten eating friends too! Baked in both 8×8” and 9×13” pans and prefer the larger pan. Also started with sprinkling 2/3 of the pan with vanilla sugar and the remaining 1/3 with cinnamon sugar. Now just using cinnamon sugar on the whole thing because that’s what we prefer.

    • Nicole Hunn
      March 14, 2021 at 6:13 PM

      I’m so glad you’ve made these a part of your repertoire, Bridget! They are very flavor-adaptable, for sure.

  • Lari Goldsmith
    January 5, 2021 at 11:08 AM

    Happy New Year Nicole! I love these bar cookies! I baked them in a 9″ square pan and the batter raised perfectly. A nice mix of sugar cookie and not quite cake. I am one of your fans that cannot eat eggs and I am not happy with chia eggs (although I keep trying). For this recipe I used a starch egg and a tablespoon of greek style coconut yogurt for the egg yolk. Next time I will bake in a 9X13 pan to discover the texture difference. I am also thinking of lemon bar cookies.
    I appreciate all your effort. Yes, the recipe development and blog is your job. And you produce for a mostly grateful public. I have been encouraged by you allowing us glimpses of your life. Thank you for your dedication.
    Lari G

    • Nicole Hunn
      January 5, 2021 at 11:49 AM

      Hi, Lari, I wish there were a better egg substitute that was truly reliable—and colorless. If you’re really committed and industrious, I think you’d have better luck with a true flax egg, where you boil it and then strain out the pieces. That (forgive me) goo is really useful. But it’s a whole big process… And thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so glad the glimpses of life have been encouraging. All these years, and encouragement is still my #1 goal!

  • Sue
    December 25, 2020 at 10:02 PM

    Hi, from Australia! I made this and it was delicious but more cake like and needed longer in the oven. Our ingredients are somewhat different here. I used ALDI gluten free flour. Everyone who tried it did not believe it was GF, LOL. I am going to try it with some ginger.
    Thanks for your great recipes. I will be trying many more.

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 26, 2020 at 9:48 AM

      I recommend that you use my all purpose gluten free flour blend recipes. I’m not familiar with that gluten free flour blend in particular, but my recipes are only designed to work with one of my recommended blends, Sue. They aren’t all created equal, by any means.

  • karen jones
    December 25, 2020 at 6:17 PM

    these are excellent!

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 25, 2020 at 9:18 PM

      So glad, Karen!

  • Margo
    December 20, 2020 at 11:06 PM

    Made these in a 9×13 pan. I do not eat a gluten free diet but before I packed these up for my friends I tasted one, then another! They really are quite good. Light tasting and they smell lovely when baking. Thank you for this easy recipe!

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 21, 2020 at 8:35 AM

      You’re very welcome, Margo! Those are some lucky friends. :)

  • Margo Lavigne
    December 17, 2020 at 10:14 AM

    Hi Nicole. Thank you for answering so quickly but I was basically just wondering if these should be stored in the fridge or at room temperature? Also how long should they stay fresh? Sorry if somehow I missed this information in your article.

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 17, 2020 at 10:48 AM

      Oh, I understand, Margo. I would seal them tightly and store at cool room temperature for about 4 days, and then freeze for longer storage. If you freeze them, be sure to eliminate any air in the packaging because that’s what causes freezer burn. Defrost at room temperature, still sealed. Hope that helps!

  • Margo Lavigne
    December 13, 2020 at 9:22 PM

    Going to try this recipe for some friends who eat gluten free. Can you tell me how to store them so I can add that information to their treat? Thanks.

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 14, 2020 at 8:58 AM

      I’ve frozen them with success, Margo, if that’s what you mean.

  • Jessica O.
    December 13, 2020 at 5:07 PM

    Hello, I love that your recipes are written by weight, and have such thorough explanations for substitutions and methods. I seem to be having the same issues as Leah McPhee, and would love to get to the bottom of it! Jiggly batter in a 9×13 pan, and I had to bake for about 40 minutes to have it set. It looks like pretty cake now, 1.5 inches tall. I know cup4cup is not your preferred flour for baking, but your website says it will work anywhere all purpose gf flour is called for. I’m wondering if that is what she used as well, and that could be the culprit? (I measured by grams where applicable and have an oven thermometer, just to cross those things off the list. I didn’t have unsalted butter, so I used salted and omitted the salt. Could that have done it?) Thanks for any help!

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 13, 2020 at 5:36 PM

      I don’t think that using salted butter, or using Cup4Cup should have caused anything like what you’re describing. If you made any substitutions of ingredients, even the ones that I suggest, that will almost certainly account for your results. I cannot possibly test every substitution, and in fact haven’t tested any of them (they’re suggestions) unless I specifically indicate otherwise. Beyond that, I have 3 more guesses (and this is reaching, because I’m not there with you, which makes this exercise nearly impossible!). 1. Was your butter too soft to beat with the granulated sugar until the mixture was light and fluffy? If your butter was too soft (perhaps if you warmed it in the microwave?), it won’t beat properly and you won’t be able to incorporate any air into it. 2. Your oven thermometer may no longer be properly calibrated (I replace them at least 2 times a year); 3. Did you use a low fat sour cream, or some alternative sour cream? That would introduce more moisture, and create the issue you’re describing. The photos and video are meant to show, as well as tell, so you can compare your ingredients and methods to mine. That’s all I can really offer!

  • Suzanne
    December 10, 2020 at 9:19 AM

    Would like to be on your email listing.

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 10, 2020 at 2:59 PM

      Hi, Suzanne, By law, you have to opt in to my emails yourself. I can’t do it for you! There’s a form in the sidebar, and there’s also a form here on this page. Happy to have you!

  • Janet T
    December 7, 2020 at 1:41 PM

    These look terrific! I’m glad to hear you’re putting together a shipping info sheet.. I’ll be looking for that. Question. I’d like to make these a little more festive with a bit of colorful sprinkles on top, but will they stick on that crackly top? Any suggestions?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 7, 2020 at 3:49 PM

      Hi, Janet, I think sprinkles would actually bleed if they even stuck to the crackly sugar layer, since the crackly top is created when the sugar cooks in the oven. If you’d like to dress up a sugar cookie, I’d go with the “fancy drop sugar cookies,” “bakery-style sugar cookies,” or maybe the “soft frosted sugar cookies.” Just use the search function.
      I’ve created a post on How To Ship Cookies, but published it only in the “members” area of my blog, which is a premium ad-free area. I’m working on being able to share the post with everyone, for free. Stay tuned!

  • Clare O'Malley
    December 6, 2020 at 8:22 PM

    My kids and I could not wait for this to cool. We broke off the crumbly sugared edges and our cake looked like a disaster. However – it was delicious! This will now be my go-to recipe. We loved the vanilla flavor, and want to experiment adding other flavors next time: lemon, orange, coffee. Maybe almond or maple. The sugared crust is the best part, but my son raves about the fluffiness of the batter.

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 7, 2020 at 8:11 AM

      I’m so glad you loved them, Clare! I love that you’ve made it as written, and now want to experiment. That’s the best way, because now you know what it should look, feel, and smell like. If you make a maple flavored topping, you should consider using maple flavoring in place of vanilla extract. It’s kind of expensive, but it smells sooo good and a little goes a long way!

  • Shanna
    December 6, 2020 at 7:19 PM

    I am not likely to buy vanilla beans and I am wondering if you could use something like lemon zest to flavor the sugar? Thanks!

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 7, 2020 at 8:04 AM

      Sure, Shanna. It’s obviously a very different flavor profile, but go for it. Otherwise, you really could just use regular granulated sugar. They’d still be lovely.

  • Kristy
    December 6, 2020 at 7:17 PM

    These look so good! I have vanilla greek yogurt on hand. Would that work for this in place of sour cream? Happy Holidays!?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 7, 2020 at 8:08 AM

      Please see the Ingredients and substitutions section, Kristy, for the answer generally, but I would not ever use vanilla yogurt for baking. Always plain. Sounds like you need to go shopping!

  • Leah McPhee
    December 6, 2020 at 6:11 PM

    I made these tonight, and used a rectangle pan, smaller than 9×13, and it’s taking forever to bake. My oven temp is 350, I typically don’t have an issue baking anything. We’re at 40 minutes and its still wiggly, way undercooked but golden on top. Any suggestions?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 7, 2020 at 8:08 AM

      That sounds like you deviated from the recipe with an ingredient substitute, used a flour blend that isn’t one of my recommended ones (please follow the link in the recipe to the all purpose gluten free flour blends page for full information), measured by volume, not weight (the cookie dough isn’t ever “wiggly,” not even when it’s raw), or your oven temperature is off. Or a combination of those. The recipe works when made as written, and I’ve made it in different-sized pans as indicated in the recipe.

  • Karen
    December 6, 2020 at 11:31 AM

    Just found this regarding how to make vanilla sugar using vanilla paste.
    It can be done but the best way to make it appears to be with vanilla beans.

  • Karen
    December 6, 2020 at 10:18 AM

    These look delicious! Can vanilla paste be substituted for vanilla seeds to make vanilla sugar? I would like to make today but don’t have any vanilla beans.
    Thanks, Nicole! 2020 has definitely been memorable ?
    Merry Christmas ?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 6, 2020 at 2:05 PM

      Indeed it has been memorable, Karen! I’m trying to think of it as just an anchor year, and we can only improve from here!

  • LoisYeager
    December 6, 2020 at 10:10 AM

    Vanilla beans cannot be found here. Can I make vanilla sugar using liquid vanilla?
    Thank you.

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 6, 2020 at 2:04 PM

      You can’t use vanilla extract, no, Lois. Extract doesn’t contain any actual vanilla beans.

  • Thomas
    December 5, 2020 at 3:31 PM

    Thank you! Was diagnosed with celiac three years ago, and am always looking for new recipes as I cook for myself! LOVE vanilla and sugar cookies but always too brittle/crumbly. Cannot wait to try this thank you so much!

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 5, 2020 at 4:57 PM

      I’m glad you cook for yourself, Thomas. I’m not sure if I would have worked as hard for myself as I have for my son, but it’s definitely just as important!

  • Kathy E
    December 4, 2020 at 6:22 PM

    I’m a bit confused about the egg, but maybe I missed something. The recipe calls for 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, beaten. Do you also beat the 1 full egg or can you beat the 1 full egg & 1 egg yolk together?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 4, 2020 at 6:34 PM

      You beat them both together, Kathy.

  • Susan
    December 4, 2020 at 5:47 PM

    Would these ship well?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 4, 2020 at 6:35 PM

      Actually, they’re not a favorite of mine for shipping, I’m afraid, Susan! I’m trying to put together a post as quickly as possible with guidelines for shipping cookies, but generally you want something firmer. Plus, the sugar crust will spread like edible glitter. :)

  • Megan
    December 4, 2020 at 5:09 PM

    Yum!! Cannot wait to try! Question, will your mock better batter blend work well for this? The better batter website says they won’t have any AP flour in stock until January. Can the mock blend be used for any recipe that calls for better batters blend (including your bread recipes)? I have a lot of your recipes I want to try for the holidays and can’t get my hands on better batters blend :(

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 4, 2020 at 5:26 PM

      Oh no, really, Megan? Yes! My mock Better Batter is appropriate everywhere you would use Better Batter’s all purpose flour mix (their original blend). Just be sure you use superfine rice flours and measure by weight. Happy baking!

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