star-spangled banner bites

A good Fourth of July is spent the way you’d imagine it spent: in the company of good friends, good food, good conversation, and copious amounts of explosives. Lucky for me, being in Cville surrounded by none other than Zach, Michael, Jeremy, and the rest, it was bound to be quite an event.

When Zach sent me a hilariously applicable movie still of the first year Hogwarts students feasting at the Great Hall and told me, under no uncertain terms, to “prepare myself for dinner,” I knew it was going to be a good night.

A good friend of ours currently employed as a guide at the Monticello had told us a few weeks prior to come up to the mountain in the evening to watch the fireworks displays all over the city, so Zach and Michael planned an absolutely enormous feast to indulge in beforehand. Burgers, hot dogs, french fries, cassava fries, pasta salad, black bean and corn salsa, baked beans, chips, homemade guac, grilled corn, grilled asparagus, tons of  watermelon, and drinks aplenty. I was responsible for bringing Greek salad and, of course, dessert.

Still, I’d been feeling enormously patriotic as of late. Maybe it was watching Captain America’s wonderfully sculpted derrière for two  glorious hours at the Avengers premier, but in any case, I knew I wanted to go all out for this one. And then, perusing Tastespotting a few days ago, I came across the most adorable, ‘Murican-inspired recipe I’d seen yet: Janna Erwin’s Star Spangled Banner Bars. 

I took one look at them and knew I had to recreate them.

I also knew, in the back of my mind, that it would take me every ounce of patience and precision to make them look half as good as Janna’s (hers are just perfect), but I cataloged that thought away for never later.

Star-Spangled Banner Bites
Adapted from SheKnows

Ingredients for the nougat:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp flavoring of your choice (I went with vanilla)
  • blue food coloring

Ingredients for the cookie:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) + 6 tbsp butter (14 tbsp in total)
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups + 3 tbsp flour
  • red food coloring
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Method to prepare the nougat:

In a medium saucepan over medium-high flame, whisk sugar, corn syrup, and water. Once sugar has melted, bring to the boil and then reduce heat and allow syrup to simmer. Cook until temperature reaches 248F, or until it forms a firm ball when dropped into cold water.

While syrup is cooking, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Slowly pour the hot syrup into the egg whites, beating the mixture constantly while pouring. Keep beating until the candy begins to stiffen. Add flavoring and tons of blue food coloring. Turn the candy onto a buttered plate or large piece of parchment paper. Allow candy to cool to room temperature.

Method to prepare the cookie:

Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce mixer speed and add the flour, mixing until dough comes together.

Divide dough into five equal sections. Knead a few drops of red food coloring into three of the five sections. Roll dough into discs, cover in cling film, and refrigerate for at least 30 mins.

Note: dough can be prepared up to two days in advance.


Roll out each of the five cookie dough discs until relatively thin. (This is done most easily between two sheets of cling film.) Gently stack the rolled out cookie dough on top of one another, alternating color, beginning and ending with red. Wrap the stacked cookie dough in cling film and refrigerate once again, for 30 mins.

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with foil. Remove cookie dough from the fridge and slice into smallish squares. Place them about an inch apart on the baking sheet and bake for 10-15 mins, depending on the size of the cookies. Cool cookies on a wire rack until they reach room temperature.

Meanwhile, sift tons of confectioner’s sugar over the cooled nougat and slice into pieces, about the same length as the cookies. Once cookies are cooled, gently stack the nougat on top of the cookie.

Once all cookies are stacked, melt the semisweet chocolate chips over a double-broiler (or in the microwave) until smooth. Allow chocolate to cool slightly, then carefully pour over each cookie, using the spoon to even out the spread over the top and sides. Place chocolate-covered cookies on a wire rack. Once all cookies are covered, stick them in the fridge so the chocolate can set, 30-45 mins. Keep cookies in fridge until serving.

Okay, so, this was one of the most involved dessert recipes I’ve ever attempted. And, admittedly, I should have given myself way more time to do it properly. Or at least buy some good lamps so that I don’t have to do all of my cooking while the sun is still well and up for photography purposes. And I should probably invest in a candy thermometer.

But, all things considered, I was pretty satisfied with them. And they tasted incredible to boot.

My only big suggestion would be to spread this out over two days. Do all of the cookie stuff one day (including rolling and stacking them), and the nougat and assembly the second. It’ll save you some time and sanity (“some” being the key word). Also, the nougat is extremely ornery to work with. I don’t actually have any tips for that except to tell you to man up and get it done.

I did bake a second dessert as well, to up the class factor a bit, and went with a more traditional apple tart. A post for that will be coming up quite shortly, so stay tuned.

But these were a big hit. Adorable and delicious and suitably patriotic. Basically, the perfect little thing to munch on after the world’s most satisfying meal and a few rounds of cards. All followed by the nine of us pilling into a few cars for a drive up the mountain by Mr Jefferson’s home, watching fireworks displays for miles across the city until well past dark. It was, truth be told, lovely.

Of course, a somewhat…untimely fall on the way back home may have put a slight damper on my evening (and a swell in my ankle), but, you know, what’s a memorable night without a bit of injury, eh? In any case, I will hold my head high, keep my foot propped on a pillow, and enjoy all the leftovers from last night’s great feast with dignity.

I hope your Independence Day was a little less hazardous, quite a bit wonderful, and just as delicious.

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