For those with a sweet tooth, dessert bars provide just the right touch of sweetness to cure that hankering. These hand-held treats are easy to eat and highly craveable.
Under a Spell | Magic Bars
Biting into one of Paleo Mama Bakery’s Magic Bars, you’d never know they are gluten- and dairy-free. Maybe that’s why they’re called magic. The bars are packed with flavor, and each layer is more decadent than the last. It’s a chocolate lover’s dream with a chocolate chip cookie base and a thick layer of chocolate chips that’s topped with shredded coconut, chopped pecans and caramel sauce. As Paleo Mama also makes a fair number of keto products, owner Belle Pleva crafted a recipe for keto magic bars — they’re low in carbs and soy-, gluten-, grain- and sugar-free. 409 S. Few St., 608-286-1041, paleomamabakery.com
Piece of (Cheese) Cake | Cheesecake Bars
At Just Bakery, the stars of the bar list are the treats that incorporate cheesecake. Oreo remains the most popular of the offerings; it features a
classic cheesecake base, Oreo crust and a crumbling of cookie pieces to finish. Three other mainstay flavors have different crusts and toppings, but the cheesecake remains the same for each. In the winter, the bakery offers a twist on the popular Oreo treat by adding mint to the base and Andes candies on top with the cookie crumble. Just Bakery, which is an educational and vocational program in addition to a bakery, uses all the funds from its sales to reinvest in the program and hire graduates. 1708 Thierer Road, 608-598-0042, justdane.org/just-bakery
Chocolatey Goodness | Brownies
When talking about a chocolate shop’s bars, normally you’d think of a large, wrapped, shareable piece of chocolate. While Madison Chocolate Co. has an entire wall of those, we’re drawing attention instead to what goes on in Megan Hile’s Monroe Street kitchen. The chocolate experts at this certified gluten-free bakery are known for developing interesting combinations of flavors for baked goods, so we’d be remiss not to discuss the brownies. They’re gooey, they’re chocolatey and they’re messy in the best way — just what you want in a classic brownie. The bar options rotate, and there are non-chocolate options available
as well, including the pecan bar, a gluten-free buttery, nutty treat. 729 Glenway St., 608-286-1154, madisonchocolatecompany.com
A Well-Kept Secret | 7-Layer Bar
We asked Michelangelo’s Coffee House about its seven-layer bar, and the owners would only tell us five of the seven ingredients, keeping the others a store secret. The bar, which is also known as the coconut macaroon bar, combines coconut, chocolate chips, craisins, pecans, graham crackers and two mystery ingredients. Most of Michelangelo’s bars are based on recipes from the owner’s wife, but there are also a few that are created by local suppliers. The 25-year-old business’ crowd-favorite bars are the house-made classic brownies, but lemon bars and peanut butter bars follow closely behind. 114 State St., 608-251-5299, michelangeloscoffeehouse.com
From Scratch | Mint Creme Bar
The House Cafe & Bakery, a 100% vegetarian cafe, focuses on making everything from scratch and using high-quality ingredients. The New Glarus business opened in the past year and offers baked goods that account for dietary preferences and restrictions. It’s tough to choose just one off the large bar menu, but the gluten-free and vegan mint creme bar with a brownie base, mint filling and chocolate ganache should be added to your must-try list. The lemon curd bars and Midwest magic bars are also popular, and those wanting something naturally sweetened should opt for the medjool date bar with gluten-free oats. 407 2nd St., New Glarus, 608-636-2162, thehousecafeandbakery.com
Snap, Crackle, Pop | Scotcheroos
There’s no dessert that screams “Midwest” quite like a classic scotcheroo, a peanut butter Rice Krispies bar with chocolate. Rolling Pin Bake Shop in Fitchburg is one of the few places that makes them locally. Iowa might be where the scotcheroo was invented (at the very least it’s the “epicenter of scotcheroo enjoyment,” as one news outlet claimed), but it quickly spread to neighboring states. Rolling Pin opened in 2002 and makes a variety of desserts that include the scotcheroo and a few variations, like the peanut butter butterscotch bar, a crisped rice treat that’s covered in peanut butter and has a butterscotch filling. It’s simple and nostalgic, which is sometimes all you need in a sweet pick-me-up. 2935 S. Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg, 608-270-9611, rollingpinbakeshop.com
Squares on the Square | Almond Joy Bar
Few combinations are as meant to be as coconut and chocolate, which is why Gooseberry on the Square’s Almond Joy bar is a favorite at the restaurant. Co-owner Denien Sramek makes all the bars in-house and says he keeps a selection of the most common bars on the menu at all times, but he also rotates options from Gooseberry’s list of more than 10 selections based on what people crave. He recommends the Heritage Brownie, which is named in honor of the owners’ first location, the now-closed Heritage Bakery & Cafe. 1 S. Pinckney St., 608-467-6552, gooseberrymadison.com
Maija Inveiss is an associate editor of Madison Magazine.
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