Treats and Tricks: Spiced Oat and Chocolate Chip Blondies

plated3Halloween is all about sweet treats and for me, that means blondies.

I don’t prepare homemade goodies for the ghosts and goblins coming to our door because we live in the city and it’s just not done for safety reasons. But these bars, individually wrapped and hand delivered to neighbors, would make an excellent Halloween treat! They would also be a welcome addition to any Halloween party and great to have on hand as sustenance for those who service trick or treaters, too!

plated 1What makes these blondies so special is the addition of warm cinnamon spice, vanilla and oats. For a while now, I’ve wanted to translate an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie into a bar and these bars are the tasty result.

This is an easy recipe which comes together in a jiffy. And while I’m not going to say that these are healthy…they do have butter, sugar and chocolate after all…they are healthier than most blondies. In the vicinity of 100 calories per bar, they’re a reasonable indulgence for those of us that need to watch such things! (Me.) Most of all, they are absolutely delicious!

To make these bars my own, I omitted some of the sugar from the traditional blondie recipes I’ve seen (holy cow, is there a lot of sugar in those recipes!), as well as some of the butter, and I used only light brown sugar. Then I added rolled organic oats and chocolate chips to the batter, along with a touch of cinnamon for warmth and a really good dose of bourbon vanilla extract to enhance the overall sweetness. The resulting deliciousness was exactly what I wanted. A tiny bit chewy from the oats, toasty caramel flavor from the sugar and butter, decadent chocolate with a hint of spice and a vanilla hit to amp up the whole bar. Perfect.

plated4These blondies certainly aren’t just for Halloween. In combination with some hot tea or a glass of milk on a cool Fall afternoon, these are delightful. Need something sweet for a summer picnic? These treats will do the trick. They freeze incredibly well, too. In fact, I plan to make more and freeze them to use for the upcoming holidays. Just take what you need out of the freezer, thaw to room temperature and plate, and you’ve got instant holiday or hostess gift, party food…or cookies for Santa.

Below are a few simple “tricks” to ensure making perfectly browned and moist blondies:

Trick number 1: Properly prepare your pan. Click on any image above for instructions.

Trick number 2: Melt your butter only until it is ALMOST melted, then take it off the heat or out of the microwave and stir it until it finishes melting. This will keep it from “cooking” the sugar when you combine it to make batter. Do NOT add hot melted butter to your batter. If you do, you may end up with hard as brick edges to your bars and an uncooked middle!

Trick number 3: Removal from the pan. Click on any image above for instructions.

chili1

On another note, I always make a batch of my Spooktacular chili for Halloween and this year will be no exception. You can see that recipe by clicking here and it’s a great idea for Halloween parties, too. Make a chili bar and let your ghosts and goblins decorate their own chili with the fixings. Boo!

Happy Halloween!

punkitties2

Spiced Oat and Chocolate Chip Blondies
Makes 36 small bars

Ingredients:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted* (see “trick” number 2 above)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten to combine
2 teaspoons Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/4 teaspoon good quality ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

waxed paper and scissors
2 – Wire cooling racks that will fit 13″ long

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with butter. Measure and tear off a piece of waxed paper slightly larger than the 13″ length of the pan. Turn the pan over and cut the waxed paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Turn the pan right side up and fit the cut waxed paper into the bottom of the pan and butter it. (See trick number 1.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla until just blended. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt until well mixed. Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and stir just until well mixed. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Turn out the batter into the prepared baking pan. The batter will be thick. Spread it so that it evenly covers the bottom of the pan. It will be a thin layer, but will rise during baking. Bake in the oven for 18 minutes and check for doneness. The bars will be done when the edges are golden brown, the blonde top is just starting to brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Run a table knife gently around the outside of the bars. Place one of the wire cooling racks on top of the pan, then using oven mitts, invert the pan so that the blondies will fall onto the wire rack. You may need to give the bottom of the pan a rap. When the blondies have released, remove the pan. Gently peel the waxed paper off the bottom of the blondies. Place the second wire rack over the bottom of the blondies and invert again so that the top side of the blondies is up. Allow the blondies to cool to room temperature. Slide the blondies off onto a cutting board and cut into 36 even bars. EAT! These blondies may be frozen in small freezer bags for up to two months. Thaw before serving.

Snow Day Sweet Tooth

This is a magnificent shot of my thumb, don't you think?

This is a magnificent shot of my thumb, don’t you think?

You may or may not have heard on the American news that we had 2 – 2 1/2 inches of snow here this week, resulting in ice, resulting in 4 million folks all heading home in the middle of a minor snow storm, compacting more ice and ending in a massive traffic gridlock…and stranded motorists. This event is now not-so-affectionately known as “Snowpocalypse 2014.” I still feel so badly for anyone who went through the stress and frightening strain of being stuck in traffic or stranded for hours—and in some cases days—on our roads and interstates here in Atlanta as well as in Birmingham, Alabama. Hopefully everyone is home, safe and sound by now.

This is what our Southern felines thought of the snow.

This is what our Southern felines thought of the snow.

In addition to a stiff single-malt scotch, there’s nothing that can take away the sting of enduring such an event quite so well as these easy, chewy and toffee-covered Heath Bar Blondies. And hey, they’d be a good choice for the Superbowl festivities, too.

Not a fan of toffee? Use the same amount of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips instead, and lightly press them into the top of the batter before baking.

Heath Bar (or Chocolate Chip) Blondies
Makes 3 dozen rich bars, plenty to soothe your raw nerves and some to share, too!

1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter, unsalted, plus extra to grease the pan
1 egg
2 teaspoons good quality pure vanilla extract (I use Madagascar bourbon vanilla)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup English toffee bits in milk chocolate such as Heath, or you can sub an equal amount of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Grease an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan with butter and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the sugar, butter, egg and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl with a whisk. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, then pour it into the butter mixture. Stir with a spoon to combine, until the mixture is moist and just blended. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing evenly. Scatter the toffee bits or the chips evenly over the top of the batter and press lightly to adhere. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes, until the blondies start to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 36 small squares. Relax.

Hard to believe such a beautiful little snow could wreak so much chaos.

Hard to believe such a beautiful little snow could wreak so much havoc.