A couple of weeks ago I attended my very first baby shower for one of my coworkers at the office. It seems that at my age, I should’ve attended at least one or two baby showers in my time, but somehow I’ve missed out until now, so going to my first one was exciting. What would happen? Would we play games? Did I need to get her a gift or would we get an office gift? What’s even an appropriate gift for a coworker’s unborn baby?! All I really know how to do is bake things for people that make them happy, so for this occasion that’s exactly what I did. And these bars came out great!
I rarely bake things ahead of time because I like to serve them fresh, fresh, fresh, but that means that if I’m baking the day before I need to remember to schedule the time for baking. Unfortunately sometimes on weeknights my mind is off in it’s own little world, so come nearly 8pm the evening before the shower I realized I hadn’t baked anything yet, and moreover, I had no idea what I was going to make. I scrambled into the kitchen with my laptop and my massive recipe index, and picked the first thing that a.) sounded good, b.) I had the ingredients to make, and c.) could be done in as little time as possible. In our house, we like to get to bed before 9:30am whenever possible, so I had to get baking!
I put the bars together as fast as I could, and got them in the oven in record time. They baked up beautifully and made the house smells delicious for so late in the evening – things were going well! I had extra melted chocolate ready to drizzle over the top of the finished bars, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to melt it and decorate in the morning, so despite what the recipe told me to do, I decided I should try frosting them before they had time to completely cool.
In my haste, I nearly destroyed these bars, pouring the heavy frosting onto the hot bars, which created an imploding effect where the frosting sunk, and the bars oozed up and out towards the edges of the pan. It was a disaster. I rarely curse, but you can bet all sorts of expletives were coming out of my mouth, Kevin was trying to be supportive yet stay out of my manic path, and I was frantically trying to figure out how to fix my mess. I ended up sloppily scooping what frosting I could out of the bars, and tried to smooth the top over to let them set up. They looked pretty awful before I put the frosting on, but the next morning when I frosted them they looked like nothing had ever happened. Phew!
Now about the bars…. they’re very tasty. They are SWEET, so you really have to love your sugary desserts, but I’m not a white chocolate fan and I still thoroughly enjoyed them. The blondie layer is dense and buttery, but very moist (from all that butter…) and laden with chunks of white chocolate and chewy dried cranberries. The frosting is white chocolate cream cheese, with just the perfect balance of sweet and tangy, and the cranberries add a wonderful burst of fruity flavor. These bars are very reminiscent of Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars (hence the name), but much more enjoyable to consume because I know exactly what went into them! Frustration, quality ingredients, and lots of love.
Cranberry Bliss Bars
barely adapted from Recipe Girl
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used a mixture of white and wheat)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 ounces white baking chocolate, melted
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
*I actually used white candy melts because I didn’t have enough white chocolate chips, and they worked perfectly
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
1) Prepare the blondie layer: In a medium bowl, melt butter in the microwave; stir in brown sugar. Scrape the butter & sugar into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature.
2) Use an electric mixer to beat the eggs and vanilla into the butter and sugar mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Gradually add the dry mixture to the butter mixture, and stir just until combined. Fold in the cranberries and chopped chocolate (the batter will be thick).
3) Spread the blondie batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake – they may seem gooey but it’s just that buttery goodness!). Cool completely on a wire rack.
4) Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until well-blended. Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate; beat until blended. Frost brownies. Sprinkle with cranberries. Drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. Cut into bars- square or triangle-shaped. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.