Welp, we’re most of the way through September and I haven’t touched a can of pumpkin yet this year. But I guess that’s okay? There’s still time, right? To be fair it isn’t even officially fall yet, so I know there’s time, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like it. Days have been eclipsing at such an alarming rate lately, that sometimes I think I only need to blink and another week is gone. I wonder often if there will be time to do everything. Apple picking, pumpkin lattes, crock pot meals, fall hikes, lazy weekends, leaf-peeping, baking adventures, movie nights, cozy sweaters, the whole lot of it. Fall is home to so many of my favorite things, and yet it already feels like it’s slipping away.
This is a new season of life for me, one lived on an excess of coffee, less sleep than I’d like, and an energy level that is at an all-time high. It isn’t sustainable, but it feels necessary for now, and so I seek little moments of solace when I can just escape. Often I find myself escaping to the kitchen. It was in one of those getaways that these bars were made.
I partnered with OXO for this recipe, a part of their Bake a Difference with OXO for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer and Dorie Greenspan campaign, and they sent me some fun new goodies to get the job done. New goodies are always a great perk, but what really got me excited about this campaign is the fact that by me writing, and you reading this blog post, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer gets $100. That means that while I worry I’ll keel over from exhaustion or run myself down so much I get a fall cold, children who have actual life-threatening diseases will get $100 more towards finding a cure. You might think that cookies don’t have power in the real world, but trust me when I tell you, they do. And it i sn’t merely therapeutic!
This recipe, in addition to being baked in some awesome new OXO Good Grips Glass Bakeware, is also from Dorie Greenspan’s newest cookbook, Dorie’s Cookies. There are so many layers of goodness here I can’t even get over it. The cookbook — to be released on October 1, 2016 — includes some of Dorie’s favorite cookie recipes, and while I can’t wait to try many others, this recipe was a great place to start.
Whether you’re from New England or not, you may be familiar with Hermit cookies — chewy, mollasses-y, and packed with spicy flavor, these Mary’s Maine Bars are reminiscent of hermits in so many ways, yet distinctly their own. The texture is fantastic, not cake or brownie, but somewhere in between. They’re moist without being overly so, tender but still with great structure, and so wildly spicy it’s out of control. In a great way.
Dorie offers a couple of alternatives for these bars — adding in blueberries, or an apple butter swirl, but I decided to keep it simple. I made the batter using the OXO illuminating digital hand mixer, which (as you might ascertain from the name) has a light built in to illuminate whatever it is you’re mixing. It’s also coincidentally the same mixer I gave my mama for Christmas last year, and one I used many times at her house before getting my own. It works like a charm!
I baked these bars in an OXO glass 3 quart baking dish, a big upgrade from my usual metal baking pans, and they came out great. The bars cooked evenly, and there was no excessive browning around the edges. My favorite part about my new baking pans? They come with super handy lids, which basically makes plastic wrap a thing of the past.
What kinds of fall baking and activities are you getting up to this year?
Mary’s Maine Bars Recipe from Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan
When Mary Dodd, my wonderful recipe tester, returned from a family trip to Maine, she cooked everything Maine, from lobsters to chowders to blueberry muffins, for weeks afterward, if not earning herself honorary citizenship in the Pine Tree State, then at least making the rest of us believe she was a Down Easter. Of the things she cooked and baked, this recipe turned up most often, bringing happiness with it. Mary’s first taste of the bars was in Portland, where they were called Little Cranberry Island Gingerbread. It must be some kind of Maine magic, but the combination of molasses and a hefty dose of cinnamon and cloves but no ginger, tricks you into believing you’re eating old-fashioned gingerbread.
I’m the suggestible type, so when Mary told me the recipe was from Maine, the first thing I wanted with it was blueberries. Turns out that folding some blueberries into the dough is as good as you’d think it would be. Serving the bars with whipped cream and Blueberry Syrup is also good. In fact, the full flavors of molasses and spice invite other matches. Try spooning some Mixed Citrus Curd over the bars or go deep and swirl spiced apple butter through the dough; see Playing Around.
A word on the measuring trick: Whenever you’ve got something sticky like molasses (or honey or corn syrup) in a recipe, measure it in a glass measuring cup that you’ve buttered or oiled; the butter or oil slicks the way for the sticky stuff to just slither out. And when you’ve got oil in the recipe — as you do here — measure the oil first and pour it out, then mea- sure the molasses — it’ll slide out of the cup, leaving almost no residue.
Maine Blueberry Bars. Once the dough is mixed, gently stir in 1 cup fresh blueberries. Or, if you’re making this in any season but summer, use 1 cup dried blueberries that you’ve soaked in very hot tap water for about 10 minutes, drained and patted dry.
Maine Apple Butter Bars. Once the dough is spread evenly in the pan, dot the top with spoonfuls of apple butter (spiced or plain) — you’ll need about ¼ cup — and use a blunt table knife to swirl it into the dough to create a nicely marbled surface.
Storing Wrap the bars well, and they will be fine at room temperature for at least 4 days; wrapped airtight, they can be frozen for up to 2 months.