Friday, April 3, 2015

Whole Wheat Butterscotch Bars

I’m way into cookies and bars. Not as a trend-follower, but as a life-long devotee. There are a lot of desserts I can walk right on by even if I think they would be pretty delicious, but, boy is it hard for me to pass up a plate of bars or cookies. In fact, I don’t make them as often as I’d like, unless I know where I can take them to share, for fear that I will eat them all.

These bars are no exception to my I-love-cookies rule. They’re based on the popular whole wheat chocolate chip cookie recipe published by Kim Boyce in Good to the Grain. I love those chocolate chip cookies, too, although I can’t say they’re my go-to chocolate chip cookies. (These are.) One day, some months ago, I dumped all the partial bags of baking chips into that whole wheat cookie batter: a couple kinds of chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch.

My favorite bites were the ones with the butterscotch chips in them, so I decided to make a cookie just with those. Then I started thinking that pecans would go well in there, too. I made those cookies and they were delicious! I was going to post that recipe here (and I do give those alternate baking directions below), but before I could get good photos, I decided to try making pan cookies (aka bars), by baking the whole batch of batter in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

Quite a success, I must say! The nutty richness of the whole wheat flour pairs well with the butterscotch-y goodness of dark brown sugar and butterscotch baking chips. The bars get quite crisp on the outside, just like the cookies, and stay really soft but not quite gooey on the inside. The contrast between crispy and chewy is so pronounced that if the bars are cut too small, they kind of crumble apart. They’re best when cut into a generous square, thick and moist with a crunchy-crumbly outer layer. 

It might just be a little too easy to indulge in these goodies. Yes, the whole wheat flour with its higher Whole Food Quotient may have some health benefits over white, all-purpose flour, but there’s still some serious butter and sugar going on here. I may be in trouble!

Whole Wheat Butterscotch Pecan Bars
Based on a recipe in Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 (11 ounce) package butterscotch baking chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. (If not baking right away, you can preheat the oven just before baking.) In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir together with a whisk to combine well.

2. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or another bowl if using a hand mixer or spoon). Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar. Beat, using the paddle attachment for the mixer, on medium speed until well-blended and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Continue beating until very smooth. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the pecans and butterscotch chips.

3. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or grease it with butter or oil. Press the cookie batter evenly into the prepared baking dish. Bake at 350 F (or cover and refrigerate for up to a day and allow to come back to room temperature before baking) for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the middle of the bars comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Makes about 2 dozen bars.

Note: To make cookies instead of bars, scoop the batter in about 3-tablespoon portions onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for 16-20 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

One year ago: Spinach Custard Pie

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