The first time I made these gingerbread bars, they were incredibly addicting, and I mean addicting in a bad way, like having to force myself to walk away and not stare at them, however plain and simple each little square looked. They're so soft and full of warm spices, and they just taste like fall, which I love. Since the recipe seems rather versatile, I was thinking about turning it into some sort of layered cake this time around, but decided against the idea, because I really just wanted something to nibble on while drinking my preferred form of espresso, a vanilla latte. So, in order to make the bars last more than a few days, I cut them into smaller pieces, which has helped, a little. Even with that change, it's still way too easy to eat too many, especially when they pair so well with a latte.
Based on the title of this blog, I'm obviously a fan of latte drinking, latte crafting, and anything whatever to do with the combination of espresso and steamed milk, as well as baking tasty somethings to eat alongside lattes, often using them as an excuse to make a latte, quite often as an afternoon respite in the cooler months. Now, I don’t drink coffee every time I’ve got something baking in the oven, because that would turn into major caffeine overload, but the frequent pairing of both indulgences inspired this blog, the title, and several of the recipe postings so far. And it will continue to do so, because everyone could use a respite once in a while. I find baking therapeutic, so the entire process, from mixing the ingredients to pulling the final product out of the oven, brewing the espresso and sitting down with reading material, a steaming latte, and a couple of cookies (or whatever was baked) has almost become a ritual of sorts. I enjoy all of it, not just the sitting down, although that’s the best part.
So today was a day for such a ritual. About once a year, my mom and I go through our old Bon Appetit magazines from the previous year, tearing out the recipes we want to save to include in an ever expanding recipe binder and recycling the magazine’s remains. I cut out any and every type of recipe that appeals to me, although I gravitate toward the dessert and baking items more so than my mom, pulling out much more of those than she ever does. It can be a somewhat long process, as we weigh whether or not we’ll actually make each recipe we pull out, if each one’s worth saving or not. This afternoon I planned on looking through several magazines (we don’t do them all in one day), and my need for a pick me up, a dose of espresso and a tasty tidbit, showed itself before even starting on the first magazine. And what could be better with a vanilla latte than gingerbread that’s soft and chewy and addicting?
These bars are the plainest of plain looking, but they taste anything but plain. They’re zippy without being overwhelmingly spicy, are easy to throw together, and can be cut into any size you desire. The softness as you first bite into one is surprising. It’s part of what makes them so appealing, the combination of the softness of a cake and the chewiness of a cookie, being both and neither at the same time.
Adapted from Bon Appétit, July 2009
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
10 Tbsp (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (packed) brown sugar
7 Tbsp sugar, divided
2 large eggs
⅛ cup light (unsulfered) molasses
⅛ cup mild-flavored honey
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 15x10x1-inch baking sheet.
Place 2 cups flour in a medium bowl; transfer 2 tablespoons flour to a small bowl and reserve. Add spices, baking soda, and salt to flour in medium bowl; whisk thoroughly to blend.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and 6 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then molasses and honey. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and beat to blend.
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. It's very billowy batter. Sift reserved 2 tablespoons flour evenly over batter, then sprinkle evenly with remaining tablespoon of sugar.
Bake gingerbread until golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 22 minutes; cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut gingerbread crosswise into 4 strips, then cut each strip into 6 pieces, forming 24 bars. If you want even smaller pieces, cut each bar in half diagonally to create triangles.
Makes 24 bars.