Sunday, December 18

Beautiful People and Ugly Sweaters (Gingerbread Bars)

Last night we had an ugly sweater party, with our nearest and dearest coming together to eat, drink and be merry in their most garish Christmas attire.  It was a lot of fun and a lot of food.  One of the things that I love about our house is the entertaining that we've been able to do.  We had only been living here for two weeks when we threw our first party, Halloween 2009.  I've always dreamed about being the 'fun house' - the house where all the kids hang out, who's known for fun times and good food.  My husband is fantastic in that regard - he completely gets into the spirit, sending out the invitations, stocking the bar, cleaning up the game room and running to the grocery store 15 minutes before our guests are set to arrive because someone forget to get pepperoni for the pizza rolls she's elbow deep in cheese making.

(I do want to go on record by saying that we started the ugly sweater trend - apparently this year it's the cool thing to do, but we've been dressing ridiculously to spread our yuletide cheer for several years now.  Trendsetters to be sure.)

I wanted to make some Christmas-y desserts for this party, and one thing I had never made before was gingerbread.  I do love to make roll out cookies, but this year with the little one and all the other holiday preparations going on, I just didn't have the time to break out the cookie cutters, let alone decorate my little creations.  I searched around through a gazillion gingerbread recipes (hello, lovely time-wasting idea smorgasbord that is Pinterest) until I found one for bar cookies on Tracey's Culinary Adventures.  Hers was the easiest to put together and would bake up in low maintenance bar form.  I subbed out the white chocolate for cinnamon chips, and the result was perfect.  Chewy, moist bar cookies that taste like Christmas is supposed to.  These bars received the most compliments of all the food, and it was requested that they be the next thing I post.  So, without further ado, here's the easiest gingerbread recipe ever.

Ok, so with a tiny bit of ado.  Who could resist?

Gingerbread Cinnamon Chip Bars
(lovingly borrowed from Tracey's Culinary Adventures)

20 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs 
1 egg yolk
1-1/4 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup molasses
2 3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bag (1-3/4 cups) Hershey's cinnamon chips

Time and temperature:  350 for 35 minutes

To make your life easier, butter a 9x13" baking dish and line with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving overhang on the sides to make lifting the bars out easier.  Butter the paper or foil (don't skip this step).  Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and molasses, mixing until combined.  (Hint:  If you rinse out your measuring cup with hot water before measuring out your molasses, it won't stick to the cup and will pour out nicely.)  In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.  Slowly add this mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just combined.  Fold in the cinnamon chips.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until set and knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, which was about 38 minutes in my oven.  Cool completely before removing from the pan and slicing.

Our friend Mike, demonstrating the deliciousness of the bars.

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