These are not your regular bake sale blondies. Instead, you will find that these are much more flavorful and reminiscent of something you would have around the Christmas holidays. A little off season since it is March, but just as delicious. These bars are rich and spicy. Ginger, mace and cumin are often reserved for pumpkin pies, but this blonde recipe makes excellent use of them by pairing with butternut squash and white chocolate.
They have a moist texture, but are not too dense like a lot of bar cookies. I also like the fact that dark brown sugar is used instead of white or light brown and the touch of maple syrup.
There are two items that I found to be special needs for the recipe. It calls for an 8x11 pan and I only had a 9x13. Also, the preparation of the pan states to dust with Demerara sugar. I opted out of the sugar dusting by using flour and adjusted for a larger pan by increasing each ingredient by 1/4 of the original amount. The ingredient increase is not that easy on a few of the items and the 1/4 calculation is not exact but I was happy with the resulting height of the bars.
Butternut Maple Blondies
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp mace
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 lb butternut squash/ halved and seeded
2 tbs maple syrup
2-3 tbs Demerara sugar for dusting the pan
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, cold and diced
6 oz white chocolate
The first step is to roast the squash. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place each half cut side down on the sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.
While the squash is cooling, sift together the flour, cumin, ginger, mace and baking powder into a medium size bowl. Then stir in salt. Set aside.
Once the squash has cooled, set up a food processor. Scoop out the soft interior of the squash, leaving the skins, and place in food processor bowl. Puree for about a minute or until all is smooth. Transfer squash puree to a saucepan and place over low heat. Stir constantly while squash is simmering and let cook for about 10 minutes. The puree should become thicker as it cooks, retaining less moisture. Remove and let cool again.
Turn the oven down to a temperature of 350 degrees. Butter the interior of an 8x11 pan and sprinkle in the Demerara sugar. Shift and shake until the interior is coated with the sugar then invert and tap out the extra, just as you would if you were dusting with flour.
Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter cubes and brown sugar. Coat the cubes of butter with the brown sugar by tossing them together with clean hands. Once all the cubes are coated, cream the butter and sugar together by beating on medium speed, scraping down the sides occasionally. Both ingredients should be evenly distributed and the mixture be very smooth after about 5 minutes beating time. Add one egg and beat for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides, then beat in the other egg. Lastly, run the mixer on low and add the maple syrup and vanilla. After about 2 minutes of mixing, stop and remove bowl.
Take the white chocolate and chop 4 oz into pieces and place in bowl. Chop the other 2 oz and place in a separate bowl. Set aside.
Using about a 1/2 cup of sifted ingredients to start, fold it into the sugar/butter mixture. Continue the process in increments until all the sifted ingredients are incorporated. Then blend the cooled squash puree into the batter. Lastly, add 4 oz of the white chocolate pieces and fold into the batter until evenly distributed.
Empty batter into prepared pan and smooth out evenly. Sprinkle the remaining 2 oz of the chocolate pieces on top. Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in pan completely before cutting into squares.
Tips and Notes:
1. The surface of my bars were quite different than the picture shows in the recipe book. The top is browner and chocolate is toasty colored on top. Perhaps turning off the oven and letting it cool off and then turning on to 350 degrees and let is heat up may help. Also, sprinkling the white chocolate on top at the halfway point of baking may allow the chocolate retain its white color.