S’mores Blondies

IMG_2114The 4th of July always seems to signify that summer is really here, although this year I feel like it’s been summer for ages! Coming home from school so early (my last day of classes was May 12th!) kind of messed up my internal calendar, and it’s hard to believe that the season officially started less than two weeks ago. I’ve always loved summer’s ability to make me lose track of what day of the week it is, but this year I’m seriously off…I actually looked up from a magazine the other day and asked my dad, in all seriousness, what year it was. I was convinced that it was 2013, but the article I had just finished reading was dated June 20, 2014. For a minute there I was a little worried that I had either gone temporarily crazy or was reading an article from the future. Apparently it was the former, which is a good thing…I think. We won’t even talk about the time at the end of freshman year when I was throwing out all my old biology papers and saw that I had dated them 2006 (as opposed to 2009) for the entire month of October. Should I be worried? Nah. Maybe….

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Regardless, I love summer. I love the giant produce tent outside the grocery store piled high with flats of local berries and live basil; I love sitting on pieces of driftwood around smokey beach fires; I love the salty smell of sunscreen mixed with seaweed and I love how there always seems to be a thin layer of sand at the bottom of my favorite tote bag, no matter how many times I dump it out.

And, of course, I love s’mores. I still remember my very first s’more, which was assembled right in my very own backyard fire pit back in 2000. It took me a while to figure out what my enlighteners (friends of my parents) were trying to give me…some more? Some more what? No, I’ve never heard of a “some more.” Yes, I am aware that my parents have sheltered me from some of the best things in life, including a wide variety of “too violent” Disney movies and the brightly colored Trix yogurt I recently tried at a friend’s house. (Oh my poor, deprived childhood!) But once I was handed a melty creation of graham cracker, Hershey bar, and toasted marshmallow, my innocence was ruined. It didn’t matter what this thing was called. All I knew is that it was sticky, crumbly, utterly messy and utterly delicious. And that I wanted some more.

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Although there’s nothing quite like a fresh, gooey s’more eaten over a campfire, these bars are pretty darn amazing. They manage to skirt around the messiness factor, yet retain the iconic combination of graham cracker, marshmallow, and milk chocolate. A thick, chewy blondie base is loaded with graham cracker crumbs and sandwiched around a layer of creamy marshmallow fluff and chocolate chips. The resulting bars are packed with the flavor of a s’more, yet in the form of a delicious blondie-s’more hybrid. Bring them along to your next summer gathering for a fun s’more alternative, or just bake up a batch to eat anytime, anywhere. Chances are that if you love s’mores, you’ll go crazy over these!

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S’mores Blondies

Makes 24 bars

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 & 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 7-oz jar marshmallow creme or fluff

2 cups milk chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on the two shorter sides. Lightly grease the foil and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and vanilla, scraping down the sides as needed.

Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until combined. Evenly press half the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Drop the marshmallow creme by spoonfuls onto the dough and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Drop the remaining cookie dough onto the surface in clumps, then flatten them slightly. Don’t worry about smoothing the dough over the entire surface; there should be some open areas where the chocolate chips and marshmallow are exposed.

Bake the bars for 30-35 minutes, or until golden-brown. Let them cool in the pan completely, then lift them out by the foil and slice into squares. Enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sea Foam Bars

Living on a tiny island has its pros and cons.  One con, for an example, would be the fact that the only way to get to our island is via boat or plane, most often one of the Washington State Ferries.  I’ll admit there is a special kind of tranquility that comes from looking out over the miles of ocean and tree-covered islands as the ferry treks from island to mainland, but after the hundredth time it becomes much more of a chore than an adventure; an inconvenience rather than a luxury.

And the worst part is the ferry lines.  A 90-minute boat ride quickly turns into a 2 1/2 hour ordeal when you add up the time spent waiting at the ferry landing after arriving early to ensure a place on the boat.  Sometimes I long to be back in Colorado, where a shopping trip in the next town wasn’t plagued by watch-checking and carefully planned departure/arrival times.  Now all of our trips off-island lie at the mercy of the ferry schedule, allowing little room for flexibility and a lot of room for hurrying to the ferry landing just in time to sit and wait.

Yesterday one of the ferries broke down and its replacement was stalled, resulting in the most chaotic ferry mishap in decades.  All of the usual routes were either delayed, rerouted, or cancelled.  Our ferry system includes four islands as well as the dock at the mainland, so people at various locations sat waiting in the hot sun for hours on end.  My parents had planned to celebrate their silver anniversary on one of the other islands and they arrived at the ferry landing at 11 a.m.  They were told that the ferry had broken down, but if they came back at 11:30 they could wait for the next one.  An hour later they were asked to wait until 1:50.  And then 3:30.  And then 4:30.  At 5:00, my parents were lucky enough that the man behind them drove away in frustration, and since they were now at the back of the line they were able to pull out and go back home.  Otherwise they would have been stuck in the ferry line, surrounded by cars and unable to leave, for who knows how long!  I think it goes without saying that yesterday, the cons of living on an island seemed to outweigh the pros by about 10,000 tons.

But there’s always tomorrow to bring back the pros of island life.  I’m going away to college in a year, and I know that I’m going to miss this beautiful place, frustrating ferries and all.  A few nights ago my mom and I rode the ferry home after a long day of shopping, and the full moon sat low over the ocean, casting golden ripples across the water.  It was breathtaking, and it’s times like those that I feel so lucky to be living in such a gorgeous location.  Growing up in the mountains of Colorado, I only saw the ocean every few years when we came to Washington, and now that I’ve lived by the sea I don’t know how I’ll ever stand to leave it.  At least I know that it’s not going anywhere!

Now you might be wondering, what does all of this have to do with a baking blog?  This time I’m stretching the relevance just a leeetle.  Today I’m sharing a recipe for Sea Foam Bars….Sea Foam Bars, just like the sea I’ve been talking about.  See the relevance?  Okay okay, I said it was a stretch!

Anyway, these bars, a favorite of my brother’s, are a delicious spin on your everyday cookie bar.  They have a soft, buttery base topped with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and nuts, and then covered with a light, sweet meringue that gets wonderfully crunchy after being baked.  I’m not sure where the name Sea Foam Bars came from, but probably because of their puffy, sea-foam-like meringue top.  And the recipe I used calls them Mud Hen Bars, which makes even less sense.  So we’ll go with the Sea Foam.

I’m not sure what the best part of these bars is….the cookie base, the gooey, chocolatey, marshmallow middle layer, or the sweet crackly top.  What I am sure of is that you should make them; then you can decide for yourself! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Sea Foam (aka Mud Hen) Bars

1/4 cup butter or shortening, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs (2 separated, 1 whole)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1 cup mini marshmallows

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease or spray a 9″x13″ pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter (or shortening) and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Add in 1 whole egg, 2 egg yolks, and the vanilla.  Mix well.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients just until combined.  Spread the dough into the prepared pan and sprinkle with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and nuts.

Beat the 2 egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the brown sugar.  Spread the mixture over the chocolate chips/marshmallows/nuts.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden-brown.  Let bars cool before cutting.  Yield: 24

(Recipe from Your Home-Based Mom)