Bars of a Butternut Feather Flock Together: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars and Crazy Blonde Brownies

As I've been slowly recovering from a stubborn bout of bronchitis, my baking productivity has dropped right along with my workplace attendance. When I needed some baked goods for a work event, some simple bars were all I could muster.

I ended up making two similar recipes from King Arthur Flour: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars and Crazy Blonde Brownies. Besides the fact that both recipes are easy, I had a specific reason for choosing them; they both use Vanilla-Butternut Flavor and I had just purchased a bottle. It's all because I hate paying for shipping and handling when I order merchandise online and I will normally buy whatever the minimum amount is to get free shipping. With the holidays (aka candy-making season) coming up, I wanted to order some twisting wax paper from Lorann Oils to wrap caramels and nougats. I bought a pack of 2000 wrappers (a supply that will last me a few years), and then I just had to put another $25 worth of stuff in my cart to get free shipping. So I tossed in some baker's ammonia, invertase, and a few different flavors.

Anyway, I made both of the bars in one evening and they didn't take much much time at all. For the chocolate chip cookie bars, you melt butter and stir in brown sugar; add salt, vanilla, and the vanilla-butternut flavor; beat in eggs; add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and instant espresso powder); and stir in whatever add-ins you like. I used 12 ounces of chocolate chips and six ounces of miniature sea salt caramels (I get them from; they're like the ones you find in Talenti sea salt caramel gelato). You spread the mixture into a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and bake.
The instructions say that you should press down the risen edges of the bars after they come out of the oven, but my bars baked up perfectly level with even edges. The recipe yielded exactly what the name promises: chewy chocolate chip cookie bars. It was hard to detect the mini sea salt caramels or the espresso powder, but I could definitely taste the vanilla-butternut flavor -- a caramel-y, butterscotch-y sweetness. I thought the bars tasted good and had a terrific chewy texture, but there was nothing particularly memorable about them and I don't think I'll make them again.

The crazy blonde brownie recipe (I'm just going to refer to this bar as a "blondie" from here on) varied only slightly. You melt butter and add brown sugar; add eggs, vanilla, vanilla-butternut flavor, salt, white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, and baking powder; and stir in your preferred mix-ins. For these bars I used 12 ounces of chocolate chips, three ounces of Heath toffee bits, and four ounces of chopped pecans.
The two sets of bars looked almost identical, except that the blondies had slightly darker tops and you could see pecans in them if you looked closely. Both bars also tasted quite similar and they were practically fungible -- no doubt in part because they had the same vanilla-butternut flavor. I had a slight preference for the blondies because of the added texture from the pecans.

These two recipes are easily adaptable and you can add whatever mix-ins you like to your heart's content. Even though my tasters enjoyed both bars, neither was particularly memorable -- so I think I'll be looking for other ways to use up the rest of my vanilla-butternut flavor.

Recipes: "Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars" and "Crazy Blonde Brownies" from King Arthur Flour.


Raylene said…
Both bars look delectable! I've been wanting a change recently, so I've been thinking about chocolate chip bars. I purchased Guittard wafers in semi-sweet, bittersweet and milk chocolate this past weekend at Target, so thank you for providing more baking inspiration. Welcome back!!!