Before having children, I would say I was a champion sleeper. My head hit the pillow at night and off I went into dreamland, only to be awakened by my alarm clock (and a couple snooze buttons pushings) the next morning. My freshman year of college, I lived at one end of campus and on the weekends, meals were only served at the other end. Brunch stopped being served at 1pm and it was a struggle of superhuman proportions to get there before they pulled the food. At 1pm. And I did not drink in college. It’s hard for me to even imagine (both of those things) now.
Because now, things are a little different. First of all, I have these kids. But I can’t really blame any sleeplessness on them. My boys are great sleepers. They go to sleep without a peep and, barring a bloody nose or a tummy ache, stay asleep until around 7 the next morning. They even now will creep out of their rooms and go into the TV room for some PBS or Disney channel before I can rouse myself.
Maybe it’s the months of waking in the middle of the night to breastfeed, maybe it’s the worry that comes along with being a mother, maybe it’s getting older, but I’m not nearly as good a sleeper as I used to be. Sometimes it takes me a good couple of hours to fall asleep. Sometimes I fall asleep fine but then wake at 3am and feel wide awake even though I know exhaustion is waiting for me as soon as the day dawns. Some people say that if you can’t sleep, you should change your environment – go to another room and read with a low light. But usually I am too cold to leave my warm bed and so I just lay there awake, thinking about food and cooking.
Some people count sheep, I go over recipes for my week. I had one of those nights earlier this week, right before I had planned to make these bars. Even though December has passed us by, I am not quite ready to give up gingerbread and I was intrigued by the combo of gingerbread and white chocolate. In my sleepless state, I remembered reading that you were supposed to make these bars in a 17×12 baking sheet. That seemed awfully large to me and so, because I had nothing better to do except, well, sleep, I thought about other options. 13×9 would be too small, the bars too thick. How about a 15×10-inch pan traditional jelly roll pan? What if I made them in cake pans and cut them into wedges instead of rectangles? Yes, the boredom of thinking about pan sizes did eventually put me to sleep.
When I was ready to make the bars, I opted for the jelly roll pan. And I am very glad I did. I can’t imagine this amount of batter filling any larger pan and even if I was able to spread the batter to within an inch of its life, they would have been very thin, very sad little bars. In the properly sized pan, they came out just the right thickness and the bars have a perfect soft bite, like a brownie, but with a lovely spice and a tiny bit of crunch from the white chocolate bits. Say what you will about white chocolate, I think it’s really nice from time to time. I find that, even more so than dark chocolate, quality plays a huge role in the taste and creaminess of white chocolate. I used Lindt in these bars and I thought it was terrific.
One Year Ago: Baked Tofu with Peppers and Olives
Two Years Ago: Oatmeal Carmelitas
Gingerbread-White Chocolate Blondies
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen, depending on how you cut them
2¾ cups plus 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking soda
1¼ tsp. salt
1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1¼ cups packed light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1¾ cups coarsely chopped best-quality white chocolate (10 ounces)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat a 15 by 10-inch rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Allow a couple inch overhang of the parchement on each of the short sides. (I used the wrappers from the butter to coat my pan.)
Whisk together the flour, soda, salt, and spices in a bowl.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until creamy and pale, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and yolk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla and molasses and mix on medium speed until combined. Add flour mixture on low speed until combined. Stir in the white chocolate.
Spread batter evenly into prepared pan and bake until golden on edges, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Using the “handles” of the parchment, remove the bars from the pan and cut into even squares or rectangles. Blondies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.