April 14, 2011
Everyone has off days. You wake up in the morning and feel like you have to blink a hundred times before your eyes focus. Walking to the shower from your room, you manage to drop every single article of clothing you are carrying. You drop a sock, go to pick it up, and then manage to drop the other sock. Everything falls out of the bathroom cabinet when you open it to brush your teeth. Your breakfast is burnt beyond oblivion and there seems to be more cat hair in your tea cup than actual tea.
This then carries over to your daily activities. I made cupcakes, overfilling the cups and having to scrape cupcake tops off the tin, then trying to shove crumbs back into the papers to make it seem like I had at least ONE presentable cupcake for my efforts. I made frosting, forgetting that I halved the recipe and having to scramble to account for measurement differences. When I sat down to start my Variety Flour Thursday baketivity, things weren’t looking good. Wish I could say I was one of those people who are unflappable in the face of frustration and failure. But I’m not. And instead of stopping, taking a break, and returning in a more balanced state of mind, I sallied forth with my recipe Everything Buckwheat Bars – the recipe reminded me of a buckwheat flour blondie and I’ve been looking forward to it all week. Recipe said brown sugar would dissolve in melted butter. It didn’t. I used a 1/3 cup measure instead of a ¼ cup measure for the flours and had to TRY to salvage batter using a few tablespoons of heavy cream. Totally forgot to add the extracts. By this point in the game I was totally overwhelmed by my inability to think/read/remember/be coherent that I just threw mix-ins into the batter willy-nilly, without any regard for measurements or outside suggestions. Icing on the cake? I forgot to set the timer and didn’t realize it until I had completely forgotten what time I put the bars into the oven.
As it happens, I fell in love with baking all over again. The bars weren’t perfect, but they came out and looked, tasted, held up like bar cookies. There are some things that have the remarkable ability to withstand your carelessness, frustration, anger, and apathy. These blondie-type buckwheat bars not only withstood the whirlwind of my incompetence but then gave me a sugary, chocolately, coconutty hug, saying “I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, and everything will be okay.”
Buckwheat Everything Bars
(Recipe adapted from Epicurious)
Yields about 12 bars in one 8 by 8 inch square pan
4 tablespoons, or ¼ stick, unsalted butter
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup almonds (toasted or untoasted) and/or 1/3 cup flaked coconut
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and/or ¼ cup raisins
(Optional recommendations: ¼ cup sunflower seeds, dried cherries, or finely chopped prunes, or 2 tablespoons sesame seeds)
*I chose to do ¼ cup chocolate chips, ¼ cup slivered almonds, ¼ cup unsweetened coconut, and ¼ cup golden rasins
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease or butter an 8 by 8 inch square pan.
2. In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Continuing over low heat, add brown sugar and stir until brown sugar and butter are combined. (Original recipe suggests you stir brown sugar and butter until sugar melts, but my sugar didn’t want to melt.) Take mixture off heat and let cool 10 minutes.
3. Transfer butter and brown sugar mixture to a medium-size mixing bowl. Whisk in egg and whisk until mixture is smooth. Whisk in extracts.
4. In a small mixing bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter and egg mixture. Stir just until ingredients are combined.
5. Fold in mix-ins of choice.
6. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
7. Move pan to a cooling rack and cool bars in pan until room temperature.
Store bars at room temperature up to three days.