Mary’s Maine Bars
Recipe from Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan
When Mary Dodd, my wonderful recipe tester, returned from a family trip to Maine, she cooked everything Maine, from lobsters to chowders to blueberry muffins, for weeks afterward, if not earning herself honorary citizenship in the Pine Tree State, then at least making the rest of us believe she was a Down Easter. Of the things she cooked and baked, this recipe turned up most often, bringing happiness with it. Mary’s first taste of the bars was in Portland, where they were called Little Cranberry Island Gingerbread. It must be some kind of Maine magic, but the combination of molasses and a hefty dose of cinnamon and cloves but no ginger, tricks you into believing you’re eating old-fashioned gingerbread.
I’m the suggestible type, so when Mary told me the recipe was from Maine, the first thing I wanted with it was blueberries. Turns out that folding some blueberries into the dough is as good as you’d think it would be. Serving the bars with whipped cream and Blueberry Syrup is also good. In fact, the full flavors of molasses and spice invite other matches. Try spooning some Mixed Citrus Curd over the bars or go deep and swirl spiced apple butter through the dough; see Playing Around.
A word on the measuring trick: Whenever you’ve got something sticky like molasses (or honey or corn syrup) in a recipe, measure it in a glass measuring cup that you’ve buttered or oiled; the butter or oil slicks the way for the sticky stuff to just slither out. And when you’ve got oil in the recipe — as you do here — measure the oil first and pour it out, then mea- sure the molasses — it’ll slide out of the cup, leaving almost no residue.
- 1½ cups 204 grams all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups 204 grams whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¾ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup 200 grams sugar
- ¾ cup 180 ml unsulfured molasses
- ½ cup 120 ml flavorless oil, such as canola
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- ¼ cup 60 ml buttermilk, at room temperature
- Sanding or granulated sugar for sprinkling
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan or coat it with baking spray. Line it with a piece of parchment paper.
Whisk both flours, the baking soda, salt and spices together.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the sugar, molasses, oil and egg together until smooth. Add half of the dry ingredients and pulse the mixer to start blending them in, then beat on low speed only until the flour disappears into the dough. Pour in the buttermilk and mix to combine. Add the remainder of the dry ingredients and, still working on low, beat until incorporated. You’ll have a smooth, heavy, sticky dough. Scrape the dough into the pan, using a knife or offset spatula to get it into the corners and to even the top as best you can. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 26 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan after 15 minutes, or until the top is dry and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack.
After 10 minutes, run a blunt table knife around the edges of the pan, invert the Maine bars onto a rack, peel away the paper, turn it over onto another rack and let cool. When you’re ready, cut it into 20 bars (about 1¾ x 3¼ inches).
Maine Blueberry Bars.
Once the dough is mixed, gently stir in 1 cup fresh blueberries. Or, if you’re making this in any season but summer, use 1 cup dried blueberries that you’ve soaked in very hot tap water for about 10 minutes, drained and patted dry.
Maine Apple Butter Bars.
Once the dough is spread evenly in the pan, dot the top with spoonfuls of apple butter (spiced or plain) — you’ll need about ¼ cup — and use a blunt table knife to swirl it into the dough to create a nicely marbled surface.
Wrap the bars well, and they will be fine at room temperature for at least 4 days; wrapped airtight, they can be frozen for up to 2 months.
Recipe reprinted with permission.