We had some classic spring Minnesota weather here this past weekend. By that, I mean it was 75 and gorgeous on Saturday, and then the wind picked up Sunday and the temp dropped 30 degrees.
Why I am complaining, I have no idea. My Saturday and Sunday actually felt quite similar. Our middle child had a hockey game, so while it may have been 75 outside, the rink was a balmy 32. (We earn our “State of Hockey” nickname around here.)
You’d think I would be incredibly sturdy after living here my whole life. I’m not. I’m actually a huge freeze baby. I am cold constantly. I have been known to turn our fireplace on as late as Memorial Day and as early as Labor Day. Depending on the weather.
Because all of the boy-type people in this house have internal furnaces, turning the fireplace on in spring or fall is frowned upon. So my secret weapon is the oven.
It’s amazing that I can putz in the kitchen to warm myself up. As long as the result is some delicious treat, no one in my family cares how toasty it gets.
What does one make on a 40 degree, supposedly Spring, day? Dessert, obviously. Something warm and comforting, with a little melt and a little crunch. In other words, Halfway Bars.
If you’ve never heard of them, allow me to introduce you. These are a classic, old-fashioned dessert. I suspect this recipe is only found now in the depths of mid-century cookbooks. Or in my case, a well-worn church cookbook. The original recipe has led me to some trial and error over the years. Here’s why:
- It calls for chocolate chips, which you can totally do, I just happen to have a butterscotch addiction.
- I’m a butter gal. I baled on the shortening in the cookbook.
- It doesn’t call for nuts either, and I just felt like it needed a little “something”.
- Oh, and as some older recipes are apt to do – no listed temperature, no bake time and no optimal pan size.
While the first three changes are no big deal, that last one got me. I burned the meringue the first time. And because I used an 8X8 pan, the “blondie” portion was way too thick and didn’t cook enough. In other words, not so great, all around.
But I am nothing if not persistent. So, welcome to my far-more-perfected round of these bars. Made the right way, they are amazing. The blondie is gooey (but cooked). The butterscotch and cashew layer gives it the sweet and salty kick, and the meringue top is light and crispy and the perfect “frosting”.
To start off, I learned that a classic 350 degrees is just fine for this recipe. Preheat your oven before you start mixing up your blondie batter.
Seperate 2 ingredients in this recipe – the brown sugar and the eggs. For the batter, you will cream together the softened butter, granulated sugar, and just 1/2 cup of the brown sugar. You will also add only the egg yolks to this mixture (save your egg whites for later). Combine the eggs fully with the sugar/butter mixture and then incorporate the vanilla and water. The batter should look pretty loose at this point. Almost like a frosting.
In a seperate, medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Slowly add this bowl to the wet ingredients, stirring to combine them. The batter should be the consistency for cookies at this point. Spread it completely over the bottom of a greased 9X13 pan.
Sprinkle a bag of butterscotch (or whatever flavor you choose) chips, and the cashews (the choice of nut can vary as well) over the batter. You should have the whole base covered with chips and nuts at this point.
Take the two egg whites that you seperated and beat them until soft peaks form. It won’t hold completely at this point. When you pull the whisk/beaters out, the whites should stretch, but still fold over themselves. Add the remaining cup of brown sugar in small batches. I choose thirds, but you want to incorporate each scoop and not lose all the air in your egg whites.
Once all the brown sugar has been added, turn the mixer up to high. Beat the whites until they come to firm or stiff peaks. This takes a while – a bit longer than you think, so don’t be discouraged. The brown sugar adds some moisture to the egg whites, so your mixer has to work a little harder. Keep an eye out, though, as there is a fine line between peaks and grainy.
I use a flat or offset spatula to spread the whites over the bars like frosting. Place scoops of the whites in different parts of the pan, and lightly spread it until it meets. It will want to pick up chips and nuts, so spreading in small batches is easier to manage.
Bake the bars for about 20-25 minutes. Every oven is a bit different, so I would start with 20, and monitor the progress. The edges of the bars will pull away from the sides of the pan. The meringue will also start to brown a bit on the top, and the bars should be ready.
My best advice on these: Serve Warm/Immediately! They’re tasty either way, but I love blondies or brownies when they are fresh out of the oven.
In our house “serve immediately” basically boils down to “leave the lid off the pan.” So, if you happen to have any trouble getting rid of them, I’ll send my boys over.
- 1 cup softened butter
- 1 1/2 cup brown sugar, separated
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 Tbsp water
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 pkg butterscotch chips (you can sub chocolate, if desired)
- 1 1/2 cups cashew pieces
- Heat oven to 350 degrees
- Cream together butter, granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar
- Add 2 egg yolks and combine fully
- Mix in vanilla and water
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in separate bowl
- Slowly blend dry mixture into wet ingredients
- Spread batter into prepared 9X13 pan
- Sprinkle with butterscotch chips and cashew pieces (batter should be mostly covered)
- Beat egg whites until soft peaks form
- Add the remaining one cup of brown sugar in 3 batches (1/3 cup measurements)
- Combine each fully and then whip whole mixture to firm/stiff peaks
- Spread egg whites over the top of bars
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until edges of bars and top of meringue brown a bit