How to make an impression at your first neighborhood party: bring a pan of bars loaded with booze, browned butter, brown sugar, and Grade A Wisconsin maple syrup. Nice to meet you. May I offer you a Maple Brown Sugar Bourbon Bar?
As much as I love to cook and bake, bringing food to parties—especially parties where I’m meeting people for the first time—completely stresses me.
When people hear that I’m a food blogger, I assume their expectation is that a beam of heavenly light will shine from above upon first bite.
It’s the sort of pressure that causes me to speak unnaturally loudly when stating the name of the recipe (“BOURBON BARS!”), forget the name of my own blog, or even overbake my most perfect and foolproof batch of chocolate chip cookies.
Fortunately, these Maple Brown Sugar Bourbon Bars were a hit and placed me in good neighbor standing. They did require a few rounds of recipe tweaking (which resulted in both tears over wasted bourbon and a freezer full of maple syrup-loaded blondies), but the final results were completely worth it.
Maple Brown Sugar Bourbon Bars have the soft and chewy texture of a blondie, the distinctly fall flavors of maple and brown sugar, and the richness of browned butter. Walnuts add subtle warmth and crunch, and oh yes—the bourbon.
Its flavor pairs splendidly with the maple syrup, so I took the liberty of spiking the bars and drizzling a maple bourbon glaze over the top. (Bourbon fans will also enjoy these delicious Bourbon Balls.)
Light is definitely shining from above now.
Or, given the bourbon, would the light more appropriately shine from below?
This recipe does use whole wheat flour, rely on the maple syrup for sweetness, and have a reduced quantity of butter (the browning process which maximizes its flavor, so we can get away with less). I’ll leave the final judgment up to you.
With my boozy dessert introduction, I may have staked my reputation in the neighborhood as, “The Bourbon Bar Girl.” I’m honored.
Maple Brown Sugar Bourbon Bars
For the Bars:
- ¾ cup white whole wheat flour plus 1 tablespoon
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup bourbon (if you prefer to omit, decrease white whole wheat flour by 1 tablespoon)
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
For the Glaze:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon or milk or cream
- Place rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8×8 in pan with cooking spray, line with parchment paper so that the paper overhangs on the sides, grease once more and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the white whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Place the butter in a large saucepan and over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts, it will foam, turn clear golden, then begin to turn brown and smell nutty. Whisk often, scraping up any bits from the bottom. Watch the pan very carefully, as the butter will brown very soon after it begins to color and can burn quickly. Once the butter is deep golden and very fragrant, remove it from heat.
- Whisk the brown sugar, maple syrup, and bourbon into the saucepan with the browned butter until smooth. Let cool to lukewarm, then whisk in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Pour the maple butter mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk by hand until combined. Fold in the chopped toasted walnuts.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the bars pull away from the sides of the pan slightly. For clean cutting, let cool completely. Use the parchment paper overhand as “handles” to transfer the a cutting board.
- Prepare the glaze: Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle over bars, then slice bars into desired sizes and serve.
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Let there be bourbon: