Sprouted Wheat Vanilla Chai Bars

The world is powered through small acts of compassion: a simple text message to say thinking of you to a friend, taking time to truly listen to another person, giving a voice to the needs of others, a genuine smile towards a stranger. Though compassion comes in many different methods and is as varied as people themselves, showing compassion does not come easily to me. I am sometimes awkward with words, the right order often failing to appear. Instead, I channel my feelings and thoughts of goodwill into the food that I bake. I may not be able to speak away the worry or ease the pain, but I can pull up a chair to the table and share burdens and bars alike.

Compassion towards others, in acts both big and small, comes in many forms—even dessert—which is why I wanted to bake up something sweet and special using one of my new favorite flours: sprouted wheat.

Sprouted wheat flour is a fine, soft textured flour with a mild, nutty flavor. The flour is made from white whole wheat berries which are sprouted, dried, and milled. The process of sprouting enhances the nutritional benefits of the 100% whole grain flour, improving the digestibility and providing a good source of fiber. With an inherent sweetness and creamy appearance, the flour is quickly becoming a pantry staple in my kitchen.

For everyday use, sprouted wheat flour can be substituted 1:1 for whole wheat flour or up to 50% for all-purpose flour in your favorite recipes. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of all-purpose flour, you can use 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup sprouted wheat flour instead.

These vanilla chai bars are similar to a sweet, spiced blondie. The recipe starts by whisking together sprouted wheat flour with a leavener, chai spice, and salt. The dry ingredients are set aside and the liquid ingredients are prepared.

In a saucepan, butter and brown sugar are melted together until they form a smooth paste. Once the mixture cools, eggs and vanilla extract are stirred into the mixture. The flour is gradually added and the batter is stirred until uniform. Sprouted wheat flour absorbs liquids and holds water better than other flours, resulting in a final product that stays moist.

The batter will be quite stiff when fully mixed. I recommend using a spatula to transfer the batter to a prepared 9" x 13" baking pan. Once there, use your hands to press the batter into an even layer. Using any other tool here is a fool's errand; the batter sticks to the tool and pulls away from the pan, making a simple task into a more complicated process.

The texture of the bars can be customized to fit your taste. For chewy bars, bake for 17-21 minutes, and for bars with a cake-like texture bake between 23-27 minutes. For my ideal texture, I baked the bars for 22 minutes, achieving the best of both worlds.

When the bars come out of the oven, they should be cooled for at least 15 minutes, or until warm to the touch, before adding the topping. The bars are brushed with a layer of butter and sprinkled with chai-spiced sugar. Then, the pan is shaken until the sugar forms an even layer and left to cool completely before slicing. Alternatively, the bars can be topped with a drizzle of white chocolate. However, I prefer the crunchy texture and contrast the sugar adds to the bars. The opportunity to lick granules of chai-spiced sugar from the tips of my fingers and corners of my lips is a source of joy.

For more recipe inspiration or to learn how to incorporate sprouted wheat flour into your favorite recipes – both savory and sweet – take a look at King Arthur Flour’s complete guide.

Sprouted Wheat Vanilla Chai Bars are a sweet, spiced version of a blondie. The bars are moist and chewy due to the addition of brown sugar. Covered with a layer of butter and chai-spiced sugar, the crunchy top and dense interior provide a contrast in textures. The recipe yields two dozen bars. With plenty to go around, these bars are a sweet treat to bake and share with family and friends, or perhaps as a token of compassion. 

One Year Ago: Chocolate Almond Cake & Coffee Eclairs
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Raspberry Tarts & Rosemary Soda Bread
Three Years Ago: Banana Cacao Nib Muffins, Chocolate Almond Biscotti, & Grapefruit Rum Cocktails
Four Years Ago:  Bruleed Grapefruit, Bacon & Chive Beer Bread, Pomegranate White Wine Panna Cotta, Toasted Almond Fig Cookies, Coconut Raisin Granola, Chocolate Pudding, & Black Tea Honey Cake
Five Years Ago: Cheddar Dill Biscuits, S'mores Brownies, Beer Bread, Flourless Chocolate Rum Cake, & Mocha Pancakes
Six Years Ago: Vanilla Rum French Toast, Banana Bread Oatmeal, Chocolate Blueberry Ice Cream, & Chocolate Coffee Cake

Sprouted Wheat Vanilla Chai Bars
Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Bars
2 cups (227 grams) King Arthur Sprouted Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons chai spice*
2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter
2 cups (425 grams) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chai Spice Topping
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon chai spice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and chai spice until well blended. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes together and forms a fairly smooth, shiny paste, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the hot mixture to a medium bowl and allow it to cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir until well combined; the batter will be stiff. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake the bars for 17 to 21 minutes (for chewy bars) or 23 to 27 minutes (for cakier bars), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it; the top crust will have risen and fallen.

Remove the bars from the oven and allow them to cool for 15 minutes.

For the topping, mix together the sugar and chai spice in a small bowl.

Gently brush the melted butter evenly over the surface of the warm bars, then sprinkle on the spiced sugar, shaking and tilting the pan to distribute the sugar evenly.

Allow the bars to cool completely, then cut them into squares.

*To make homemade chai spice, mix together 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon orange zest

This post is sponsored through a partnership with King Arthur Flour. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Baked Lemon Poppy Seed Doughnuts

The romance of winter is fading as we enter the depths of the season. The novelty of the crisp, cold air has worn off; we pay no mind to the fleeting clouds materializing and dissipating in time with our breaths. The white snow has darkened, developing an industrial look to match that of the bustling city in which it lay. This month takes on the color gray for me, a match in both weather and mood.

The color gray is washed out. The vitamin D levels drop. The color gray is exhaustion. The news cycle (and the ensuing emotions) is inescapable. The color gray is fatigue. The days blur together in repetition and familiarity. To step out of these gray surroundings, I spent Saturday at an art museum, enveloping myself in a world of color, choosing to step away from my gray reality for a few hours. The atmosphere in museums carries a certain stillness about it, revealing a rich history with a closer look. It is about finding a new perspective in the unexpected pieces that draw the idea and speak to an inner truth.

If you are surrounded in gray, take time to embrace color—whether it be in nature, literature, or an art museum on a Saturday afternoon. Color is the antidote to the oppressive, stifling gray.

The gray began its slow descent back into my life on Sunday, surfacing in my baking and photography. At least until the color of the fruit basket caught my eye; the pink grapefruits and sunshine lemons a reminder of the artwork from the day before.

Lemons are a winter fruit, bright yellow and acidic. When combined with the sweetness of sugar and the subtle nuttiness of poppy seeds, the lemon takes on a bold, vivid flavor.  These  baked lemon poppy seed doughnuts may have a simple, monochromatic appearance, but the taste is a genuine pop of color in a gray landscape.

Baked Lemon Poppy Seed Doughnuts have a bold personality. The batter is infused with lemon zest and crunchy poppy seeds. The baked doughnuts have a cake-like texture. Don't skip the lemon glaze on these doughnuts—the glaze is mixed with fresh lemon juice and provides a bright, vibrant flavor to the overall dessert. The recipe can be doubled to fit your needs.

One Year Ago: Cacao Hot Chocolate & Bruleed Lemon Tart
Two Years Ago: Cranberry Orange Muffins & Pear Vanilla Sorbet
Three Years Ago: Double Chocolate Brownies, Pear Chocolate Scones, & Honey Oat Bread
Four Years Ago:  Rosemary Sandwich Bread, Cranberry Flax MuffinsChocolate Ginger Cookies, & Vanilla Marshmallows
Five Years Ago: Cinnamon Sugar CakeVanilla Bean Pudding, Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies, & Dark Chocolate Oatmeal
Six Years Ago: Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread, Cranberry Wine Spritzer, Quick Chocolate Cake, & Frosted Yellow Cake

Baked Lemon Poppy Seed Doughnuts

Yields 6 doughnuts

Lemon Poppy Seed Doughnuts
1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 1/2 lemons
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup (80 mL) milk

Lemon Glaze
1 1/4 cups (140 grams) powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
Poppy seeds, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a standard-size doughnut pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and lemon zest until fragrant. Whisk in the vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds. Stir in the lemon juice and milk until uniform. 

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag (or large resealable plastic kitchen bag with the corner snipped off). Fill the depressions in the prepared pan with the batter until 2/3 full (alternatively, if appearance does not matter, you could spread the batter into the pan using an offset spatula, but this results in more unevenly shaped doughnuts). Bake the doughnuts for 12-15 minutes, or until puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the lemon glaze, stir together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth. If the glaze is too thick, thin with a teaspoon or two of additional lemon juice.

Dip the cooled doughnuts into the glaze, allowing any excess to drip off. Sprinkle poppy seeds on top. The glaze will take 10-15 minutes to set, depending on the thickness.

Roasted Banana Muffins

I am a creature of routine, embracing my daily schedules as if they were written in stone. Routine builds structure in my life, surrounding me in the familiar. Routine provides a way to form good habits and to keep them. Routine eases the burden of making decisions, something I find paralyzing on the most difficult of days. While I love (and need) routine, the schedule has grown stifling in the last year. My weekdays blur together in a stream of repetitiveness—I eat the same breakfast each morning; I settle in front of the television at the same time each evening; I fill my fridge with the same foods week after week. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In the past year, I have been working towards building spontaneity into the routine (the irony in this arrangement is certainly not lost on me. By definition, spontaneity fits in no schedule). My routine is filled with so many self-imposed rules (no going out on school nights, no eating past 8 pm, no staying up late on the weekend) that I feel like I'm smothering myself with monotony. I know the rules are there to benefit me, but some days I wonder how I've written myself to a single script. On a given day, the players may be interchanged, the infections of voice may be different, but the words fail to change. 

It's the spirit behind spontaneity that interests me, the freedom to break from routine and do something unanticipated. Last year I separated from routine only a handful of times. Once, while signing up for a six week woodworking course (of which I have two handsome Adirondack chairs to show for my efforts), and another when booking last minute plane tickets to Montana. It was exhilarating to "break the rules," to allow myself the power to leave the familiar, if only for a few hours at a time.

With a new year upon us, I am trying to set myself up for a year where routines have more room to bend without fear of breaking. I signed up for a month long community education pottery class to bring me joy (even if I am terrible when it comes to clay), I attend yoga class twice a week to clear my head, and I have plans to see a movie on a Tuesday, when seats are cheap and I have school the next day.

The new year feels like permission to start over—to leave the past in the past and start with the slate clean. My intention this year is to be open, open towards new ideas, unexpected plans, and a break in the daily routine. What are your intentions for the new year?

Dark spotted, fragrant bananas are ideal for baking, adding bold flavor to banana muffinsbanana bread, and banana cake. The problem with banana desserts is that when the desire to bake with bananas arrives, the bananas are not the right ripeness. Instead of waiting a few more days for the bananas to ripen, the bananas can be roasted in the oven to bring out the bright, familiar flavor. With extra vanilla extract and a sprinkling of chopped chocolate, these Roasted Banana Muffins are a simple treat for breakfast or afternoon snack.

One Year Ago: Coconut Matcha Chia Pudding
Two Years Ago: Coconut Almond Quinoa 
Three Years Ago: Almond Date Banana Smoothie 
Four Years Ago:  Chocolate (Dairy-Free) Ice Cream, Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal, & Raspberry White Chocolate Scones
Five Years Ago: Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Green Tea Coconut Ice Cream, & Chocolate Lavender Cupcakes
Six Years Ago: Banana Cinnamon Muffins, Vanilla Pear Milk, Cranberry Chocolate Muffins, & Salted Caramels

Roasted Banana Muffins

Yields 6 large or 12 standard muffins

3 medium-large bananas
2/3 cup (133 grams) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (80 mL) vegetable oil
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) milk
2 ounces (60 grams) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Banana slices, for garnish
Chocolate shavings, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Place unpeeled bananas on a foil covered baking pan and roast for 20-25 minutes, depending on ripeness of the bananas. Remove the banana from the peels and mash. Set aside and let cool for several minutes.

Keep the oven running. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar and oil. Whisk in the egg, vanilla, and mashed bananas until combined. Slowly add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix until smooth. Stir in the milk and chopped chocolate.

Fill muffin liners 3/4 full. If desired, place two thin banana slices on top of the muffin batter and sprinkle with chocolate shavings for garnish. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.