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Chewy Vanilla Bean Cinnamon Bars

Chewy Vanilla Cinnamon Bars

At times, I struggle to live in the moment. I'm always looking forward, planning ahead, or dreaming about the future. When the everyday begins to grow lackluster, my mind wanders to exotic holidays through ancient cities and foreign landscapes or to the everyday moments of future life that may or may not come to pass. My head drifts above the clouds while my body goes through the daily routines.

I struggle to ground myself in the familiar day-to-day activities of making dinner and studying for exams.

Chewy Vanilla Cinnamon Bars

In many ways, a part of me has always been a dreamer. When I was younger, I could never decide what I would be when I grew up. I could imagine the details of a life where I was an author, a zookeeper, a doctor, or an astronomer. I wanted to play a part in all of these lives. I never wanted to settle down, to make a real decision about life, because it felt like there was such a finality about doing so. I wanted to leave more doors open than I would ever hope to shut.

When I walk through home and furniture stores, I imagine my future home and how I'll fill the empty rooms. My home by the sea will hold worn wood furniture and carry the colors of the skies; my home in the woods will welcome long shadows, stone, and the spirit of a dancing flame. These daydreams feel so real in my head; I find myself too busy divining a future that I've failed to cover the white-walls in my current apartment to make my house feel more like a home.

Chewy Vanilla Cinnamon Bars

As I've grown up, the dreamer in me has had her fair share of doses of reality. Decisions are inevitable (though never final) and every path has its share of ups and downs. Even when doing something I love, my head still floats above the clouds, wondering what may be around the next corner. As the ever wise JK Rowling cautioned me, "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." Those words struck such a chord.

The truth is that I have been forgetting to live in the present for quite awhile now. Instead of dreaming about becoming a mother or wife, a teacher or world traveler, I need to appreciate being a young woman with few ties to hold me down and high aspirations to lead my way. These days will pass too soon. Thanks for the reminder, Ms. Rowling.

Chewy Vanilla Cinnamon Bars

These Vanilla Bean Cinnamon Bars have a little trick up their sleeves. Though they may appear to be cake-like in texture, they are actually pleasantly dense and chewy. Vanilla bean and cinnamon round out the flavor, while cornmeal lends the surprisingly texture. Topped with a light vanilla glaze, these bars may find a place in your fall rotation.

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Granola
Two Years Ago: Maple Roasted Bananas with Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Chewy Vanilla Bean Cinnamon Bars with Vanilla Glaze

Yields 8 x 8-inch pan

Vanilla Bean Cinnamon Bars
1 cup (200 grams) dark brown sugar, packed
6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter, melted
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
1 cup (144 grams) finely ground cornmeal
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease an 8 x 8-inch pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, melted butter, milk, egg, and vanilla extract until smooth. Stir in the cornmeal, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool bars before glazing.

Vanilla Glaze
1/2 cup (63 grams) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon milk

Stir together all ingredients in a small bowl. If glaze is too thin, add more powdered sugar until it reaches the desired consistency. Likewise, if the glaze is too thick, thin with milk until it reaches the desired consistency. Lightly pour over cooled bars.

Reader Comments (23)

Your post resonates in my soul - and I thank you today for this reminder. Although I've lived my life in much the same state, when it mattered I was always able to find solid ground; I'm a new student at age 51, learning how to be me again after raising my daughter, have no ties and still struggle to "live in the moment" - it's time to turn the page and live my story, while remaining present. I wish you well on your life journey...and never stop dreaming.
09.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRose C.
This post sums up beautifully exactly how I am; I'm always wanting to be somewhere else, move onto the next stage. I know I'm only where I am currently for the next year so I'm trying harder to appreciate it while I have it - I know I'll miss it here once I've left again. xx
09.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex
I absolutely love reading your posts. You write so beautifully and you always have something very meaningful to say.

I'm sort of like you in the aspect of always dreaming of the future and everything, and Pinterest hasn't made my life any easier. I'm always picturing what my dream home or wedding will look like, and in the back of my head I know I probably won't obtain any of it because I'm a horrible decorator and I'm not sure I can even pull off half the hairstyles and makeup ideas that I have pinned. But thats ok.

This cake looks really comforting.I would have never known there was cornmeal in it by looking at the picture.
Well said and the recipe looks divine. Do you have any recommendations on where to get the cornmeal?
09.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCady
Cady-- If you can't find cornmeal that is already finely ground, any cornmeal will work. You can run it through a food processor until it breaks down into smaller pieces and use that in place (it works just as well!).
09.30.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
This looks lovely!
Awesome! Thank you for the details.
09.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCady
I swear you live in my head...and are able to express my thoughts far more eloquently than I ever could! I am a daydreamer and probably always will be thinking about what the future holds, but I have really been trying to live my days with more intention. And now, I will intentionally bake these bars and sit and eat them and thoroughly enjoy every minute of it, here and now! Great post, as per usual!
Came across your post via TasteSpotting and first, these bars look and sound divine! Who wouldn't love vanilla and cinnamon though?! Second, your blog is lovely and I'm glad to be your newest follower :)
I love vanilla bean anything and these look like they would be no exception! YUM!
10.1.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Cooks
These really look wonderful and sound so unique. I can't wait to try them! Love your pictures too. I try to live in the moment and find myself more able to do it some times than others, but I am a dreamer too. I have lots of big dreams and not a lot of time to make them happen, so the future is often the place I think about whether out of necessity or desire.
10.1.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Dembowski
I love all your pictures so much. Thank you for being a baking and photography inspiration!
10.1.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessie
I've been following you for a while, and this is my first time commenting. Anything with vanilla bean in the title automatically catches my eye! I also just bought the ingredients to make your French silk pie for our 2nd anniversary. I'll let you know how it turns out!
10.1.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLoretta E
This post definitely strikes a chord with the "dreamer" within me as well. I'm the one who can hardly fall asleep at night for all of the thoughts racing through my mind about the studying I need to do, the outfits I need to wear, the films I need to watch, the books I need to read, the furniture I need to buy... and although being a dreamer does lend a certain excitement to life, it also means I'm sometimes filled with this nagging sense of dissatisfaction with myself for not having been able to achieve all the 1001 points on my to-do list for that day.

That being said, these cakes are certainly not something I mind adding to that list! Baking is so therapeutic, and these sound lush :)
10.1.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHelena
Simply delicious!
10.2.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJill
These look fantastic! One question - if I don't have cornmeal on hand, can I just use 2 cups of flour? How would that affect the consistency?
10.3.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLibbi
Libbi-- The texture of the bars would be completely different. These bake up dense, moist, and chewy. If you substituted in flour, the end result would essentially be a cake which wouldn't be too bad either. :)
10.3.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Looks simply and delicious! I will like to try because I adore cinnamon treats
You're such a great writer, and a lovely photographer. These bars look divine and it's taking everything in me not to get up and make them right now, haha!
10.5.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Klotz
I just discovered your blog. The photography is so beautiful! Love it.
10.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKay
I just made these on my study break, what a delicious stress reliever!
11.19.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSigal
I made these twice . . . once with medium cornmeal, as that's what I had on hand, and the other time with fine cornmeal and found the cornmeal to be very crunchy. I love so many things about these bars but the cornmeal just didn't work for me.
12.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Dembowski
Oh I have so much cornmeal left over from making corndogs for the Superbowl and this is the perfect way to use it (well some of it anyway!)
I must admit I spend a lot of timing thinking about marriage and babies, even though I know they're both a few years away, so thank youfor sharing that reminder!! :)
03.17.2013 | Unregistered Commenteramelia

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