Dark Chocolate Gingerbread Bars

As you can probably tell from this blog, I believe that any time is a good time to bake, but I will say there's something particularly special about baking around Christmas. Maybe it's the cold weather that makes staying in a cozy kitchen so appealing, or maybe it's the Christmas music that makes a good soundtrack to the cookie decorating, or maybe it's because it's  especially nice to bake up sweets for others (edible gifts are the best kind of gifts, in my opinion). In any event, my holiday baking has officially begun and I will be sure to share all my recipes with you here, starting with these Dark Chocolate Gingerbread Bars.

Seeing as how I posted a recipe for a gingerbread cake last year, my first thought was to give you a recipe for gingerbread men, the quintessential Christmas cookie. When I was little I loved making gingerbread men, after all -- first we would make the cookie dough, then let it rest in the fridge, and then we would roll out the dough and cut out all of the gingerbread men, then we would bake them, let them cool, and decorate them...fun, of course, but lots of steps involved (my 8 year old self was really only doing the decorating at the end). I realize that not everyone has the time or patience to do this around Christmas (me included) so here is a gingerbread recipe that takes far less time and effort and still satisfies the gingerbread craving around the holidays.  

These bars could be described as a cross between a piece of gingerbread and a brownie in terms of the texture and taste. They are soft and chewy and spicy--as gingerbread should always be, no one likes wimpy gingerbread!--with a healthy dose of chocolate, because, as this pecan pie taught us, adding chocolate to a dessert is always a good thing, and this gingerbread is no exception. Even though chocolate is not a traditional addition to gingerbread, it pairs wonderfully with the spices, complementing them rather than overwhelming them and adding another dimension of flavor to the dessert. The powdered sugar on the top  makes these look extra festive and reminds me of a dusting of snow, fitting for the season -- don't leave this final touch out if you can help it! Note that I have used chocolate chunks here because I think that they're overall better, but feel free to use chocolate chips if you wish. These would most certainly make an excellent homemade Christmas gift for friends or family,  not to mention a great easy dessert for a holiday dinner. Enjoy everyone!


DARK CHOCOLATE GINGERBREAD BARS

Ingredients:
2/3 cup (about 11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces of semi sweet chocolate, chopped
powdered sugar, for sprinkling on top

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9x13 baking dish. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and molasses with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before sprinkling with powdered sugar and serving. Makes about 12 bars (depending on how large you cut them).







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