S'more Baking

Today, I accomplished a "first:" for the first time, in two years of being in college, I used a dorm kitchen.

And I survived. And so did my project.

Honestly, I don't really know why I have been so against it for so long. I'm sure it's a combination of my first dorm having an old, beat-up and constantly dirty kitchen that you could hardly turn around in, and the harsh stereotype that such dorm kitchens have developed for all dorm kitchens nationwide. But you see, I have the privilege this year of living in a brand spanking new dorm, with a brand spanking new kitchen that is, quite frankly, roughly 1.5x the size of the kitchen in the apartment I'll be living in next year.

So, it was with unfounded trepidation that I entered into the kitchen this afternoon, roommate in tow for company, to bake a treat to bring with me for an induction ceremony I'm attending tomorrow night. And despite having a fully equipped kitchen at my disposal, I nonetheless wanted to keep things simple - after all, I only had one set of ingredients to work with, and if I messed up, I believe it would be Entenman's to the rescue. Or, more realistically, I would've hung my head in shame and pretended I never signed up for anything to begin with, because I can't have store bought goods associated with my name. I have a reputation to uphold, you know?

I settled on a blondie recipe over at Smitten Kitchen (which I am, for the record, pretty smitten with) that seemed dirt simple, yet sufficiently tempting and delicious-seeming. Of course, I couldn't just hand over a simple blondie for my peers to eat. How Plain! It had to be fun, different, and much more effort than that - because as my mother likes to say of me, I really don't know how to do anything normal. Or simple.
So, I set off on my grocery store run - now, all of you folks with normal kitchens and living arrangements probably have absolutely everything this recipe calls for, but seeing as how I keep my room stocked with cheerios, yogurt, and the occasional piece of fruit if I'm lucky, I had some work to do. I also needed inspiration for my anything-but-just-plain-blondies*; clearly, a visit to the candy aisle was in order. I picked up some m&ms, then I considered a chocolate-peanut butter chip version, then I sat contemplating the twix bars and wondering how well they would chop up and mix in with the batter.
But then I found these:

Marshmallows! I picked them up with one hand and grabbed a bag of chocolate chunks in the other, and weighed the possibilities in my mind. While nothing revolutionary, the idea of a s'mores blondie called out to me. I had never attempted something along those lines, it was classic enough to appeal to the average college kid, and it was certainly not-just-a-plain-blondie.

This required some further research, though, and after sifting through two pages of google searches on s'mores bars, I had my plan of attack.S'mores Blondies, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen and the lovely people of google world
1 stick butter, melted
1 C brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp almond extract (I used vanilla)1 C all purpose flour
a pinch of salt (omitted!)
1 bag chocolate chips or chocolate chunks
1/2 bag (roughly) mini marshmallows

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease either a 9x13" pan, two 8x8" pans, or - if you'd like a traditionally thick blondie, as the recipe calls for - one 8x8" pan. Because of all of the toppings I was adding, I spread the batter thin over two pans, and I think they turned out well (although they haven't undergone a taste test yet, so I may retract that statement at a later date...)
2. Mix the melted butter and sugar, whisking until smooth.
3. Add in the egg and vanilla, beating thoroughly.
4. Add the salt (if using) and stir in the flour.5. Bake the blondies for roughly 20-25 minutes or until the center sets. I thought that mine would take less time, as mine were half as thick as the recipe intended, but they took the full time, and even then I wouldn't be surprised if cutting into them later today reveals a slightly gooey center (not that I will complain).
6. With roughly 5-10 minutes left, remove the pan(s) from the oven and layer fairly evenly first with chocolate, and then with marshmallows. Return to the over and finish baking.
7. My marshmallows hadn't browned at this point, and with the blondies having been in there for a full 30 minutes, I didn't want to kill the cookie layer by overcooking. So, I preheated the broiler and broiled them for no more than a minute to give the marshmallows a perfectly toasted, golden look.

This process, which takes no more than an hour from start to finish (I would imagine no more than 40 minutes for those who move more quickly than I do in a kitchen), will leave you with these gems:

The one on the left could have used a little longer under the broiler - I confess, I was using disposable aluminum pans, and when trying to pull that one out of the oven to switch it to the broiler, I accidentally punched up that corner that didn't brown. I'm not really sure why the convex corner refused to brown, especially since it was consequently closer to the broiler coil, but c'est la vie. I think the (abysmal) lighting also makes them look less brown than they actually are; I apologize for that. If I wind up cutting them and putting them in some serving platter that I don't think I possess in this room, I will take a picture of their insides - I know I'm at least itching to see them in all of their layered glory (I hope)!

So, dorm kitchen cooking was a success, and I feel absolutely silly for taking two years to come to this conclusion - a mere 2 weeks before I leave dorm living for good, of course. Maybe it'll even persuade me to make another appearance in this kitchen before the end of the year, but really...well, we'll see.

*Note: I realized that this post seems to be bashing the regular, Plain Jane blondie, and I am certainly not. I love eating a simple, little thick-cookie-cakey-bar-concoction, without the help of toppings and additives. However, I can never muster up the enthusiasm about actually baking such understated delights, and instead always give in to the temptation of over-indulging my imagination and doctoring opportunities. I'm sure that these blondies are delicious plain, and yes, I should have tried them as they were before diving into the recipe with a scalpel, but when preparing something for a potluck ceremony, I could not leave things well alone. Forgive me, purists and lovers of the small things in life. One day, I hope to get over myself enough to join you, but for now, these are the antics I ask you to endure.

Update: I had every intention of photographing the insides of this gooey treat and posting them, but they were all devoured at tonight's ceremony before I had the chance. Needless to say, they were a sweeping success, and I'm starting to think I should slightly under-cook my cookie bars/blondies more often!

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