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Gooey Cinnamon Squares

  Raise your hand if you've been freaking out about the New Year and reading Joy's post has made you feel a tiny bit better.  The Best of Intentions for 2015, goshdang I love that woman.

  Maybe another 365 days shouldn't feel so daunting, but seriously, they do.  They really do.  Which is why you have to do the whole one day at a time mantra, cuz otherwise it's all just too much.  Maybe you've started doing the oil cleansing method and your face-skin is royally freaking out at this sudden adjustment.  Maybe you've been dabbling in the world of liquid eyeliner and perfecting your cat eye.  Maybe you've taken up yoga and grounded yourself from shopping and excessive gas use-age until one of these job interviews actually works out for you.  Maybe you've been doing a lot of official writing for things like school applications (heaven forbid) and you just need a good paragraph or two of letting your brain explode.

  And maybe that's just me.

  So we're blasting Sam Smith's album In the Lonely Hour, we're binge-watching Gilmore Girls, we've spent two weeks in relative hermit status, and we're crossing our fingers that somehow something works itself out.  

  Until then...there's gooey cinnamon squares.  I definitely treated myself by going out on a limb and buying Smitten Kitchen's book.  And I definitely spent over two hours of New Year's Eve reading the dang thing.

  So stop, collaborate and listen.  These cinnamon squares need your attention.

  And yes that was a Vanilla Ice reference, I'm so so sorry.

  But what's happening here is monumental.  It's fantastic.  It's the most beautiful collision of gooey and underbaked and cakey and cinnamony.  Deb really hit the freakin nail on the head here, I can't get over it.  I just can't.

  WHYARE PEOPLE SUCH GENIUSES. *as I eat mashed potatoes and cheer on the Gilmore Girls*

  Basically this is a mashup of gooey butter cake and a snickerdoodle.  It's all things wonderful.

  On a side note, I've come to terms that this gas oven of mine is basically just a mutant that does whatever it wants with what you put into it.  Pizza, bars, scones, and god forbid, meringue.  It doesn't seem to matter the position of the oven racks or whether or not you monitor the temperature because it just like to mess with you.

  What I'm trying to say is that somehow my gooey layer ended up sinking to the bottom, and the cake stayed on top, with the cinnamon swirling itself throughout.  By all means that's fine with me, but it's just not how other people's seemed to turn out.  Just something to keep in mind, but either way the end product is bound to be delicious.

  I'm going to hammer one thing into your brain real quick and then we can be done with this increasingly scatter-brained post.

  Nooooo overbaking.  None.

  These bars need to come out browned around the edges with a crisp cinnamon layer, but the gooey layer has to stay gooey.  This will make it appear to be under-baked, you'll think it can't possibly be done in the middle!  Just remove it from the oven and walk away.  It firms up as it cools, I pinky promise.

  Here's that picture again of what it should look like:

  Fresh from the oven.  Browned edges.  Crisp cinnamon layer where it didn't manage to leak through the dough and wreak havoc on my perfectionist vision of neat layers.  Major gooeyness.  Just let it happen.

  Oh, and I ate at least half of the pan.  I'm not even going to try to make that sound cute.

  Happy New somethin'.

Gooey Cinnamon Squares
Yield: one 8x8 inch pan, about sixteen 2-inch squares

Ingredients for the cookie layer:
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 large egg*
  • 2 tablespoons milk (probably should use whole, but I got away with skim)

Ingredients for the gooey layer:
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup or golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup + 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 large egg*
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons flour

Ingredients for the cinnamon sugar:
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • A pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg, if you wish

*I halved the original recipe, hence the awkward egg-halving.  Simply crack a large egg into a small bowl, whisk it together, and then pour half into the cookie layer and save the other half for the gooey layer.  Easy-peasy.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper with a 2-inch overhang.  Grease the parchment paper with room temp butter or cooking spray.

For the cookie layer, in a large bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until pale and creamy.  Add the 1/2 egg and milk.  Add the flour mixture on low speed and mix until just combined.  Put the mixture in the cake pan in dollops (it’s too thick to spread if you add it all in the same place), and spread it into an even layer with an offset spatula.

For the gooey layer, in a small bowl, whisk together the corn syrup, milk, and vanilla. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until pale and creamy.  Add the other 1/2 egg, mixing until incorporated, followed by the salt.  Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, starting and ending with the flour.  Dollop the batter over the unbaked cookie layer and spread evenly.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and ground cinnamon to make the topping.  Sprinkle evenly over the batter.  Bake until the edges are golden brown, the cinnamon is crisp, but the gooey layer is still quite gooey and under-baked looking, 25-30 minutes. The gooey layer won't set until the squares have cooled completely.

Let cool, then slice into 2-inch squares. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Sources: adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen's Cookbook, Completely Delicious and David Lebovitz was also referenced