Every year we travel to Hot Springs, Arkansas to attend the Arkansas Derby. (You can see about our most recent trips here and here.) We always meet the in-laws there and have a great time seeing horses that will probably make an appearance at the Kentucky Derby and beyond. (Of course last year, we were lucky enough to see the Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah.)
The Hubs’ parents first introduced us to horse racing about 18 or so years ago. They were traveling to Hot Springs and Oaklawn Park long before then. They love the horses and the FiL loves to try to beat the system. 🙂
Last year for their 50th wedding anniversary, The Hubs and all his siblings pitched in to send them to the Kentucky Derby, a lifelong dream of theirs. These siblings did it up right and even purchased tickets to the Taste of the Derby. I think the MiL might have had more fun there than at the actually races. She made a point of remembering all the food to report back to me. I was envious with chefs like Debbie Gold, Tim Love, and Kevin Gillepsie (among others) representing. My MiL was most taken with Chef Johnny Iuzzini, who had just recently authored Sugar Rush.
She wanted to get me an autographed copy, but Iuzzini had just sold out when she visited his table. Because she is a sweetheart, she ordered one for me as soon as she got home.
She did get me his autograph in the Taste of Derby program.
As she regaled me with descriptions of the food at last year’s Taste of the Derby, she kept going on about the most delicious chocolate shot glasses filled with Kentucky bourbon. I don’t know if these little chocolaty shots of goodness were at Iuzzini’s table or not, but I found her descriptions hilarious. My MiL is not a drinker.
So in honor of the upcoming Run for the Roses, I want to thank my MiL for the kind gift of Sugar Rush by making one of Iuzzini’s recipes.
slightly adapted from Johnny Iuzzini’s Sugar Rush
2 c. butternut squash puree
3/4 c. cold butter, diced, plus more for the pan
2-3 T. Turbinado sugar, for the pan
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 T. pure maple syrup
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. ground cumin
3/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 c. high quality white chocolate chips, divided
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8 x 11-inch baking pan and coat it generously with the turbinado sugar, tapping out the excess.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment,beat 3/4 c. butter with brown sugar. Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until lightened and no clumps of butter remain. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula between additions. Add the syrup and vanilla and mix will.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cumin, ginger, nutmeg and salt together. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients, a little at time, mixing until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in 2/3 c. of the white chocolate chips.
Evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining white chocolate chips evenly over the top. Bake on the center rack until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Cool completely in the pan on a rack before cutting into 12 equal-sized pieces.
I made a few adaptations to the original recipe. First, I decreased the amount of cumin by 1/4 t. (The original recipe called for 3/4 t. cumin. I felt like that was a bit too much.) The cumin does add an interesting note and makes these bars quite unique.
The original recipe also called for mace. Not having any, I subbed in nutmeg. It worked well.
Finally, Demerara sugar was called for to coat the pan. Again, not having any, I subbed in Turbinado sugar. I really liked this technique and will be coating my other bar-cookie pans with sugar.
Rest assured that Sugar Rush is not just a cookie and brownie book. Iuzzini’s book is full of techniques and every pastry recipe you would ever need including instructions for custards, meringues, caramel, cakes, muffins, tarts, pies, and yeast doughs.
I actually took these brownies along with his Spiced Apple and Pistachio Streusel Muffins for this year’s trip to the Arkansas Derby.
These and those super moist squash bars traveled well. We had the bars for desserts and the mufifns for breakfasts. (I think the FiL may have snuck a few more.)
Did we see the Kentucky Derby winner and potential Triple Crown winner this year?
Cupid was the favorite and really disappointed. The winner was Creator. Other horses we saw that might have a shot are Suddenbreakingnews and Whitmore. You know, it is really a crap shoot.