We use citrus in our cooking all year long, but it’s especially abundant—and appropriate—in the winter. Mix some citrusy booze with a little sugar and flour, and you get a festive holiday dessert.

Of course, chocolate doesn’t hurt either, and it’s perfect for pairing with orange. For these Grand Marnier Blondie Bars, we’re partial to Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips, but you could also buy yourself a fancy European bar and chop it up by hand. Just make sure whatever you’re using is quality, because the chocolate chips play an important role in the end product.

It’s less important that the orange peel is “quality,” but feel free to candy your own if you really want to impress your holiday guests. Although it’s incredibly simple, for nostalgic purposes we prefer the candied orange cubes sold at just about every grocery store—you know the kind, they’re used in fruitcakes and you’ve probably passed them a million times without ever considering picking them up. They have a candy-like sweetness and add a nice citrus punch to the brownie.

If you’re traveling to a holiday gathering, these bars can be made ahead of time, but the sauce should be made right before you’re ready to serve. And that’s totally cool, because you’ll bust out some fruity booze and make someone’s kitchen smell amazing.

liquor

Grand Marnier Blondie Bars
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (one stick) butter
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 ounce Grand Marnier
½ teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces milk chocolate chips
½ cup pecans
¼ cup candied orange peel
Tablespoon sea salt

For the sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
2 ounces Grand Marnier
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup candied orange peel

1

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Put the flour and baking soda through a sieve and set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and then allow it to foam up and then to turn brown (you should also smell a nutty aroma). Once the butter is browned, add it to the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl if you’re using a hand mixer). Add the brown sugar, egg, Grand Marnier and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the flour and baking powder and mix until fully incorporated. Add the chocolate chips, pecans and orange peel and stir until fully incorporated.

Butter an 8×8 baking pan. Pour the batter into the pan. Spread the batter out evenly and sprinkle with the sea salt.

Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes, turning halfway through. A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean. Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

While the bars are cooling (or before you’re ready to serve), make the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan and then adding the Grand Marnier. Swirl in the pan until incorporated and then remove from heat. Add the powdered sugar, the vanilla and the candied orange peel and whisk until smooth.

When ready to serve, cut the bars into squares and top with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and the Grand Marnier sauce.

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