They say blondes have all the fun. Or at least more of it. But in the world of dessert bars, it’s all about the brunettes.
That is, if you consider brownies to be the brunettes of the dessert bar universe. Cakey or fudgey is the big choice with Brownies. They can have varying kinds and amounts of chocolate, and they can be with or without nuts, but that’s about it for variety. It’s all about the chocolate.
Blondies are a whole other story. They offer more of a blank slate for additional flavors. They can be tarted up with fresh or dried fruits, nuts, coconut, various chips, spices, liqueurs, toffee, cookie bits, pieces of candy, anything really. You can also do all of those things with brownies, but the chocolate is still going to take center stage. But blondies allow flavor and taste variations to come front and center.
But what exactly is a blondie? A blondie isn’t just an un-chocolate brownie. Definitions vary from baker to baker, but a blondie is really another word for a butterscotch brownie. Which does not mean that you have to add butterscotch chips or butterscotch flavor or anything like that. Butterscotch is the combination of butter and brown sugar, which virtually every blondie recipe already has, giving them their distinctive golden blonde color.
But a blondie with coconut and walnuts or pecans is technically a Congo Bar. And if you start layering things, you could wander off to millionaire’s shortbread or banoffee (banana and toffee) bar territory.
And if the batter is blonde, but you add in some chocolate chips, it’s still a blondie, not a brownie, even though it more closely resembles a chocolate chip cookie in bar form. It gets complicated.
But none of this really matters. It’s just something to talk about between bites of your latest pan of warm dessert bars fresh out of the oven, whatever variety they may be.
But do take advantage of the versatility of blondies. Cranberry blondies make a nice winter holiday treat. Blondies with cinnamon or pumpkin accents are nice in the fall. And what could be better in the spring and summer than blondies with fresh berries? Red, white and blue blondies made with fresh raspberries, fresh blueberries and white chocolate chips could serve you well from Memorial Day, through the Fourth of July, right up to Labor Day.
Following is a basic recipe for blondies with suggested additions and change-ups. Think of it as the Little Black Dress of blondies. Basic, but it can go anywhere with the right accessories. Blondies with cinnamon, cranberries or berries follow if you feel more adventurous.
Basic Blondies (with change-ups)
Takes a total of 35 minutes, 25 of which is baking time. Nice basic recipe. Suggestions are included for extras, but feel free to think up your own. Makes 16 bars.
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 large cold egg
1 -1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract, optional
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
Extras —Choose as few or as many as you like:
1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips (white, milk, semi-sweet, dark, etc.)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped and toasted nuts
1/2 to 1 cup chopped dried fruit or shredded/flaked coconut
1/4 cup liquor (bourbon, whisky, rum, etc.) note: Increase flour by 1 tablespoon to accommodate
1/2 tsp. flavorings or extracts (coconut, mint, rum, raspberry, etc.)
2 tbsp. instant espresso powder
Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch by 8-inch metal baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. In a medium bowl, stir melted butter and brown sugar until blended. Add the egg, vanilla, almond extract (optional) and salt then stir vigorously until smooth. When the batter looks well blended, add the flour and stir until fully incorporated, then beat with the wooden spoon or spatula for 40 to 50 strokes. (The batter will be quite thick). Beat vigorously here. You want to see the batter pulling away from the sides of the bowl. You need for the batter to emulsify so the fat doesn’t separate out while baking. If you don’t have enough arm strength, use a mixer. Stir in any extras you are using. Spread the batter evenly in lined pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out relatively clean. Cool, then cut into 16 squares. Store blondies covered in an airtight container up to 3 days at room temperature or up to a week in the fridge. You can also freeze up to 3 months. This recipe should double with no problem. Use a 13-inch by 9-inch pan and watch the baking time — it will need a little longer to bake. Start checking at 25 minutes and then check every five minutes after that.
The combination of blueberries, raspberries and white chocolate makes a nice red, white and blue dessert for the 4th of July or other patriotic holiday.
6 ounces fine-quality or premium white chocolate, chopped
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 -1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
Position rack in middle of oven. Heat oven to 325°F. Line 9 x 9 x 2-inch square baking pan with foil; grease. In metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water, melt white chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. In large bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla on medium speed until thickened and pale, 3 minutes. On low, gradually beat in chocolate mixture. Into a bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt. Beat into chocolate mixture until combined. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Sprinkle with berries. Bake in middle of 325°F oven until top is very lightly browned but center still soft when lightly pressed, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack.
Makes 12 servings.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup fresh cranberries
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 11x7x1-1/2-inch or a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil; coat foil with cooking spray and set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until softened. Add in both sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; blend thoroughly. Then beat in eggs and vanilla until just combined. Using your electric mixer on low speed, carefully beat in flour until moistened. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate. Spread batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with fresh cranberries (and minced walnuts, if using); press in lightly with a spatula. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Lift with foil to remove from pan. Cut into bars. Add 1 cup of white chocolate chips to a Ziploc bag. Place bag into the microwave for 15-20 seconds. Remove bag from microwave and knead the bag to disperse the heat. Repeat until all of the chips have melted. (If you do not do this, the bags will explode in your microwave.) Cut the corner off of the bag so that you can squeeze (pipe, drizzle, whatever) the melted chocolate on top of the blondies. Allow chocolate to cool before serving.
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 -1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 -1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 -1/2 cup cinnamon chips (or 1/2 cup cinnamon red hots)
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325°. Spray an 8-inch square metal baking pan with vegetable-oil cooking spray. Fold a 16-inch length of heavy-duty foil to 7 1/2 inches wide and lay it across pan bottom and up two sides so you have foil overhangs to pull blondies from pan. Spray foil with vegetable-oil spray. Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk brown sugar into butter in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl, then whisk into butter mixture. Whisk in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in cinnamon chips or stir-in of your choice. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until blondies are just set, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Using foil handles, pull blondies from pan, set on wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Cut into squares and serve.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.