Blondies: Out of the brownie’s shadow
Blondies, or blond brownies, are one of those things that tend to get forgotten, ignored at the bottom of your mother’s ’70s-era recipe box (in my case), or at the
recesses of pastry cases, in favor of flashier desserts, mostly with more chocolate.
Blondies are brownies without the chocolate — the cocoa is replaced with lots of brown sugar, vanilla and often nuts. Get hold of a really good blondie and you’ll soon forget your normal
Valrhona obsessions. Specifically, get hold of one (or more, really) with a thick layer of sticky toffee on top, as Cake Monkey’s pastry chef Elizabeth Belkind makes hers, and you’ll become as much of a convert to the things as Belkind herself was.
“I was guilty for most of my life of thinking blondies were not worthy,” wrote Belkind in an email when we asked her for her recipe. “But I am a complete convert now.”
We are too, as happens with most things that contain copious amounts of brown butter and roasted pecans — not to mention that strata of salted toffee.
Sticky Toffee Blondies
With Sea Salt and Roasted Pecans
About 1 hour, plus cooling time. Makes 9 (3-inch by
11/2 cups pecans
11/2 cups (3 sticks) butter
31/4 cups (13 ounces) pastry flour
11/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon
(8.8 ounces) dark brown sugar
3/4 cup plus a scant 2 tablespoons (6.9 ounces) Muscovado sugar
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pecans out on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast the pecans until darkened and aromatic, 6 to 8 minutes, being careful not to burn. Remove and cool; coarsely chop.
While the pecans are cooling, brown the butter: Place the butter in a wide pan and heat over medium-low heat until the milk solids are nicely browned and the butter has a toasted, nutty flavor, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Set aside.
Prepare your 9-inch by 9-inch baking pan by spraying it with nonstick spray, lining with a piece of parchment paper the size of the bottom of the pan, and spraying once again to coat the paper and the sides of the pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk
together the flour and salt in a large bowl. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla.
Carefully whisk the sugars in with the warm butter, mixing well to combine. Slowly whisk the butter mixture into the beaten eggs and vanilla, mixing well until fully incorporated.
Add the flour mixture and blend it in until there are just a few pockets of dry flour remaining, careful not to overmix. Add the pecans and fold them in.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the blondies for 12 minutes, then rotate the pan. The blondies will be done when the top is glossy and crackling a little, and the center of the blondies feels slightly firm when pressed gently on top. They will be somewhat soft, but not gooey in the center. Remove from heat and cool on a rack. While the blondies are baking, prepare the glaze.
Sticky toffee glaze and assembly
3/4 cup (6 ounces) brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
Fleur de sel or other medium grain sea salt, for garnish
Chopped toasted pecans, for garnish
While the blondies are baking, prepare the glaze:
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, cream, honey and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool until both the blondies and sauce are cooled. This makes a generous 2 cups sauce, more than is needed for the blondies; the sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 2 weeks.
Cut the brownies into 9 even squares. Dip the top of each brownie in the glaze. Sprinkle each brownie with a little sea salt, and garnish with the chopped toasted pecans. Serve as they are, or store them covered once the glaze has dried. The blondies will keep for up to 4 days in a covered container, and up to 2 weeks frozen in a sealed container.
Note: Adapted from a recipe by Elizabeth Belkind of Cake Monkey, who writes, “This recipe can be mixed completely by hand. It is preferable to mixing it using an electric mixer to keep the batter from accidentally becoming gummy. The key here is not to overmix the batter.”