I won’t wax poetic over my love of brownies – I’ve done that already. But give me a moment to sing the praises of blondies. Actually, a moment to praise these particular blondies – my favorites.
Blondies are not pale brownies, they’re a singular category of deliciousnes. Because they’re made with brown sugar, they’re a little chewy and their flavor tilts caramel-butterscotch. I’ve veered a bit away from tradition and added a tad more granulated sugar than is usual, but I love the balance it gives these. I’ve also gone a little wild with add-ins. These have chopped chocolate, shredded coconut and toasted nuts stirred into them.
Of course, I’ve got preferences, and of course, you must too, so here’s what I like and here’s “permission” to do what you like.
Chopped chocolate – I like milk chocolate here. It’s not my usual first choice, but it’s really nice with the brown sugar and seems to have a way of doubling up on the caramelness of the blondies. Other really good options are semi- or bittersweet, of course, but also chopped up Heath Bars or some toffee bits, or even butterscotch chips. Could you go with peanut-butter chips? Hmmm. I hadn’t thought of those before, but yes, you could, and they’d be a fine addition.
Shredded coconut – This is an inspired addition! Not only does coconut go well with caramel, but it adds immeasurable pleasure to the blondies’ texture. Coconut gives you more chew per bite and I count that as a good thing. My preference here is for unsweetened shredded coconut, an ingredient you used to have to search for, but which is now in most supermarkets – thank you, Bob’s Red Mill. You can use sweetened coconut, if you’d like. And you can toast the coconut before you add it, if you’d like. The trade-off with toasted coconut is more flavor, less texture. If you’re feeling ambitious, go for half-and-half.
Toasted nuts – Walnuts used to be my go-to here and I still like them with blondies, but these days, pecans are at the top of my list. They’re a sweeter nut and a fine nut with caramel. And don’t forget the good-old American peanut, which would be perfect! I’d even go so far as to use lightly salted peanuts. You don’t have to toast peanuts and you really don’t have to toast pecans or walnuts, especially if the extra step would stand in the way of your making these, but toasting firms their texture and draws out more of their flavor. Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and give them about 10 minutes in a 350-degree-F oven – keep an eye on them and stir them a couple of times. You can also toast the nuts in a skillet.
In the spirit of more is more, I love these with ice cream. Specifically, coffee ice cream. And I wouldn’t say “no” to a drizzle of hot fudge sauce.
Bake-on and I’ll see you back here on Tuesday!
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Makes 16 blondies
12 ounces (340 grams) best-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped (or other chocolate; see above)
1 cup (120 grams) coarsely chopped pecans (or other nuts; see above), toasted
1 cup (80 grams) shredded unsweetened (or sweetened; see above) coconut
2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (8 ounces; 226 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F. Butter or spray a 9-x-13 inch baking pan.
Stir the chopped chocolate, pecans and coconut together. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
Working in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars and the salt together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until smooth and creamy.
Add the eggs one by one, beating for a minute after each goes in, then beat in the vanilla. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low until almost – but not completely – incorporated. Add the remaining dry ingredients and again, beating on low, mix until almost incorporated. Add the chocolate, pecans and coconut and mix to blend – you can do this last little bit with a spatula, if you’d like. Scrape the batter into the pan and even the top as best you can – it’ll never be perfect.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The blondies should pull away from the sides of the pan a little. Sometimes they puff up a little around the edges of the pan – they puff more with baking spray than with a buttered pan. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for about 15 minutes before unmolding the blondies onto another rack. Invert onto a rack and let cool to room temperature right side up.
Cut into 16 bars – or cut whatever number, shape or size you’d like.
STORING: The blondies will keep for about 3 days at room temperature - wrap them well. They can be frozen for up to 2 months.