It’s no secret that I love to bake (just check out the food archives on this site for evidence of that). And for me, baking is not just about the sweet treat that I get when I’m pulling a finished recipe out of the oven or the fridge or freezer; the act of measuring ingredients, leveling flower and stirring everything together is therapeutic. Case in point: I had a truly challenging week last week, and this weekend, while we were at my parents’ house, I found myself getting frustrated again. But then I decided to bake these blondies–which I’ve had bookmarked for ages–and the stress instantly began to melt away. Does baking (or cooking, for that matter) do that for you, too?
Anyway, stress aside, these blondies are seriously the best (they’ve quickly been added to the short list of Christmas cookies/bars I want to bake this year). The recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated–which in my opinion can do no wrong–and the secret is four teaspoons of vanilla. (Yes, four.) Plus, they couldn’t be easier to make: You toast some pecans, chop up some chocolate (white and semisweet), melt some butter and then mix everything together and bake for about 25 minutes. The result is a blondie that comes out of the oven exactly the way I like it: deeply butterscotch-y in flavor but not overpoweringly sweet, and shiny and crackly on top and cakelike in the middle, with lots of texture from the chocolate and nuts. Everyone who tried one loved it and agreed that it truly was hard to eat just one.
Here’s the recipe, if you’d like to make them yourself (and you really, really should).
Cook’s Illustrated‘s Blondies
Adapted just slightly from this recipe
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter ( 1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar and it was fine)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup each white chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips
Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread nuts on large rimmed baking sheet and bake until deep golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer nuts to cutting board to cool; chop coarsely and set aside.
While nuts toast, line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with foil, leaving enough overhang to help you lift the blondies from the pan when they’re done. Grease foil-lined pan with butter or oil.
Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside.
Whisk melted butter and brown sugar together in medium bowl until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in chocolate and nuts and turn batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with rubber spatula.
Bake until top is shiny, cracked, and light golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes; do not overbake. Cool on wire rack to room temperature. Remove bars from pan by lifting foil overhang and transfer to cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.
Photo via Food52