There's something incredibly comforting about a brownie. For me, they're one of the ultimate "feel-good" treats that I love to indulge on every now and then. Put me in front of a warm-from-the-oven, soft, fudgey, and intensely chocolatey brownie that's been topped off with a scoop of real vanilla ice cream, and I don't think it gets any better than that (unless the brownie in question has walnuts mixed in, then it really just can't get any better). The combination of the warm chocolate brownie with the cold ice cream is classic and perfect, and I love how the ice cream melts into a pool of delicious vanilla cream, completely surrounding the brownie. Ahh, yes. Brownies à la mode, you are the best.
Blondies on the other hand? Eh...
Yes, I know, this is a post for blondies, not brownies, and there were no scoops of vanilla ice cream within reach as I was taking these photographs. There's no real fudgey chocolate flavor, and these blondies were not warm-from-the-oven, but rather were at room temperature, nor were they chock full of walnuts. They were, however, surprisingly delicious.
The blondie is a bar cookie that has always mystified me. I never really understood their why they were so popular, or why they even existed, to be perfectly honest. I mean, brownies are just so good, why would anyone want a chocolate-less version of a brownie? The notion of the blondie just did not resonate in my chocoaholic brain. I think I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've actually eaten a blondie, and I'm almost certain that each time it was because the blondie was the only dessert option available at the time. Blondies simply seemed like brownie wannabe's.
And then this recipe came along.
My sister was going on a picnic with some of her friends this past weekend, and I offered to make her something to share with her friends. It obviously needed to be something that was easily portable, and could stay delicious without needing to be refrigerated. A bar cookie or a brownie seemed like a logical choice. Because this decision to bake something for the picnic was a bit last minute, pie bars were out of the question (I had no berries on hand), and brownies were too (I somehow had no chocolate in my kitchen...). I did, however, have everything needed to make my sister's favorite blondie recipe though, so I decided to push my anti-blondie sentiments aside and give them one more shot. My sister assured me that this recipe was really delicious, and when I looked at it, I almost laughed at how simple it was. Almost. There are literally only 6 ingredients in the original recipe, and you only need one bowl. In short, these blondies are the perfect last-minute dessert to make when you have an under-stocked kitchen (or you're out of chocolate). The original recipe called these blondies "infinitely adaptable," so taking that into consideration, I made two changes to the recipe that I think were responsible for my blondie conversion: browned butter and white chocolate chips. Divine.
By now I'm sure I've mentioned my slight obsession for things with browned butter. If not, now you know. I can't get enough of the stuff. Lately, I've been making all kinds of things with brown butter; if I come across a recipe I'd like to try that calls for melted butter as part of its ingredients, then you can be pretty sure I'll brown the butter instead. It's amazing how much a simple extra step can completely change the overall profile of a particular dish, and it's usually for the better. I can't imagine a situation in which a little extra deep, nutty, rich flavor could be a bad thing. For those of you who have yet to brown butter, I promise you that the first time you do it, you'll understand what all the hype is about. That nutty smell that will rise up from your skillet will be all the convincing you need. Just take care that you don't burn the butter by mistake! It'll burn in a matter of a second, so definitely keep a close eye on it.
White chocolate, in the form of chips, is one of my favorite ingredient mix-ins. I'm not too crazy about the taste of white chocolate when it's meant to be the predominant flavor in a recipe, but when white chocolate chips are mixed into a cookie, brownie, or a blondie, then I'm all for them. They add a perfect hint of sweetness that I love, and these blondies were no exception. I started thinking about the blondie in a new light...they're really just bars of chocolate chip cookie dough, minus the chips! I love chocolate chip cookies and cookie dough, and I think comparing the blondie to something that was more similar to it, the chocolate chip cookie, rather than something that it couldn't live up to, the brownie, made all the difference. I loved these blondies. I loved everything about them. The nuttiness of the brown butter and deep flavor of the brown sugar was a perfect combination, and as long as my blondies are now made with brown butter, they definitely can stand a chance against my favorite brownies. Not to mention that these blondies really are "infinitely adaptable," and I can picture myself adding milk chocolate chips, nuts, and even dried fruit to the batter.
These blondies were a hit with my sister's friends and my non-blondie loving family as well. For a bunch of people who supposedly don't like blondies, the blondies I saved for home sure did disappear quickly!
White Chocolate Chip & Brown Butter Blondies
recipe adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white chocolate chips
Begin by positioning an oven rack in the middle of the oven, and preheating the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line an 8x8-inch pan, leaving about a 2-inch overhang of parchment paper on at least two sides.
In a saucepan or skillet, melt the butter, and allow it to cook over medium heat until it begins to brown and smell nutty. Keep an eye on the butter, as it can go from brown to burned in a matter of a second! Once browned, remove the butter from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Once the butter has cooled a bit, add it to a mixing bowl along with the brown sugar. mix together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Mix in the egg and the vanilla extract.
Mix in the salt, followed by the flour, taking care not to overmix. Stir in the white chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the blondies are set in the middle. Allow the blondies to cool on a wire rack before cutting them into squares. Enjoy!
Makes 1 8x8-inch pan, approximately 16 square brownies.