My weekend mornings typically consist of either baking up a storm in my kitchen for the blog, or heading to the gym to get my workout done and out of the way, so that I can come home and do some baking. It's been my routine for the past year or so now that I've been living at home from college, and for the most part, it typically works. There are, of course, weekends where I break out of my routine because I have something special planned and I neither bake nor workout, or because I've somehow managed to bake ahead so far in advance that I can give myself a weekend off from my kitchen. Weekends off are nice. I love working for the blog, but every now and then, it's nice to know that I can wake up late and just chill, because my recipes and photos for the upcoming week are already taken care of.
Weekends where I'm off because I've planned ahead don't happen as often as I would like them to, sadly. I try to plan ahead, I really do, but it just doesn't always happen. I keep a little notebook full of random ideas that pop into my head so that I can bake and post them, but the problem is that my little notebook gets a little too full at times. There's too many random ideas, and since I like to keep things seasonal, I typically have more seasonal treat ideas than I can reasonably prepare, photograph, and write about by the time the season ends. For instance, I know that I really need to do a post on apples, because what's more fall-appropriate than an apple? The problem is that I just can't decide which of the ten apple ideas I have written down to actually make. This situation happens more often than I'd like, which usually leaves me having to bake every weekend. I don't mind it, honestly, but this past weekend, I was just not having it. The weather was awful (it was cold and rainy), and I went to bed the night before knowing that the next day would be gray and miserable. I think that made me wake up on Saturday and just want to crawl back into bed and sleep all day, because I consider that the best way to spend a rainy Saturday.
The problem was that I couldn't just sit in bed and do nothing. I had to bake something, because I had exactly ZERO recipes or photographs lined up for this week. Seriously. There was nothing in my "pending photos" folder, and all of my drafts on Blogger had already been published. Rainy day or not, I had to get out of bed and make something. Whatever it was that I made needed to be simple and quick, and if I could somehow tie in a seasonal aspect, it would be an instant win. I consulted that little notebook that's consistently chock full of ideas, and hoped that something would inspire me. Fortunately for me, I managed to scribble in one corner of the pages that blondies with salted caramel and pecans could be delicious. It sounded like a simple enough idea that I could make quickly on that cold, rainy Saturday and then climb back into bed to watch a movie.
Because speediness was an important factor in Saturday's baking, I chose to use a recipe that I already knew and loved for my blondie base. The recipe comes straight from the Smitten Kitchen, and every time I've made it, I've grown to love blondies more and more. They've never been a favorite of mine, since I prefer brownies, but I've been able to make a little space in my heart for blondies. I kinda like them now! These come together in just a few moments with ingredients that you are sure to have in your pantry already. To give them a salted caramel flavor, I went ahead and used some salted caramel squares that I have purchased at Trader Joe's, and they definitely made my life easier. These blondies were loaded with chewy bits of salted caramel, crunchy bites of chopped pecans, and a nutty flavor brought on by some browned butter. These blondies have a a deep flavor that is so tasty, it's impressive that they can be mixed together in just minutes.
There's a reason I love this blondie recipe so much, and it's because it's so adaptable. If you like walnuts better than pecans, by all means, add them in! Or maybe you'd like to see a little chocolate mixed into the batter, something that I might do the next time I make these. However you choose to mix them up, this minimalist blondie recipe is the only one you'll ever need. I loved getting to sink my teeth into these chewy little bar cookies. There were so many interesting flavors and textures going on at once, and the fact that I was able to bake up my blondies in an instant, meant that I was able to get back to enjoying my lazy and rainy Saturday. The blondies are dense, rich, chewy, and can be mixed together in just one bowl. The salted caramel and pecans bring these "infinitely adaptable" blondies back to fall, and they're the perfect thing to bake up on a rainy day. Enjoy!
Salted Caramel and Pecan Blondies
recipe adapted 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
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
10 salted caramel squares, unwrapped and cut into small pieces
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. Stir in the egg and the vanilla extract.
Mix in the salt, followed by the flour, taking care not to overmix. Stir in the chopped pecans and caramel squares.
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 16 blondies