Pretty F*#%in’ Good Blondies

Blondies, Brownies, Perfect Sheet Pan Recipe, Bake Sale Ideas, Robert Deutsch Bakes
You can’t eat just one of these incredible blondies. Don’t test yourself, you’ll lose.

If you’re going to strap on an apron and call yourself a baker so you can churn out highfalutin’ stuff, go ahead.  But you better be able to sing the hits, too, because the number of times a family baker has the time to make croissants or gets requests for baked Alaska are pretty small.  Instead, there are common calls for “what can you bake for the bake sale tomorrow?” or “do we have stuff for rice krispy treats?”   I have found that having a few major winners up my sleeve is crucial— chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake and being able to whip up a quick pan of brownies is the key to a happy life in front of the stove and the flour-pot.

For a long time, despite their popularity, I derided blondies as color-challenged brownies that try to make up for their lack of chocolate by adding all kinds of stuff that doesn’t belong (nuts, flavored chips, etc.). But a few blondies in my life changed all that, and now I have a recipe of my own up my sleeve.  It’s really the America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated recipe– which has been repeated ad infinitum throughout the Internwebz measure for measure, but as usual, I added a few twists: coconut, cocoa powder and more salt.

Two caveats: One, I do not toast the nuts, as the original recipe instructed me to do.  I found repeatedly that toasted nuts taste great in salads, but not in baked goods– ESPECIALLY if you don’t have the time to let them cool down.  Unless you grow your own or buy them raw, the regular chopped nuts are fine.

Two, the recipes specifies 22-25 minutes of baking time but does not indicate that you when you take them out, they’ll be a gooey mess almost inedible due to lack of form and intensely hot temperature.    You have to let them cool and set, and when they do, they are so worth it. But patience is a difficult virtue to master.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus 1/8th tsp)
  • 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2  tablepoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
  • ~1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate shavings (Mine, from a Callebaut bar)
  • ~1 cup pecans,  coarsely chopped

Directions

  1. Set your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13×9-inch baking pan parchment or foil and coat with cooking spray.
  2. Combine and whisk the dry ingredients:  flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In your stand-mixer or another bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar together until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients (including the chocolate chips, nuts, coconut) into the egg mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.
  5. Blondie recipes insist you should “Bake until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch,” but I found that to be a non-working standard.  My blondies had a matte finish, and I sent them back in for another 10 minutes.   Nothing it seems, can hurt these blondies (EXCEPT FOR OVERMIXING), so cook them for 22 to 25 minutes. Then, let them cool completely for about an hour, if you can. Cut into bars, making sure you give yourself the first one.

 

Blondie Recipe from Cook's Illustrated,  Chocolate Chips, Perfect Blondie Recipe, Bake Sale Idea, Sheet Pan Cakes
Blondies don’t get respect but they’re worth it.

Need a Recipe for National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day? Here’s One!

chocolate_chip_cookies
Incredibly yummy home-made chocolate chip cookies

PULL UP A CHAIR, this will take a while. Chocolate chip cookies to me are like coffee.  They are so simple that they’ve been made for hundreds of years, and yet, like coffee, the methods to make, the final product, and their essence and qualities are the subject of endless debate.   Do you like your chocolate chip cookies thick and chewy or thin and crispy? Thick and crispy?   Do you like super-sweet, milk-chocolate chips or the more traditional semi-sweet?  Big or little?  How about the cookie dough?  That used to my favorite thing until I wised up, and quit eating it from the roll AND started to make it myself.  For about 7 years, I have engaged in the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.   And I have concluded one thing, categorically: it does not exist.  It is like finding the perfect cup of coffee.   For everyone, from the cup to the temperature, from what goes in it to the surrounds in which it is consumed, it is different for everyone.

That being said, the Nestle Toll House Recipe that’s on the back of the Nestle chips bag (I use Ghiradelli) is totally solid, and will produce very eatable cookies.  There are some tricks I learned that are valuable, such as using salt, using more vanilla, the amount of brown sugar vs. white sugar and whether you melt the butter or chill the cookies. In my years, I have come up with a few guidelines that I keep in mind for anytime I step up to the Kitchenaid.

  1. I will not use chunks.  If you want to eat chunks of chocolate go ahead, the chips are the perfect size for just the right amount of chocolate-cookie ratio.  The chunks are too much for me, and overwhelm the experience.
  2. “Extras.”Don’t even ask me about SHANDAS like including m&ms, peanut butter chips or butterscotch chips or especially WALNUTS. Those things have their place, but not in my chocolate chip cookies. Really, don’t ask.  I’ll delete your email and block you forever. Or maybe I won’t do those things but you’ll be on my list.
  3. Heavy pour the sugar and the vanilla.  These ingredients are the foundations of the cookie, and I think keeping strictly to the amounts called for in the recipe is for bean-counters. Lay it on!  (Same goes for butter).
  4. Combinations are good and encouraged! (Except where #2 is concerned).  Use cake flour and/or bread flour and definitely use brown and white sugar. Sometimes I will throw a few milk chocolate chips or even darker chips in with the semi-sweets.
  5. Salt is a must!  Nothing brings out the flavor of the chocolate like salt.  I am a believer.  But you can overdo it. It has to be enough to tickle the savory taste buds, but not so much that someone can easily recognize it. I generally use a heavy teaspoon of kosher salt.  Some people like to add sea salt on top at the end, but I think that’s overkill.
  6. Refrigerate your cookie dough and Use balls instead of slices. Much to my chagrin, I have found that this helps with the baking of uniform cookies that don’t spread too much and keep their chewy texture.

You can and must go to Cook’s Illustrated (and pay) so you can study their masterpiece, “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies” which is required reading if you are going to make manifest your serious quest for chocolate cookies.   You should know the science of making chocolate chip cookies, even though the truth is that a poorly constructed, fresh-from the oven chocolate chip cookie will be hungrily gobbled up no matter what.

I use The Cook’s Illustrated recipe as a base here, but with a few modifications. They suggest mixing and stopping but I don’t do that because I don’t have the patience.   Almost always, cookies are the answer to an urgent need, not a well-in-advance need, like bread, so my goal is to get them into the oven as fast as I can.  Sometimes I don’t chill the dough.   That’s life.

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick is 8 tablespoons).(Melted and cooled)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • At least 1 and 1/4 cups of chocolate chips, I like Ghiradelli semi-sweet.
    (Add 1-2 tablespoons of light corn syrup for a crispier cookie).
  1. Melt the butter, set aside to cool.
  2. Cream sugars, and vanilla and eggs. Add butter (when cool).
  3. Mix dry ingredients well, and include the chips.
  4. Mix everything together but DON’T OVER MIX.
  5. Wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. Heat your oven 350 degrees. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Make balls and place on tray.
  7. Bake cookies for at least 10 minutes, and maybe up to 14.   Unless your mouth is immune to heat, let the cookies cool for at least 5 minutes so they retain a form you can pick up.  Eat them.  Love them.
  8. Celebrate.