Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Blonde ambition

Did everyone have a good Super Bowl Sunday? What is it about that game that makes even people who aren't football fans want to party down?

We had a few friends over, and made some tasty nibbles. Buffalo chicken wings, of course - and sesame-soy-glazed wings, for variety. A salad with celery and tart apples, some chips and guacamole - great food for noshing in front of the TV.

For dessert I tried something new - Blondies. Blondies are basically brownies without chocolate, and they're just as easy to make. A rich, buttery batter made with brown sugar, they bake up into dense bars. The recipe I used called for browning the butter, which lends an even richer depth of flavor.

But these had a specially delicious topping, of caramel studded with chopped peanuts and salty pretzels.

I got the recipe from Epicurious, but made a few adjustments of my own.

Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

For the Blondies:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teapsoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
For the Topping:
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted unsalted peanuts - or an amount you want
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups 1 1/2"-wide thin twisted pretzels, coarsely crushed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Using parchment paper, line a 9" x 13" baking pan so that the paper extends up the short sides of the pan about two inches  - This is pretty important, so if you don't have parchment paper, go get some. I'm not sure this would work with foil. I actually cut my paper so that it folded up about a 1/2 inch on the long sides as well.

Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and set aside. Melt the butter in a skillet, until brown bits form on the bottom of the pan - it takes about 7 minutes, and you're looking for a nice nutty medium brown color. Take it off the heat and let it cool some, pouring it in a mixing bowl.

Add the brown sugar to the butter and combine, until it looks like wet sand. Add eggs and vanilla beat until smooth, and then gradually add the flour mixture - I used my electric mixer and it was easy, but you could do it by hand.

The resulting batter will be thick. Spread it into the prepared pan, using a spatula. You may not be able to cover the entire pan, but keep it on the paper, and try to keep it an even thickness.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges and a skewer stuck in the center comes out with moist crumbs. Let cool in the pan. Don't cut them up yet!

Make the topping -

While the blondies are baking, put the peanuts in a shallow pan and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Combine the sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a sauce pan and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil without stirring, occasionally swirling the pan and brushing down the sugar crystals that form on the sides with a moistened pastry brush, until the syrup is a deep amber color - the recipe said this should take 15 minutes, but in my experience it took about 30 minutes. Perhaps I was too cautious of the heat. What you're doing here is caramelizing the sugar.

Add the honey, boil for another minute or two, then add the butter and add the cream. At this point, you will be stirring it. When you add the cream it will bubble up ferociously, but just stir it smooth and remove it from the heat. Stir in the peanuts and pretzels and quickly pour it over the pan of blondies.

Cool them, in the fridge if possible, for 30 minutes.

Lift the entire mass from the pan using the paper, and put on a cutting board. Slice into bars.You can make these in a day or two in advance and seal them in an airtight container.

And that's all you need to do! You can vary the topping ingredients if you like - chopped pecans might be a nice addition. Perhaps some other salty treat like Chex cereals, crispy won-tons, or fried chow mein noodles might work, too.

These go a long way, since they're so rich and dense, but you'll enjoy the salty-sweet goodness!


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Sorry I missed your party, Aunt Snow.

Looks like it was a good one.

Anonymous said...

You're killing me here. Those look fabulous!