Saturday, November 7, 2009

Brown Butter Blondies

I seem to gravitate towards baking bar cookies in the Fall. For some reason I tend to make more comfort food during the Fall season, and the rough-edged, rustic look and flavor of a bar cookie is the perfect sweet ending to a savory home-cooked meal like a pot roast and mashed potatoes.

To me, the ultimate bar cookie is definitely a brownie – fudgy or otherwise. I enjoy them so much that I definitely make those year around. But at certain times of the year – Fall especially – I start craving blondies: brownies without the chocolate.

Yes, it may seem wrong to remove the chocolate from a brownie, but believe me, one taste of these slightly-savory-yet-sweet blondies, and you’ll be hooked. I have a batch in the oven right now, and the smell is simply heavenly. I browned the butter and toasted the walnuts before mixing the batter, and the butter and nuts baking up with the salted brown sugar batter smells amazing.

Speaking of nuts – I think the amount of nuts in this recipe is perfect. I’m not a huge nuts-in-my-brownies fan, though. (In a regular brownie recipe, I usually just omit them altogether.) But the quarter cup of nuts in this recipe is just enough to provide a great walnutty flavor, plus a little crunch and texture, without being overly chunky. If you’re not a big fan of nuts, I encourage you to leave them in anyway – just chop them on the smaller side. (By the way, any extra nuts from a partially-used bag will stay fresh much longer if you freeze them!)

The browned butter and dark brown sugar makes a beautiful dark golden-colored blondie. In fact, its so deeply colored for a blondie, it almost looks like a light-colored brownie. Don’t be confused by the pictures shown here – I promise there’s no chocolate present in that pan!

Brown Butter Blondies
Makes 16 two-inch bar cookies

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8” square baking pan.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring often, until the butter is foamy and the solids are beginning to brown. Use caution during this step – it takes awhile for the butter to begin to brown, but once it starts changing color, it goes from beautifully browned to burnt in what seems like point-six seconds. As soon as the butter solids have started to brown (the foam will stay light colored), remove it from the heat and pour it into a medium mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium-high heat, toast the nuts until they become lightly browned, shaking or stirring the pan frequently to prevent burnt spots. Turn the nuts out onto a small cutting board and chop the biggest pieces to create uniform pea-sized nuts. Set the nuts aside.

Add the brown sugar to the browned butter; mix to combine. Add the egg and vanilla and mix it until it is incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix it until it is nearly combined – white streaks of flour should remain. The dough will seem overly dry. Add the chopped toasted nuts and mix them in until the remaining flour streaks are incorporated and the nuts are evenly distributed. The batter is very crumbly – much more like cookie dough than like a liquidy batter.

Scrape the batter into the greased pan and use your fingers to pat it into the corners of the pan, distributing the batter as evenly as possible.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 20-22 minutes or until the blondies are golden brown. Let them cool on a rack, then cut them into two-inch squares.


  1. Would it be an oxymoron to replace the nuts with chocolate chips; coconut or dried tart cherries. I'd eat the whole thing just like it is but I hate picking nuts out of my, er... your beautiful brown butter blondies. I agree though about blondies rather than brownies in the fall. I make them with coconut and pecans for the family but don't eat them because, yeah, I've got to pick out the nuts. Silly, aren't I?

  2. @laurelvb: I think it would be delicious with any of the things you have suggested! Actually, I was *thisclose* to adding chocolate chips to today's batch...I bet they would have tasted great. (I'm not a big fan of nuts either, so I just cut them up into smaller pieces and they're less noticable...but then I still have the toasted walnut flavor in the blondies.)

  3. I guess sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don't. Is that corny enough? I don't actually dislike the flavor of nuts it's, well, I don't like the flavor of any nut unless it's a macadamia enrobed in dark chocolate from Hawaii and now you and everyone knows the truth. Actually I've got a great big can of ghee in my pantry and have been wondering if I should open it up and try some of these browned butter recipes with them or if it's the milk solids that make the blondies extra special. What do you think?

  4. I loooove brown's like this magical flavor that gives a whole new dimension to baked goods. These blondies sound awesome.

  5. Wow! I love the delicate nutty flavour of browned butter but I never thought of incorporating it into a blondie/bar. These look amazing. :)

  6. @laurelvb: Yum - macadamia & chocolate! Ghee would probably make a delicious blondie. Without the milk solids, it wouldn't brown up the same way regular butter would, but I bet the finished blondie would still taste pretty good.

  7. Love the idea of brown butter here. It adds so much nutty flavor to buttery dishes. I could easily forgo the chocolate here too!