Well, it’s official–as of earlier this week, I’ve finally thrown off the sugar-free shackles of Whole30 and returned to the world of baking freedom! Now, I have to confess, I’m technically a Whole30 failure, having quit a day early so that I could properly and thoroughly enjoy my meal at Bazaar Mar while I was in Miami this week. I realize that in the eyes of the Whole30 elite, this makes me a terrible person. But I mean, some rules were made to be broken, right? And I certainly wasn’t about to watch my companions enjoy a panoply of Jose Andres-crafted delights while I sorrowfully sipped my water and halfheartedly pushed leaves of lettuce around my plate (which is not to say that a salad there wouldn’t have been spectacular–just that it wouldn’t have given me the full experience). So, though I may one day burn in a special hell reserved for those Whole30-ers who quit on Day 29, I regret nothing.
Anyway, on to the baking! In a rather unsurprising twist, this recipe happens to be another gem from Martha’s Cookies cookbook, though I’ve subbed in pecans for walnuts because I just like them better. These rich, buttery, toffee-y blondies are both a favorite of mine and one of the most requested recipes I make. I advise you not to pay too much attention to the ungodly amount of butter and sugar that goes into them, as just thinking about it might cause some coronary distress. But as with many things in baking, all that unhealthyness is directly proportional to the deliciousness of the finished product. And as long as you force yourself to share (which, admittedly, requires a Herculean effort), you probably won’t suffer any lasting damage.
Although the recipe calls for toffee bits and I usually use them, but I have been forced to forego the toffee bits once when for some reason every single grocery store within a five-mile radius of my apartment was inexplicably out of them for a few weeks last fall, and I found that the blondies came out just as delicious and toffee-flavored. Do make sure though, that if you are using the toffee, you buy the straight up toffee bits, rather than the Heath Bar pieces that still have the chocolate coating on them. It’s a negligible amount of chocolate, and in the grand scheme of things, probably wouldn’t alter the flavor profile of the blondies all that much, but I think it’s worth being a toffee purist in this situation.
- 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup toffee bits
- Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9 x 13 in. baking pan and line with parchment, leaving some overhang on the sides to make it easier to lift the blondies out later on. Butter the parchment and set aside.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook until it turns golden brown and has a sort of nutty smell. Keep an eye on the butter to make sure it doesn’t burn too much–you’ll almost certainly end up with a bit of burnt sediment on the bottom of the pan, which is fine, but you don’t want to overdo it. It’s a bit like the difference between a well-caramelized crust on a creme brulee and one that somebody held a torch to just a touch too long.
- Once the butter is appropriately browned, remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool a few minutes. In the mean time, place the two sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer (or just in a big mixing bowl if you’re hand mixing), and whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl (or just measure them out for easy adding once you start mixing).
- Add the slightly cooled browned butter to the sugars, being careful to leave the burned sediment at the bottom of the pan (to the extent possible). Mix to combine, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. I like to leave the mixer on low while adding the eggs, just because I think that decreases the risk that the eggs will accidentally get cooked if you’ve been too impatient to let the butter cool as much as it ought to before starting the mixing process.
- Add the dry ingredients, mixing to combine and scraping down the sides as needed, then mix in the pecans and toffee bits.
- Pour/scoop the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake about 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack and let cool. Martha says to let them cool completely before taking the blondies out and cutting, but if you’re like me, you’ll want one while they’re still somewhat warm. I find that letting them cool for about an hour is usually long enough to ensure that they won’t fall apart when you lift them out of the pan for cutting and consumption.
Pro tip: These blondies are absolutely fabulous on their own, but if you really want to kick up the decadence level, top a blondie with a scoop or two of coffee ice cream and a generous drizzle of Smitten Kitchen’s ridiculously easy butterscotch sauce.