Chocolate chunk blondies bars

I've never been a fan of blondies.  For a long time, I wasn't sure what they were.  When I did finally figure out the whole blondie business and learned that they are basically "blonde" brownies (i.e., without the cocoa or chocolate in the batter itself), I didn't pay much attention because, quite frankly, why would I want a blondie when I could have full-on chocolate brownies instead?
But here I am with a blondie recipe I made because of a picture I saw.  It was blondies from Ina Garten's latest book - studded with big chunks of chocolate and looking infinitely moist and delicious...

And she said something interesting in the header before the recipe.  She said they're just chocolate chunk cookies, only in bar form.  I'd never thought of it that way and it was a little "Ah ha!" moment for me.  Although...not being a blondie expert, I'm not sure if that's a fair blanket statement for blondies in general or if it just applies to this recipe.  Because from what I can tell, most blondie recipes start off with melted butter, mixed with sugar, followed by the usual supporting lineup.  This recipe, however, follows the course of most cookie recipes where you begin by creaming the butter and so on...
If you know Ina Garten, you know she doesn't skimp when it comes to ingredients.  Well, her blondies boost a whooping pound and a quarter of chocolate chunks  (I choose to use a bit more restraint).  She surprised me by suggesting Nestlé's chocolate chunks (literally, a picture of the bag is right there next to the recipe).  Well, if it's good enough for Ina, it's good enough for me!  You can look for other premium brands of chocolate chunks and there's no stopping you from chopping up some gourmet chocolate for your blondies but ready-made chunks are a huge time saver (as well as money-saver in the case of using the Nestlé's) and I really like the distinct look of the dark chunks against the pure blonde batter.  If you chop your own chocolate, you end up with bits and shards of chocolate that, once stirred into the mix, will sort of "muddy" the whole thing (unless you're willing to sift the chocolate bits and dust away and only use the big pieces...).
Ina shared a good tip; she mentioned that blondies tend to dry out (another reason to go for the brownies, in my opinion) but you could keep them moist by storing them in the refrigerator.  I individually wrapped my blondie bars and did just that.  She also mentioned under-baking the blondies a bit, which is what I generally try to do when it comes to brownies and certain cookies I want to keep gooey and moist.  The soft center is definitely my favorite part.
These truly are chocolate chunk cookies in bar form.  I really like bar treats because there's something special and a little retro about them.  So blondies or cookie bars, I figure I'd just call them "blondie bars".  I still prefer brownies over blondies but it really isn't fair to compare the two in this case.  I look at this as just a different way of eating our everyday chocolate chip cookie. 

And sometimes when inspiration strikes, even when it's just a little thing like seeing a picture of something delicious-looking in a book, you just have to go with it...

Baking Notes (and ramblings...)

After a while, you come to realize how similar many recipes are.   There may be a slightly different proportion of ingredients or a small change in techniques to make just a slightly different product.  Just think of how many different brownie recipes there are out there when we're usually talking about a handful of ingredients!

In this case, these blondie bars are just chocolate chunk cookies presented in a different way.  Make the dough like you would for most chocolate chip cookies (i.e, creaming the butter with sugar, etc.) and instead of scooping them into rounds, spread it into a pan and bake.  You'll need the help of a small offset spatula or bread knife since the layer is fairly thin. 

This is like the idea of making a chocolate-chip cookie cake.  You'd press the dough out into a round baking pan or plate and bake it up.  I remember we bought one of those cookie cakes for the little one's 4th birthday party in preschool a few years ago.  It was decorated with a teddy bear using chocolate and blue frosting.  It was a big hit...what's not to like about a good chocolate chip cookie in any form?  It is just the thing sometimes.
The original recipe literally calls for a super generous 1 1/4 pounds of chocolate chunks and 1 1/2 cups of walnuts (that's for double the amount I baked but still!).  That amount of chocolate translates into 3 1/3 cups (that's more than one and a half bags of Nestlé's chocolate chunks)!  I scaled it down, using a rounded cup full of chocolate in my half-recipe.  And as much as I love nuts, I (sadly) omitted the walnuts in this recipe since the little guy doesn't like them.  My husband and I would've preferred the nuts but I'm glad I left it out because the little one really enjoyed these cookie bars.  If you do use nuts, toasting them first really enhances the flavor. 

Adding to the fun and adaptability factor, blondies seem to be a good canvas for all sorts of add-ins, whether it be nuts or different kinds of chip or chunk(milk/white/dark chocolate, toffee, butterscotch, mint, etc), dried fruit and the like.  Just watch the baking time and under-bake them a tad so that they're moist.  I removed my 8-inch pan from the oven by around 19 minutes and I probably could've taken them out a minute earlier.  It's hard to avoid the drier edges but you want a moist, practically gooey center.  A few minutes makes a huge difference so have your cake tester/toothpick ready and check early!  There will be melted chocolate on the tester but the batter shouldn't be wet.

Incidentally, I did wonder whether the dough, like other chocolate chip cookie doughs, could benefit from sitting in the fridge overnight.  That seems to create a slightly better flavor in the baked cookies and is something you could consider doing, particularly if it'd be convenient for you to make the dough in advance...


Recipe:

Chocolate Chunk Blondie Bars
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten*

- For one 8-inch square pan -

* For the most part, I changed the recipe by dividing it in half to bake in an 8-inch square pan and adjusted the baking time.  The original recipe (double the amount here and intended for an 8 1/2 by 12-inch pan) calls for 1 1/4 pounds of chocolate chunks (3 1/3 cups) and 1 1/2 cups of walnuts.  I omitted the walnuts (but it would be wonderful with it if you like nuts in your chocolate chunk cookies) and only used a generous, rounded cup of chocolate chunks for my half recipe.  Also, the recipe tells you to sift the dry ingredients, I just whisk it all together.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 rounded cup of semisweet chocolate chunks, such as Nestlé's
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8-inch square baking pan, line it with a piece of parchment paper leaving about a 2-inch overhang on two sides, and grease the paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Place butter and sugars together in the bowl of a standmixer and cream the ingredients together on high speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.  With the mixer on low, add vanilla then the egg.  Mix well, scraping down the side and bottom of the bowl.  Continuing on low, add the dry ingredients until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chunks and walnuts (if using).

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan, using a small offset spatula or knife.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or just until a toothpick comes out clean (though there will be some melted chocolate on it).  Check early and avoid overbaking! 

Let cool and lift the blondies out of the pan using the parchment overhang.  Slice into bars. 

To keep blondies moist, tightly wrap the bars individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container (or cover tightly with a layer of foil) in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature before eating.





2 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, those look amazing!! I've never made "blondies" either, but I think if I did, I'd eat them all!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks! Believe me, Ina's looked waay better than mine! Moderation can be tough - at least I divided the recipe and made half. ; )

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...