One of the things that my darling wife S finds most amusing about me is that I’m
highly susceptible to suggestion. If I see something in a magazine, book, movie or on television, I feel this ridiculous and inexplicable urge to taste it, buy it or at the very least see it in person. When I was an intern living in Paris back in 1994, I read Banana Yoshimoto’s beautifully-written book Kitchen. In it, one of the main characters has an important revelation while eating the best katsudon he’s ever tasted. After reading that, I went in search of Paris’ best katsudon. Similarly, just recently, I read a review of the slickest looking portable DVD player I had ever seen. Two days later, I had dragged S into Harvey Norman and convinced her to let me buy it.
Last week, S and I went to watch the new Nancy Drew movie (we both have a thing for teen movies). To be honest, the movie was only so-so. But there was one scene in the film that got both S and me really excited. In order to bribe a hospital records keeper, Nancy whips out one of her housekeeper Hannah’s blondies. After just one bite, Nancy had won him over and extracted the information she needed. Heck, looking at that blondie, blown up big on the silver screen, I would have given her anything for a bite of it as well. It looked delicious.
Of course, I couldn’t get blondies out of my head after that movie. S and I combed through our baking books and found two blondie recipes that appealed to us. We chose Sherry Yard’s because she drizzles caramel onto her blondies. And since S had a batch of David Lebovitz’s super-savory and sweet Salted Butter Caramel Sauce, we were all set. Ms Yard’s recipe is pretty basic but very yummy. The one change I would make to it is that I would add a few extra ingredients, maybe some chopped nuts or white chocolate chips. Something to give it a little texture and a little more complexity.
It was really fun making these. Even more eating them. I took a couple with me on a recent flight to Penang (where I am helping a hotel create a new restaurant… but more about that in an upcoming post). Sadly, the meals on Singapore Airlines’ short haul flights have become worse and worse. These days, all one gets is a cardboard boxed tube of something reheated and pretty awful. So, you can imagine how delighted I was to unwrap my homemade blondies and munch on them while watching a particularly amusing episode of How I Met Your Mother (one of my newest favourite shows). The lady two seats over from me, however, was less than pleased. She kept looking at my blondies, then back at her box of inedible swill, then back at my blondies again. If I had brought more than two, I might have offered her one, but I hadn’t, so I didn’t. I hate to admit that I enjoyed eating every last crumb while she jealously watched. Horrible to admit, but it’s the truth.
Adapted from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard
Makes 24 2-inch squares
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup Salted Butter Caramel Sauce (see below)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 175 degrees Celsius). Adjust the rack to the centre of the oven. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line the base with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper.
Triple sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
Using a KitchenAid fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until soft and creamy (about 1 minute). Slowly add the sugars and beat on high speed until fully incorporated and the mixture is light and fluffy (about 10 minutes). Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Add the eggs, one at a time. Be sure each egg is completely incorporated and scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding the next one. Add the corn syrup and vanilla.
Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Poke holes in the surface of the cake with a skewer or fork. Pour the caramel sauce over the cake. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack, then cut into 2-inch squares before serving. We like serving our blondies warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and extra Salted Butter Caramel Sauce drizzled over it.
If wrapped airtight, blondies keep well for 3 days at room temperature or up to 3 weeks in the freezer.
Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Makes 1½ cups (375 millilitres)
85 grams butter, salted or unsalted
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
250 millilitres (1 cup) heavy cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ teaspoons coarse salt (I used vanilla fleur de sel)
Melt the butter in a large, deep heavy-duty saucepan or Dutch oven. Stir in the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar is a deep golden brown and starts to smoke.
Remove from the heat and immediately whisk in half of the cream until smooth (wear an oven mitt since the mixture will steam and splatter, and may bubble up furiously). Stir in the rest of the cream, then the vanilla and salt. If there are any lumps of caramel, whisk the sauce gently over low heat until they’re dissolved. This sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. Rewarm it gently in a microwave or by stirring in a saucepan over very low heat.