BlondiesRaising the Bar
Bar cookies are a wonderful thing. They can be simple. They can be complicated. No matter what version you go with, you can count on one thing—they will be popular.

Bar cookies are so popular because they are relatively easy to make. For the most part, you mix up a batch, put them in a 13 x 9-inch pan, and wait. Best of all, they travel well. This is why you will find a bar cookie at just about any school function, sports tournament, or potluck.

The hardest part is deciding which recipe to make. During the holidays I make a Five-Layer Bar that is deadly, and I usually follow that up with some pecan bars. When I am in the mood for something with a little fruit, there are lemon bars, raspberry bars, or apple pie bars. But, if I am being honest, my everyday go-to bar cookie is a blondie.

There have been heated debates about which is better the brownie or the blondie. The reality is, there is no right answer. For me, while I love the brownie, there is something about the buttery flavor of a blondie that is undeniable.

This recipe is my go-to when I have that blondie craving or just need a little pick me up.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated and Food 52
Yields about 36 cookies

The generous amount of real vanilla extract in this recipe is what makes them so delicious. So, don’t be shy! Also, these are better slightly under-baked rather than over-baked.

1 cup pecans or walnuts (4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks), melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces white chocolate chips (1 cup) or chopped white chocolate bar*

*For a variation, you can substitute mini semi-sweet chocolate chips for the white chocolate.

Toast the nuts
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat your oven to 350° F. Spread the nuts on a large-rimmed baking sheet and bake until they are a deep golden brown (about 10 to 15 minutes). Immediately transfer nuts to cutting board to stop cooking and cool. Chop the nuts coarsely and set them aside.

Line the pan
While the nuts toast, line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with foil, pushing it into the corners. Leave a couple of inches of foil overhanging the sides of the pan to help you lift the blondies when they are done. Note that you may need to run a sheet of foil in each direction in order to get the overhang.

Grease a foil-lined pan with butter or oil.

Make the batter
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set it aside.

Whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until it is just combined. Do not over-mix. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts. Turn the batter into the prepared baking pan. Smooth over the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake the blondies
Bake the blondies until the top is shiny, cracked, and light golden brown (about 22 to 25 minutes). Do not over-bake the blondies.

Cool the blondies
Cool the blondies on a wire rack until they reach room temperature. Remove bars from the pan by lifting the foil overhang. Transfer the bars to a cutting board.

To serve
Cut the blondies into 2-inch squares and serve.


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