Blondies and I have had a sordid relationship over the years. I had always considered them to be the overly sweet cousin of the sensual, decadent brownie. Kind of bland, packed with white chocolate and way too much sugar, devoid of any real flavor or happiness. It wasn’t until I started to look at blondies at the gorgeous blank canvas that they are that their potential totally jumped out at me. For this oversight, blondies, I am truly sorry. I look forward to years of making this up to you by infusing you with fun and different spice blends that change with the seasons. I look forward to getting to know you as I haven’t before.
So, what is a blondie? The way I like to think of them is that they are the connective tissue between chocolate chips in a chocolate chip cookie, but a really doughy, fudgey, not totally baked all the way through chocolate chip cookie. Blondies and cookie bars are essentially comprised of the same things, but for some reason when cut in to a square as opposed to a strip, it is considered a blondie and not a cookie bar. Ahh, the mysteries of baking. It is thought by food historians - who truly have the best job ever - that blondies were actually the original brownie, developed in the late 19th century. It wasn’t until the 20th century that chocolate was added and the world was like “yeah, that was the right call”. So perhaps overly sweet cousin was the wrong familial term, maybe it’s more like the overly sweet and quirky aunt whom you absolutely love to visit and who helped shape you into they amazing person that you are today.
Personally for me, I don’t like overly sweet baked goods, which is why I have been so resistant to the blondie for so many years. But, by adjusting the amount and type of sugar we are using, and by building a compound butter base with some really delicious and fun flavors, we can take some control back over these sometimes sacred snack.
For this batch, I made a compound butter out of some of my favorite spices; cardamon, star anise, and orange zest. Cardamom has sky rocketed in to my top five spices of the moment. They have a beautiful citrus, minty, herbal, lemony - which I realize is a citrus but smelling it the lemon really comes through - thing going on and I am V in to it. If you have ever enjoyed a chai tea, you have for sure tasted cardamom before, but you might not have known it. I will throw a couple of crushed pods in to my french press in the mornings, or even soak them in some soy milk to keep in the fridge, which is just the most delicious in iced or hot coffee, over cereal, just to drink by itself. Star anise has that wonderful licorice situation going on. While I’m not the biggest fan of black licorice, I am V in to star anise.
I went the route of whole pods for the spices this go around because they were available at the market and I like to use the whole pod when I can. There is no shame in using ground spices at all, if it is all you have at your disposal, that is so ok. If you can get your hands on the whole spice, give it a try, no pressure either way, you’re a rockstar and killing the game and I love and respect you.
I toasted the pistachios for maybe five minutes over low heat, only until the color deepened slightly. Any longer and the nuts become super bitter and chewy.
Next I made compound butter. I LIVE for a compound butter. Butter is such a vital ingredient in baking and can be morphed and shaped in to so many incredible flavors just by spending a little time with it and showing it some love. A compound butter by nature is a butter that has essentially been marinated with spices/herbs/flavors to enhance whatever it is going on. If you have ever ben at a steak house and had a garlic butter melting over your filet, or if you’ve enjoyed some salmon with a dill butter situation, or if you’ve been out to brunch and spread that delicious strawberry butter over a steaming plate of delicious, fluffy, beautiful, tender hot cakes - side bar I am STARVING right now, so apologies for the gratuitous pancake moment there - those have all been compound butters. This technique works well with vegan butter and regular dairy butter alike, I used regular dairy butter this time. Because we are using whole cardamon pods, I sliced them in half and gave them a good crush with the flat side of my knife. I wouldn’t recommend trying to crush the whole star anise because it tends to shatter and it will be easier to take the whole star out of the butter rather than fishing for the tiny shards of the hull.
In a large skillet over the lowest heat imaginable, you are going to want to add in your butter, crushed cardamon pods, star anise, and the zest from one orange.
When I say low heat, I mean so low that you are like, is this even melting? To get the butter this melted took maybe two minutes. Low and slow is your friend for this process. The longer the butter and the spices can blend and the flavors can get so happy together. I let mine go for probably an hour and a half. Keep an eye on it, you don’t want it to boil so if you see that happening or if there are any really dark brown spots forming at the bottom of the pan, remove the pan from the heat and let it settle for a bit. Stir occasionally, really breaking down the cardamom pods to release the seeds inside.
After the butter blend had been going for about 90 minutes, I took it off of the heat and popped it in to a bowl and covered it with cling film to leave on the counter over night, letting those flavors get happier and happier. The next day, I returned the butter to the pan just to bring it to melted and picked the husks of the cardamom pods as well as the star anise out. You will be left with a mixture looking like this.
Now we are ready to build the blondies!! The base of this batter is pretty wet because we are using melted butter, when we cream the sugar with the butter it isn’t going to get as fluffy and light as it can when the butter is room temperature and soft. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugars and add the melted butter to it, blending it together until there is no melted butter left at the bottom of the bowl, then add the eggs, the yolk, and the vanilla. The mixture will be wet but cohesive, that is when we are ready to sift in our dry ingredients and give it a few good folds.
Before all of the flour has been added and there are still streaks of the flour present in the batter, you are going to add half of your raspberries and half of your pistachios. This will help them to blend in to the batter before everything becomes too thick. Again, we used Pamela’s gluten free flour, because she holds my heart forever and always. I love you, Pamela.
Now we are going to want to blend that thoroughly until there are no streaks of flour left in the batter. Pour the batter in to a prepared baking pan, spreading it out evenly and then top with the remaining raspberries and pistachios.
These pups are going to bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted in to the middle/thickest part comes out clean. The nature of blondies lends them to being very fudgey and because of the high butter content, it is going to look like they might not actually be done. If you insert that toothpick and it comes out clean, trust the toothpick and take them out. An overcooked blondie is a sad blondie. Don’t make a sad blondie. Because then it will be sad. And you will too. Only happy blondies today and every day please and thank you.
Once they have cooled thoroughly, slice them in to whatever shape your heart desired. I went with the classic square, but feel free to go nuts, and then share them with your favorite people. My family happened to stop over right as these were coming out of the oven - perfect timing, amiright - and I had a spot of coffee with my wonderful mama.
Thank you for taking this journey with me as I rediscover slash learn to love the blessed treat that is the blondie. I cannot wait to explore this canvas further and come up with more funky flavor variations. Please enjoy this recipe and as always, if you make them, tag me at @bakewithbo, I can’t wait to see how they turn out and how you make them your own!
Until next time, friends. Stay hungry!!!
Atomic Spiced Blondies
Prep Time : 20 Minutes Plus 1 Day Cook Time : 25-30 Minutes
You Will Need :
1 cup butter melted
25 cardamom pods, sliced in half
6 star anise pods
Zest from 3 oranges
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups gluten free flour - Like Pamela’s - hey girl hey
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup pistachios, toasted
1 pint fresh raspberries, about 1 cup
The Process :
Combine butter, sliced cardamom pods, star anise, and zest from 1 orange in a large pan. Simmer over very low heat for a while. Like, an hour or longer, stirring occasionally. Once butter is fragrant with spices, transfer to a bowl and let cool on the counter overnight. Once butter is fully infused, return to the stove and melt down to remove the large cases of the cardamom husks as well as the star anise pods. If you are using ground cardamom and anise, you don’t need to worry about pulling the husks of the seeds out.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Cream together melted butter - with no hard seeds left - with both sugars in a large bowl. Stir until the color lightens a bit and there is no melted butter left in the bowl. Add in eggs, yolk, and vanilla and stir until well combined.
Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and then add gradually in to creamed sugar mixture. Fold in 1/2 cup each of pistachios and raspberries in to the batter.
Spread batter in to 9x13” pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of pistachios and raspberries evenly on the top of the blondies, then place in the oven.
Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part comes out clean.
Let blondies cool completely before slicing in to squares/preferred shape then go crazy on them.