Salted Brown Butter Birthday Blondies

My daughter is a blondie girl. ❤ We enjoyed these amazing no-frills blondies as part of her 15th birthday celebration this year.

The original recipe is titled Caramel Canvas Blondies in Midwest Made: Big Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever, one of my favorite books. Sever comments that they are known by many other names such as Butterscotch Bars or Toffee Bars in Midwest community cookbooks.

The salted caramel-esque base could easily accommodate any add-in but my birthday girl requested this minimalist version. 🙂 Classic, crowd-pleasing deliciousness.

Yield: about 2 dozen bars

  • non-stick cooking spray, for pan
  • 384g (3 cups, spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 480g (2 cups plus 2 T, firmly packed) light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, fridge cold
  • 1 large (20g) egg yolk, fridge cold
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups or 339g) unsalted butter, browned and cooled
  • 2 to 3 cups (about 300 to 450g) chocolate chips, nuts, candy bits, or other mix-ins, optional
  1. Make the Brown Butter: Place the butter in a light-colored pan over medium heat. Cook until foaming, amber in color, and until the milk-solids brown and separate, about 5 to 7 minutes. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to a heat-proof bowl to cool.
  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 325 F (170 C), preferably on convection.
  3. Spray a 9×13-inch (23×33 cm) metal baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 opposite sides. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and flaky and fine salt.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla until lighter in color and texture, about 1 minute.
  6. Whisk in the cooled browned butter.
  7. Fold in the flour mixture just until no dry floury streaks remain.
  8. Fold in mix-ins, if using. Stir until just combined.
  9. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and use and offset spatula to smooth the top.
  10. Bake until the blondies are fragrant and golden, with a slightly glossy surface and a raised, wrinkled perimeter beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes in a convection oven or up to 40 minutes in a standard oven.
  11. Let cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.
  12. Using the parchment paper, lift the blondies out of the pan to transfer to a cutting board. Cut into bars of desired size.

Note: Store blondies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Salted Caramel Apple Cookies

Wow. These cookies may be my new favorite autumn dessert. I knew that we would love them when they were described as if “a caramel apple and a snickerdoodle got together and created some seriously delicious magic.” 🙂

This recipe is from Bon Appétit, contributed by Kelly Janke. I used Kanzi apples. Apparently, any type of apple will work in these cookies.

The original recipe stresses the importance of cooking the apple caramel to the proper consistency. It was a little tricky, but the instructions were very helpful. All of the liquid from the apples is cooked down until it has evaporated, leaving behind a “tacky and pliable” caramel. This wonderful caramel is folded into the cookie dough to create swirls in the finished cookies- fabulous.

Yield: Makes 25 cookies

For the Apple Caramel:

  • 3 medium apples (about 1 1/2 lbs total), peeled, cored (I used 3 (1 lb 6 oz total) Kanzi apples)
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 T chilled unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (I used freshly ground cardamom, sifted)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

For the Dough & Assembly:

  • 3 1/2 cups (438 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup, packed (100 g) dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)

To Make the Apple Caramel:

  1. In a food processor with the grater attachment, coarsely grate apples (or use large holes of a box grater).
  2. Transfer grated apples to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze over a medium bowl to extract all the juice possible. (I just squeezed the grated apples with my clean hands!)
  3. Measure out 1/4 cup (4 T) apple juice and set aside (save any leftover apple juice for another use).
  4. Set grated apples aside (you should have about 2 1/2 cups).
  5. Bring sugar, cream of tartar, and reserved 1/4 cup (4 T) apple juice to a rapid boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring just to dissolve sugar. Cook, without stirring but swirling pan often, until bubbles slow and caramel turns a deep amber color, 5–7 minutes.
  6. Remove caramel from heat and stir in butter, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
  7. Set pan over medium-low heat and add reserved grated apples, stirring quickly to combine (don’t worry if the caramel mixture looks like it’s seizing at first). Cook apple caramel, stirring constantly, until it’s noticeably stickier, the liquid has evaporated, and it almost forms a ball as you stir, 10–14 minutes. (Don’t be tempted to continue cooking- if the caramel becomes too dry it will be more of a fruit leather when it cools.)
  8. Scrape apple caramel onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread out in an even layer. Let cool, at least 30 minutes.
  9. Set 1/4 cup apple caramel aside for topping cookies.

To Make the Dough, Assemble, & Bake:

  1. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 375°. (I used the true convection setting.)
  2. Whisk flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a medium bowl to combine.
  3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, starting on low speed, then increasing speed to medium, until combined, about 2 minutes total.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating thoroughly before adding the next, then add vanilla.
  5. Reduce speed to low; add dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
  6. Add apple caramel and pulse mixer two or three times to swirl caramel throughout dough or fold in caramel using a sturdy rubber spatula (take care not to overmix or else you’ll lose the swirled caramel effect as the cookies bake).
  7. Using a 3 T (#20) cookie scoop portion out 16 balls and divide between 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing at least 2″ apart (you will have dough left over for a 2nd batch).
  8. Top each cookie with a few small pieces of reserved apple caramel and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
  9. Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until golden brown at the edges, 12 to 16 minutes.
  10. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on baking sheets then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  11. On cool cookie sheets, repeat process with remaining dough to make 8 (or 9) more cookies.

Do ahead: Cookies can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature. (True! Still delicious the next day.)

Ravneet Gill’s Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have one more sweet treat to share. I could not resist a new chocolate chip cookie recipe claiming to be perfect and the best. When split in half, these cookies were described as having a “wet-sand crumb surrounding a glossy pull of viscous molten chocolate.” Wow.

It is very rare that I follow a recipe to a “t,” but I did exactly that in this case. The NYT article explains that the reason these cookies are exceptional is the meticulous attention to detail in the recipe. I did use granulated sugar instead of superfine. 😉 The original recipe controversially omits vanilla extract. We didn’t notice! They were absolutely FABULOUS.

The recipe was adapted from The Pastry Chef’s Guide by British pastry chef Ravneet Gill, via the New York Times, contributed by Charlotte Druckman. I used chopped 71% cacao Valrhona chocolate.

Yield: 14 to 15 cookies

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/140 grams unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), softened
  • Scant 3/4 cup/140 grams dark brown sugar
  • cup/110 grams superfine sugar (I used granulated sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons/250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt (or kosher salt)
  • 6 ounces/170 grams dark (bittersweet) chocolate, chopped into large chunks (I used 71% cacao Valrhona)
  1. Put the butter and both sugars in a stand mixer or mixing bowl. Cream together using a paddle attachment on medium speed, a handheld electric whisk or a wooden spoon for 1 to 2 minutes until paler but not fluffy. (Do not mix for too long; if you beat the mixture until super light and fluffy, that will cause the cookie to deflate later when cooking.)
  2. Add the egg and beat over medium speed until evenly combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (all the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt), then fold into the butter mixture using a rubber spatula until combined.
  4. Add the chopped chocolate and fold into the dough until evenly distributed.
  5. Immediately scoop out heaping 1/4-cup portions (about 60 grams), roll into balls and place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 12 hours. (If space is tight, you can condense them on one sheet before refrigerating then redistribute among two sheets before baking.)(I used one sheet.)
  6. The next day, heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  7. Make sure the dough balls are evenly spaced out among 2 baking sheets, as they will spread. ( I placed 5 cookies per sheet on 3 baking sheets.)
  8. Bake the cookies for 13 minutes (or 15 minutes if baking from frozen), until the cookies are puffed and golden at the edges. You want the middle to be ever so slightly not-quite set.
  9. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet; they will continue firming up as they cool. Once cooled, eat!

Note: These cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The balls of dough will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge or 2 weeks in the freezer.

After-School Specials

After making the amazing Donut Loaf from this special book, I had to try a cookie. My husband picked this cookie which is a chocolate chip, oatmeal, and snickerdoodle cookie “rolled into one recipe.” Each flavor was distinct! They were definitely a crowd-pleaser.

This recipe was adapted from Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever. I weighed the dry ingredients, used semi-sweet chocolate chips, scooped the cookie dough prior to refrigerating, and modified the baking time.

By keeping the cold (pre-scooped) dough tightly wrapped in the refrigerator and baking the cookies in small batches just prior to serving, we ate them warm from the oven every time. Despite the title, I served them after-dinner instead of after-school. 😉 Great!

Yield: about 40 cookies

For the Dough:

  • 225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 300g (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 57g (1/4 cup) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 250g (2 1/2 cups) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 256g (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, weighed or spooned and leveled
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda, sifted
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt such as Fleur de Sel or Maldon
  • 256g (1 1/2 cups) semi-sweet or bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate chips

For the Coating:

  • 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the granulated and brown sugar and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until aerated and noticeably fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, giving each about 30 seconds of beating time to incorporate fully.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and fine and flaky salt.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly stir in the dry ingredients.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Using a large cookie scoop, form the dough into 2-tablespoon balls and place on the prepared cookie sheet.
  8. Cover the cookie sheet tightly with plastic wrap; place in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
  9. Position 2 oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  10. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and salt to make the coating.
  11. One at a time, form the refrigerated scoops of dough into balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar coating.
  12. Evenly space the dough balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. (I placed 8 cookies per sheet.)
  13. Bake until golden and puffed, about 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time.
  14. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

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