Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Toffee Brown Butter Blondies (with a hint of Chocolate)

Well hello! My name is Sarah, and I cook. While explaining to my sister that my goal this year was to to compile my favorite recipes and "become the half-blood prince of cookbooks", I had an idea - so share some of my experiences with you, the world. A combination of family favorites I've marked-up and changed (you know, Half-Blood Prince Style!), to new surprises I am excited about, to probably (let's face it) an idea that doesn't work, I am excited to share with you.

Also, my sister (the blonde one) mentioned that I probably shouldn't refer to "blood" while cooking. Looks like I've made party-foul #1. Many more to come, I am sure. (and I'm sorry.)

Lately I've been noticing that all the recipes I've flagged to make have the words "Brown Butter" in the title. Having never used browned butter before, I knew I had to remedy this Post Haste so that I would stop being daunted by the idea. And knew I had to do it quickly so that I can get started on my ever-growing list of things to try.

As it turns out "browned butter" is apparently code for "how to turn a kitchen staple into heaven."

So, let's start with the butter (a VERY good place to start). On one hand, you don't want just melted butter. On the other, butter burns (it's about 45 seconds after "perfection"). So how to walk that tight-rope between burned and delish and end up on the right-side of done... Here are my helpful tips for browning butter: Heat pan with your stove around "medium," cut-up butter (you don't have to wait for it to be room temperature - which is the thing I love best about this) and melt - stirring continuously.

Butter will foam up. Although I've been told the "foam subsides," what that really means is that foam goes from "huge" to "frothy." This picture, for example, is post-foam-subsiding.

And the butter goes from "nothing is happening" to "this smells wonderful" in the blink of an eye. Watch for small brown flecks, and stir until it starts smelling like heaven: nutty sweetness category. Then take it off the burner and transfer containers so it stops (or slows down) cooking.

This is a little dark. I learned a valuable lesson called "make sure to take it off the heat." However, I also learned a valuable lesson called "even if it's not perfect, this still tastes like awesome."

And now, so important, WAIT UNTIL COOLED. You don't want to go around cooking your eggs with your hot butter-heaven, do you? Well... I mean you do... just not yet.

Once the butter is cooling start your batter by creaming together the sugar/butter combo, add way more vanilla than the recipe calls for and, yada yada yada... your house smells like heaven. Heaven. I can not stress this enough. A note on these: they will be gooey (like cookies) when you take them out, so look for done-ness by tester, and not how they look. They will also set-up (like cookies) so it'll get better.

Additionally, (and I am guilty guilty guilty...) wait until these are cooled to eat them. I promise, they get tastier as they cool. If you cut a nice steamy square even after waiting five (long) minutes, it tastes sweeter than the final (cooled) product.

And, my final cooking note... you've pretty much just made candy out of this butter. Which means that I suggest dishes to be on a "sooner" rather than "later" time-line. Or be prepared to scrub.

Brown Butter Toffee Blondies

Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 cups packed light-brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
(or more! Who is looking?)
1 cup Heath Toffee bits

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter/flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter until it turns golden brown. Pour the delicious mixture into a seperate container so it does not continue to cook and make all of your hard work for naught.

3. In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. In a seperate, larger bowl, mix
cooled browned butter and both sugars with a wooden spoon until combined. Add eggs and beat, with hand mixer or using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, on medium-high speed until the batter is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla, and beat again to combine.
5. Add flour mixture, and toffee bits. Mix until thoroughly combined, and pour into prepared pan.

6. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes (do not overbake). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into it.
The center will be gooey (much like baking cookies) when these come out of the oven, so decide on "done-ness" based on the cake tester, and not what it looks like - you don't want to over-bake these darlings.

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