Monthly Archives: February 2010

Cherry Pistachio White Chocolate Blondies

Source: Smitten Kitchen and my childhood
Yield: One 9×9 pan

When I was in middle school, my mom would pay me ten dollars a week to wash the kitchen floor. From what I recall, I usually did it when I was home alone, so I could crank up the music and glide around the kitchen like a blissed-out Cinderella. Sometime during that era, I also learned how to make blondies from scratch. I had found some recipe in my mom’s worn, fragile family cookbook — one that was filled with her own mother’s handwriting — and I was sold on the simple combination of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Easy, delicious, perfect.

I remember making that recipe one afternoon before I started washing the floor. As I prepped my cleaning supplies, the pan of blondies — set out on the counter to cool — sat patiently waiting for me to devour them. One bucket of hot, soapy water later, I was in a rhythm: run the mop up one row of floor tile, stop at the counter, eat a blondie square, run the mop down the next row of floor tile. Repeat. Until most of the blondies were gone. Now THAT, my friends, is the way to make household chores fun. I might as well have been a puppy in training, eager for my comestible reward.

You might think I’d have ruined blondies for myself, associating them with kitchen cleaning. But no. For one thing, I actually kind of liked cleaning the kitchen floor. And for another, blondies are irresistibly delicious. Warm, caramelized brown sugar; thick, chewy, buttery bites; plenty of room for whatever add-ins suit your fancy, from chocolate chips to nuts to dried fruit. These cherry pistachio white chocolate blondies have all three. They’re ripe for experimentation, too, so feel free to adapt your add-ins. But I think this particular combination is my favorite.

To this day, eating a blondie hits some part of my brain that says “Good! Good good good!” I’m pretty sure I would do most any chore with the promise of a blondie at the end. Clearly, positive reinforcement works.

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt (reduce to a pinch if you’re using salted butter)
1/3 cup chopped dried cherries
1/3 cup chopped salted pistachios
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

(A note on the amount of add-ins — feel free to add more or less of each depending on your taste. I did an even split among the three and it was pretty perfect.)

Another awesome thing about blondies? They could not be easier to make. A baking pan, a saucepan, and a stove are all you need. And also, ingredients. Unless you’re making Air Blondies, which, if you are, get off my blog.

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9×9 square baking pan and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then beat in your egg. Stir in flour, then fold in cherries, pistachios, and chips.

Smooth batter into pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it.

Cool, then cut into however many squares you want.

Blog Aid for Haiti

Hey, you guys. I saw this on The Traveler’s Lunchbox this morning. Twenty-seven different food bloggers and writers have contributed recipes and photographs for a cookbook to support Haiti. If you click on the Traveler’s Lunchbox above, Melissa explains it very eloquently and in depth, but in summation: The cookbook, with recipes running the gamut from entrees to desserts to gluten-free to vegetarian, comes in two versions — softcover for $25 and hardcover for $50. The funds earned will go to the Haiti relief effort via the Canadian Red Cross and Doctors without Borders. AND the publisher (Blurb) and West Canadian Graphics are matching every dollar raised up to $10,000. AND THEN, the Canadian government is doing a match until February 12th. So basically, if you spend $25 on a glossy, groovy, full-color cookbook, a whole lot more than $25 will go to Haiti.

So if you’re like me and you love to stockpile cookbooks and read them while you’re eating breakfast (or any time, really), consider picking up one of these babies. I just bought one, and I’m really glad to be able to participate in this food blogging community effort. Go here to read more about the cookbook, see who has contributed, and take a sneak peek. And, you know, get one.

Tangy-Tart Lemon Bars

A few years ago, back when Terwilliger and I were still suffering through winter on the East coast, his So-Cal grandmother sent his family a box of legendary lemons from the tree in her backyard.

“These are the best lemons you’ll ever have,” Terwilliger told me, holding one to my nose so I could smell the sweet-tart aroma. The lemon was a deep, golden yellow, and it smelled like flowers and earth. I appreciated it, but I didn’t really understand just how awesome the lemons were until we ended up out here in San Diego, where we are terribly spoiled by our current locale.

In our yard, we have two orange trees — navel and Valencia — and the legendary lemon tree. We are not sure if they’re Meyer lemons, but they are fantastic lemons. This month the tree is just bursting with citrus, its branches heavy with clusters of fragrant, deep-yellow fruit, and I’ve been looking forward to using them in recipes.

Hello, lemon bars. When I was a kid, with no legendary lemons at my disposal, I would make lemon bars from a box mix, and it was the easiest thing in the world. I was so accustomed to the flavor of boxed crust that years later when I had my first from-scratch lemon bar, with its buttery shortbread base, I thought it was weird. Good, but not like a “real” lemon bar. I’m telling you, I loved the box mix. (One weekend when my mom was out of town, my dad and I ate an entire pan of box-mix-bars in 24 hours. We were great fans.)

But as my snobbery palate has developed over the years, I’ve moved away from box mixes, and I’ve come to salivate over homemade lemon bars. But I’ve never made them myself. So for this endeavor, I combed through various recipes, trying to find one that seemed like the ideal ratio of tart-to-sweet. I was also looking for something that used an excessive amount of lemon juice, since we have so many lemons to use. This recipe, from the Baking Bites Cookbook, used the most juice and looked incredibly easy to put together.

You’d think I would realize that by using as much lemon juice as possible, I would be creating something that was mouth-puckeringly tart. But I didn’t think about it until I tried one of these. Hoooo boy, these have some zing. They’re very good, but I’m thinking one small piece at a time is my limit, lest my throat start hurting from the acidity of the citrus juice.

But as I said, they are good. The shortbread crust has a light texture and perfect buttery flavor, and the filling is more like a lemon curd, smooth and slick and tangy. These are rather thin, so if you prefer a thicker crust and thicker lemon filling, I’d suggest baking the recipe below in a 9×9 square pan instead of the 9×13 called for.

Crust:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Filling:
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 T. lemon zest
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat 350 F.

In a large bowl (mixer optional), cream butter and sugar until well-combined. Stir in flour, salt, zest, and vanilla and mix until you have a grainy, crumbly dough, like coarse sand. Transfer mixture to a 9×13 baking pan (I left mine ungreased and the bars came out just fine) and press firmly to bring dough together. Bake crust for 15 – 17 minutes, or until the crust is juuuuust beginning to brown at the edges.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. This part is really easy: combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whirl until well-combined. If you don’t have a food processor, a spoon and a bowl will work just fine. Pour filling over hot crust, and then bake for 11 – 14* minutes, or until the filling is set and the edges have gotten barely golden. (*My oven cooks slow, but even still, this took more like 20 – 22 minutes for me.)

Remove from oven and cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then transfer bars to fridge and chill for an hour before serving. To serve, cut into 20 squares and sift powdered sugar over all (you might want to use quite a bit, to cut the tartness of the filling).