When my then-boyfriend, now-husband Eric and I began living together, it was uncovered that he and I did not feel the same way about all things sweet. Throughout our long distance relationship, I had made him things like pecan turtle brownies and chocolate chip cookies, apple crostatas and granola. Each time he would partake in whatever was offered, however, once I moved across the country and we were under the same roof sharing dinner each night, a pattern quickly developed. He would pass on dessert and I would end up consuming the bulk of it myself. Not that I am one to watch my intake, but its understandable that eating two portions of dessert on a daily basis would not work well if if the jeans in my closet were to continue to fit.
Even though he can end a meal without dessert, Eric does have a place in his heart for bar cookies and has been known to eat these blonde brownies for breakfast. Or dinner. Or both. Now it is clear to me that during our courtship he was trying to play up his interest in cakes and tarts and ice cream to win my heart, working to build a solid and successful relationship. He also used to pretend he was interested in sushi. I’m happy we have our priorities straight in this family.
All of that being said, these bars are a staple in our home. Not only are they loved by my husband, but my mother will request these whenever something sweet is needed to snack on. (Although she never offers to make them herself, her culinary degree not withstanding.) Once on a visit to my in-laws, we brought these blondies along with chocolate cookies with white chocolate chunks. The cookies were shared while the blondies were hid in the kitchen for consumption at a later, undisclosed time. I’m not saying the blondies warrant rationing, but they seem to be well liked by all.
Adapted from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
I like Ghiradelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips, which are available at most supermarkets. For the white chocolate and butterscotch chips I use Guittard. They make very nice chocolate disks as well to be used when something special is needed. The amount of chocolate chips in the recipe can always be increased while dialing back on the others, but I wouldn’t increase the white or butterscotch in lieu of the chocolate as the bars are already quite sweet. Baking bars, chopped into small chunks, make a nice alternative to the chips. Most times, I add a cup of toasted sweetened coconut, which would technically make them Congo bars, likely named for a time when coconut and Africa were quite exotic. I cut these into 16 large bars, but 20 is probably a more appropriate number.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour or 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
½ cup chocolate chips
¼ cup white chocolate chips
¼ cup butterscotch chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
Line a quarter sheet pan or a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment or foil, leaving an overhang at the sides
Whisk the flour(s), baking powder and salt in a medium bowl
In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugars
Whisk in the eggs to the butter sugar mixture until well combined
Mix in the vanilla
Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined
Fold in the pecans and the chips
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until browning at the edges and golden in the middle
Let cool in the pan
Lift the entire tray of bars by the paper and place on a cutting board
Cut into the desired number of pieces