Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My sister's blondies

This year for my father's birthday I decided instead of racking my brain shopping for a man who doesn't like the typical man stuff and buys himself everything he needs, that I would bake him a cake and mail it. A rich buttery pound cake much like our original Dominican cake studded heavily with soaked raisins which he loves and I don't but hey it's his cake. A few days later I get a call from my sister with not a hello, how are you my dear favorite (okay only) sister but, "What does a person have to do to get cake in the mail?" See, in my family we have our priorities straight.

I told her all she had to do was ask. "You mean I could have been having baked goods for birthdays all these years by just asking? Then let me put in my order now, blondies please." Let's see, I don't have to trek with the kiddos to a store to shop or do my typical OCD scoping online stores for the perfect present. Instead I get to bake? Well twist my arm why don't you. Blondies it is.

This recipe is one of the first few I baked when I was a teenager heck bent on becoming the next Martha. Although the name evokes the dense and chewy blondie/brownie type bar, this is not. It's more of a cake bar with a streusel topping. I hadn't made it in years and this time around found it very sweet. Next time I might leave off the butterscotch chips and add semi sweet or even white chocolate chips. These bars are amazing with walnuts or pecans but alas the epi pen means no nuts in the house. I made a double batch which fits a half sheet pan because baking anything in this house without taking a cut for the family is apparently a crime. I sent my sister two thirds of the pan and she said I still owe her that other third. I love feeling appreciated.

Blondies (cakey version)

2 cups flour
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup butterschotch chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 13x9x2" pan and line with parchment paper or foil for easy retrieval of the blondies. In a large bowl dump the flour, brown sugar and butter. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with two knives or a pastry blender. Do yourself a favor though and get a pastry blender with actual blades and not just smooth metal bars. Something like this. Mine is a pampered chef one that I bought out of obligation but it works pretty well and I've had it for years.

Cut the butter until the largest pieces of butter are as big as green peas. Then remove one cup of the mixture (this will be the topping) and set aside.

Add the baking soda and salt to the remaining mix in the large bowl.

Mix the eggs, vanilla and milk. Then add to dry ingredients and mix until mostly smooth but don't overbeat.

Oh and this? No I haven't taken up drinking, it's my homemade vanilla. I finally gave up on trying to find a good vanilla after finding out how easy it is to make. Just slice open 12 vanilla pods, chop into 1" pieces if you'd like then dump into a 750ml bottle of vodka. Shake every couple of weeks and by the next year (or 6 months at the earliest) you have vanilla. Really good vanilla. I used tahitian vanilla beans that resemble the floral Dominican vanilla I'm used to using. This bottle was started in May of '07. Now that I look at it, it looks like an old school homemade bottle of Bay Rum. Anyone remember that stuff?

Back to the blondies. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Now sprinkle on the reserved flour/brown sugar/butter, the butterscotch chips and nuts if you choose.

Bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool and then cut into bars. Mail to your sister, or brother, or just sit in the kitchen and eat them while the kids are playing. Yum.


Marin!! said...


Marielle said...

LOL, thanks!

Lowell said...

Where did you get the vanilla beans Marielle? Is there a lot of taste difference between the variety of bean do you know? And is that a "good" vodka? I've been making my own vanilla too, but I've only used 1-2 beans, my vodka was in a plastic bottle and was the cheapest I could find, and I probably only let it sit for a month or two. It's good-smells good and my recipes don't seem to suffer for it, but yours looks WAY better...

Marielle said...

Lowell, I bought the beans from Vanilla Bean Products USA. Here:

They started off selling on ebay (yes I bought vanilla beans on ebay LOL) but at the time were well recommended and now have their own site. The beans are plump, oily and fat which are the signs of a good vanilla bean.

In dominican republic the vanilla tends to have a floral note so I chose the tahitian bean for that specific trait. Traditional vanilla that most people know uses Bourbon Madagascar vanilla. The vanilla bean products usa people sell a small pack of 30 with a blend of madagascar and tahitian so you can try both. It's really just preference and taste.

As far as the vodka I'm afraid it's the blind leading the blind. I'm not a vodka drinker but when I was at the liquor store I just looked for something midrange price and that happened to be the Smirnoff. I know some people go for Grey Goose (a bit pricier I think) but my mom is doing her own batch and using the stuff you've mentioned but I can't recall the name. Honestly, as long as it's around 100 proof then you're good to go. It's just a solvent basically to extract the vanilla flavor. I've heard of some people using bourbon or rum to make extract but I prefer something that won't add any additional flavor like the vodka.

I love making this stuff and currently have about two bottles of the large vodka going. If you'd like to get a taste, feel free to drop by and I'll give you some in a jar (oh goodness the visual LOL) to try out. I've found that 12 beans per 750ml bottle gives a nice strong vanilla taste. Right now I've finished my first bottle and am testing to see if I can extract a second batch from the used beans. So far so good.

Lowell said...

I read this when you first posted, and forgot to come back to reply. Thank you for your kind offer of a vanilla sample!! I get the giggles thinking about telling Paul that I'm going to be stopping by your house for a taste of vanilla. I'm just now getting around to ordering the beans-I think I'm going to try the sample pack you mention and make two bottles.

Did your second batch with beans end up working out?

Marielle said...

That recycled bean batch is coming along well. I did add a few new beans but it's coming along like the other batch that had only new beans. Yeah, can you imagine? Contraband vanilla sampling LOL.