Brown Butter Blondies Recipe

Celebrate National Blonde Brownie Day with this twist from Twin Cities baker Sarah Kieffer

Photo: Sarah Kieffer

Baking a sweet treat is a cozy endeavor on a cold day. And celebrating National Blonde Brownie Day, which is January 22, is a great reason to break out the mixing bowls. Blonde brownies, also known as blondies, are baked bars that replace the cocoa in a brownie with brown sugar, making a rich butterscotch-like flavored treat.

And, according to the folks with National Today, the website that recognizes a variety of these food and other special days, blondies just might be the original brownies. On the site, they note that in 1896, the first widely published brownie recipe by Fannie Farmer did not contain chocolate. The widespread availability of chocolate and cocoa powder is relatively recent, but brown sugar has been around for a long time. Then, in the early 1900s, chocolate was added into the ingredients of the brownie recipe and later the original chocolate-less brownie became known as “blonde brownies.” In the 1950s blonde brownies rose to popularity as an alternative to chocolate brownies.

Sarah Kieffer, the Twin Cities baker behind The Vanilla Bean Blog and creator of the viral “pan banging” technique—which is used to create two textures in a cookie: a crisp outer edge, and a soft, gooey center—dishes up a twist on blondies in her latest book, 100 Cookies. Kieffer turns to this Brown Butter Blondies recipe as the weather turns cold and it sounds like the perfect thing to celebrate the “holiday” and cozy up the kitchen on a cold winter’s day.

Brown Butter Blondies

Makes 12 Large or 24 Small Blondies

This is a jazzed-up version of my blondies, full of brown butter, rich egg yolks, chocolate and more chocolate, and toasted pecans. While I love my original recipe, I find myself turning to this one on cool, almost-winter days when the leaves are just starting to turn, and we’re all tucked in the house with good books and cozy slippers.

2 cups [284 g] all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup [2 sticks or 227 g] unsalted butter
1 cup [200 g] granulated sugar
1 cup [200 g] brown sugar
1½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs plus 4 large yolks, at room temperature
¾ cup [90 g] toasted pecans, chopped into bite-size pieces
4 ounces [113 g] bittersweet chocolate, chopped into bite-size pieces
½ cup [85 g] semisweet chocolate chips

1) Adjust an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking pan and line with a parchment sling (see Cook’s Notes below).

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.

3) In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 12 tablespoons [170 g] of the butter. Brown the butter until it is dark golden brown and giving off a nutty aroma, 2 to 3 minutes (for tips on browning butter, see Cook’s Notes below). Remove from the heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons [57 g] butter to the pot, swirling the pot until the butter stops foaming. Add the granulated and brown sugars, vanilla, and salt, and stir to combine. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Add the eggs and yolks and whisk until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add the pecans, chopped chocolate, and chocolate chips, and stir gently.

4) Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and pat into an even layer. Bake for 16 to 22 minutes, until the blondies are set on the edges and the top is golden brown and just beginning to form cracks. A wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the blondies should come out slightly wet with clinging crumbs for gooey blondies, and just a couple of crumbs for cakey blondies.

5) Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Use the parchment sling to gently lift the blondies from the pan. Cut them into bars. Store blondies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Cook’s Notes:

  • Lining pans with a parchment paper sling results in an easy release. Cut two pieces of parchment paper the same size as the bottom of your pan, and long enough to come up and over the sides. Spray the pan with cooking spray, and then place the pieces of parchment in the pan, perpendicular to each other so each side has a bit of parchment overhang, making sure to push the sheets into the corners.
  • For the Brown Butter: In a light-colored, heavy-bottom skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. As the butter begins to melt, swirl it around the pan with a rubber spatula. When it starts to bubble, increase the heat to medium and keep stirring the butter until it boils and beings to foam, 3 to 5 minutes. You will start to see brown bits at the bottom of the skillet, and it will begin to smell nutty. Keep stirring, making sure to gently scrape the bottom of the pan with the spatula as you do so. The butter will quickly change from light brown to dark brown at this point, so keep a close eye on the pan. Once it is golden brown, remove it from the heat, and pour the butter and any flecks on the bottom of the pan into a heatproof bowl. The brown butter can be used immediately or cooled to room temperature and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (Brown butter adds a nice, nutty flavor to many dishes, but please note, it’s not a perfect swap for regular butter in most recipes, as some of the liquid evaporates from the butter as it cooks.)

Recipe and photo from 100 Cookies by Sarah Kieffer © 2020 reprinted with permission of Chronicle Books.

Hungry for More?

Check out Sarah Kieffer’s popular Neapolitan Cookies recipe.

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.