Are there any foods that remind you of home? Sometimes the things that remind you most fiercely of home are surprising. When I was studying abroad in London last spring, I suffered very few bouts of homesickness. But one of my strongest ones happened around Valentine's day, when I couldn't get my hands on a bag of heart-shaped Reese's.
The British are wonderful people and - reputation aside - generally have excellent taste in sweets. But they just don't share our American passion for the chocolate peanut butter cup. (Yet.)
Before then, I never would have said those seasonal Reese's meant all that much to me. But not being able to buy any, even though it was something so simple I'd never given a second thought to before, really got me. It's the little things, I've learned from living abroad twice now, that remind you how far from home you really are.
Home is where the heart is...and where the heart-shaped chocolate is.
Anyway, now that I'm back in the States, I was determined to take advantage of the fact that the aisles of Target overflow with heart-shaped Reese's and pink candy of all kinds come January. It was just a matter of choosing the right recipe. When
a couple weeks ago, I was infatuated at first sight. And why not? There's a lot to love.
For one thing, we're browning butter again. Are you excited? Because I am. Brown butter is the bomb.com. And you're becoming a pro at this browning butter business, aren't you? Me too. This time, I didn't even make a mess in the microwave! Okay, I made a small mess. Baby steps.
, browned butter was the schmancy-panties underneath the classic LBD of the glazed chocolate cake donut. This time, it's not so shy. It's front and center. It's nutty, buttery goodness that envelops the chocolate and peanut butter chips into one beautiful melts-on-your-tongue package.
While we're on the subject of chocolate and peanut butter chips, let's talk what else there is to love about these blondies: In addition to brown butter, the batter has just enough peanut butter in it to create a richly nutty situation that could not be more satisfying. Then we fold in as many chocolate and peanut butter chips as we could convince the batter to hold.
We bake the blondies until they're at once puffy and dense; soft and chewy in the middle, a little bit crispy on the edges (a little bit crispier than intended, since we might have left them in the oven just a
too long...drat. Luckily, they're still delicious). Like a (good) chocolate chip cookie.
Blondies get their name from "blonde brownies," did you know that? But they're almost more like chocolate chip cookies than brownies. Like...a chocolate chip cookie disguised as a brownie, but not quite fooling anyone. Blondies have that buttery, chocolatey goodness that you love about chocolate chip cookies, but even chewier because, well, they're bigger.
Just when you thought these couldn't sound any more divine, when they're cool we slather them with Joy's best chocolate buttercream. Yeah. That's gonna happen. And then, to top it all off? A heart-shaped Reese's, for festivity. (And because Reese's. Duh.) Plus a few sprinkles, for good measure. Like a swipe of red lipstick, the sprinkles really tie the blondies' look together, I think.
There was a lot of moaning in the room when we all took our first bites of these blondies. Is that weird to say? It's true. These are honestly the best blondies I've ever made/tasted. A lot of blondies, in my experience, fall short of the golden ideal of being the fusion of the best qualities of chocolate chip cookies with the best qualities of brownies. They're too often kind of dry, kind of flavorless... Not these. These blondies are stuffed with flavor - the rich nuttiness of brown butter, bursts of chocolate and peanut butter, that sinful chocolate buttercream... - and the dense, chewy texture is honestly to die for.
Looking for true love on Valentine's Day? Look no further.
Reese's Brown Butter Blonde Brownies
1 1/4 sticks (5 ounces) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 egg large yolk
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup chocolate chips
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9×9-inch baking pan, line the pan with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper as well. This recipe can be easily doubled and baked in a 9×13-inch pan.
In a medium saucepan, cook the butter over moderate heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the melted butter to a large bowl. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes before proceeding.
To the large bowl with the butter, add the sugar, eggs and yolk, almond butter, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk until smooth and well combined. Add the flour and baking powder and stir with a wooden spoon. The mixture will be thick.
Fold in three-quarters of the almonds and three-quarters of the chocolate chips. Fold until combined. Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan. Top with the remaining almonds and chocolate. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until cooked through and golden brown. Insert a skewer in the center of the blondies to test the doneness. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before lifting from the pan and slicing.
Slice into 9 equal squares.
Blondies can be wrapped individually and frozen or stored at room temperature for 4 days.
Joy's Best Chocolate Buttercream
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Ovaltine
Cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt. Butter mixture will be very thick. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add powdered sugar. Turn mixer on low and mix in powdered sugar while adding milk and vanilla extract. As the sugar incorporates, raise the speed of the mixer to beat the frosting. Beat until smooth. In a 1-cup measuring glass, stir together heavy cream and Ovaltine. Turn mixer speed to medium and pour cream mixture into frosting in a slow, steady stream, until you’ve reached your desired consistency. You may not need the full amount of Ovaltine and cream. Spread or pipe onto cupcakes.