I can count on one hand the number of desserts I’ve made in my life that do not involve chocolate. Actually, I can count them using less than half of one of my hands: they are cherry cheesecake and oatmeal-raisin cookies. You know those people who review recipes for things like flourless chocolate cakes and dark chocolate tortes and say they’re “too rich?” Or that “you’ll only be able to take two bites?” Yeah, I’m not one of them. Those are the desserts of which I will request seconds. Generally speaking, I gravitate towards the most decadent-looking, chocolate-laced confection on the dessert table, which is hopefully covered with a one-inch-layer of chocolate ganache. You can see that my taste buds are highly refined.
Which is why I was planning on putting some chocolate into the blondies Boyfriend helped me bake up last night for the party his aunt is hosting this weekend as a joint birthday/going away celebration for him, his brother, and his cousin – all of whom are leaving for school in the coming weeks one year older. But then I got caught up in the fact that the store didn’t have the dried cherries or the pecans I wanted (see if I ever go back there again), and in my efforts to locate them (which, you can tell by the title, I clearly did not), I completely forgot about getting the dark chocolate. Ugh. And if there’s one thing I am, it’s too lazy to make more than one trip to the grocery store on a weeknight – so we went without the chocolate.
And quite honestly, I didn’t miss it. While I do still aspire to make a version of these with dried cherries, very dark chocolate, and toasted pecans (swoon), this recipe is a winner no matter what you put in it. The only problem I can see is that there’s no way an 8×8 pan of these is enough.
8 tbsp butter (1 stick), melted
1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup packed brown sugar (I was forced to use 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 3/4 cup of white because we couldn’t find the new box of brown sugar until after the blondies were in the oven. Obviously.)
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup of chopped almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8×8 pan. Place chopped almonds on a baking sheet, and bake for 5 – 10 minutes (until they’re toasted brown – not burnt – and you can smell them). Set aside to cool.
Mix melted butter with brown sugar (in my case, white and brown sugar) until smooth. Mix in egg and vanilla. Add salt and 1 cup of flour, mix until well blended.
In a small bowl, mix the cranberries with remaining flour and toss to coat (this keeps them from sinking into the batter and winding up lining the bottom of the dish – Ina taught me this and I love her for it). Add cranberries and toasted nuts to the batter, and mix until incorporated.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the middle is set. Don’t overbake them – if anything, take them out a litte before the perverbial toothpick would come out clean. Gooey is better than dry.
Cool completely, cut into squares (mine made 18 small bar cookies).