Brownies, it’s just not your year.

I love brownies as much as the next person, but sometimes at the end of a meal, I don't want something quite so intense. I've recently been experimenting with blondies, which have a bit lighter taste and wonderfully flexible when it comes to mix-ins. But I found a lot of recipes were either a bit too cakey or had practically no flavor at all. In fact, it wasn't until a friend shared a version with me that had all the fabulous chewy texture of my favorite brownies and that excellent crackly topping, plus a wonderful caramel flavor that was assertive enough to be delicious but not too rich. And it all came down to a technique that was new to me.

Raspberry Blondies
Credit: Kate Sears

The new, better way to make a blondie

This blondie recipe starts by making a simple caramel, which is the magic for both texture and flavor. I've been playing with the recipe and find that there is no end to the versions you can create with some creative mix-ins! It is the ideal dessert for a summer backyard gathering, and they freeze beautifully. And since it is a recipe where you melt the butter, they can be a last-minute impulse bake.

Pro tip: I do not recommend doubling this recipe; you are better off making two batches if you need more.

Caramelized Blondies

2 sticks butter

2 cups packed light brown sugar

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional, could also use cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger or nothing)

2 cups mix-ins (nuts, dried fruits, chocolate or flavored chips, chopped candies, salty snacks)

Here's all you do!

1. Heat your oven to 325° with a rack in the lowest position.

2. Spray a 9x9 square baking dish with nonstick spray, and line with either parchment or foil to create a sling to remove the blondies from the pan.

3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt (plus spice if using) together in one bowl, and beat the eggs with the vanilla in a separate large bowl. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium high heat, make the caramel by melting the butter and sugar together, and bring to a boil.

4. Slowly whisk the still-hot caramel into the egg mixture, drizzling in a thin stream while whisking vigorously so that you do not scramble the eggs. Using room temp eggs is essential for this; cold eggs have a higher risk of seizing.

5. Once the eggs and butter mixtures are well combined, add in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Let rest at room temperature until cooled a bit before adding any mix-ins that can melt (if you are using just nuts and dried fruits, you can stir in right away).

6. Add your mix-ins and transfer the batter to your prepared pan, and bake until they are set, about 40-50 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan, and use the sling to remove in one slab, and let cool completely on the rack before cutting. I like to cut this size pan into 16 squares or 12 rectangles.

Great blondie mix-in combinations

Here are some terrific pairings I recommend:

  • Large chocolate chips and chopped pecans
  • Dried cherries and pistachios
  • Chopped apricots and slivered almonds
  • Chopped walnuts and toffee pieces
  • Butterscotch chips and crushed pretzels
  • Honey roasted peanuts and mini peanut butter cups
  • Toasted pine nuts and golden raisins