January 7, 2011

Dense and Chewy Peanut Butter Blondies

Every year since I was old enough to stir a bowl of batter, my grandmother and I have baked Christmas cookies on a special day that was just ours. My sister had a separate day that was just hers, too, but on my day it was just Grandma and me. My mom would come, too, of course, until I was old enough to drive myself. She'd pass the day in the living room flipping through endless piles of Good Housekeeping magazines as Grandma and I sifted, measured, and stirred. 

Later, as dozens of cookies cooled, my dad and sister would join us for dinner. We'd sit around my dad's childhood table long afterward, sipping tea and indulging in those fresh, soft fresh-baked goodies. Usually we'd have a game of Scrabble (Grandma always won). Then we'd repeat the process all over again when it was time for my sister's special day.

My chosen Christmas cookie was always a peanut butter cookie. I know that peanut butter cookies aren't traditionally festive, but all that mattered to me growing up was that they contained my favorite ingredient in the entire world. Year after year, as my sister always chose a new recipe to try, I stuck to my tradition. This year, about twenty years since our tradition began, I decided to mix it up with a Peanut Butter Blondie instead of a peanut butter cookie.

The results were fantastic; a dense, chewy treat loaded with peanut butter chips. The entire house smelled like creamy, nutty, peanut butter heaven. This year, tradition changed in more ways than one: my sister and I shared our special baking days for the first time. She was married in June, and would be spending Christmas with her new family, so this was our way of spending an early holiday together with our Grandma. This year one thing was for certain -- change has never been so sweet.

Peanut Butter Blondies: adapted from America's Test Kitchen Cookies
1 cup flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 stick salted butter, melted and cooked
1.5 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temp.
4 t. vanilla extract
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (not natural) at room temp.
3/4 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup salted, roasted peanuts, chopped

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9" square pan with greased foil, letting the foil hang over the sides. Combine flour, powder and salt in a bowl. In a large bowl, whisk butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk well. Whisk in the peanut butter well. Add the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated, then add the peanut butter chips and peanuts. Mix until evenly distributed. Pour into the pan and smooth out the top. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs stuck to it. Cool in the pan for two hours, then remove using the foil and cut into squares.

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