Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Butter-Pecan Blondies

LESLIE:  Mr. Right loves cookies. I love cookies. See why we’re such a good match?

Seriously, who doesn’t love an easy bar cookie? This one has the classic rich, butter flavor and lots of toasty pecans.

But you know I’m obsessed with spice, both what the spice merchants call “pure spice” and blends. And in early June, I spent an afternoon at World Spice Merchants’ flagship location in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. One of the spice queens, Julie, gave me a sample of a blend popular in Persian and Iranian cooking called Advieh, which World Spice describes as "an exotic combination of multiple varietals of sweet cinnamon, cardamom seed, and roses, grounded by the earthiness of cumin and black pepper, finished with a bright pop of Indian coriander."

It was new to me, and I happily took the sample she ground freshly for me. “Try it anytime you might use cinnamon,” she said.

So when I thought “cinnamon” half-way through my first blondie, I thought “Advieh.” I also though “chai,” remembering the baking blend I created for Chai Another Day. Mr. Right and I sprinkled a bit of each on our already-baked blondies and nodded at each other in agreement. Perfection, made better.

If you’d like to spice up your blondies, I suggest you mix half to one teaspoon cinnamon, cinnamon blend, a chai baking blend, or Advieh, if you’re lucky enough to find some, in with the remaining half of the nuts and 1 tablespoon of sugar before sprinkling. Or top the batter as described, then sprinkle the spice on top of half the pan, so you can enjoy both the classic flavor combo and a tasty update.

Butter-Pecan Blondies

1- 1/2 cups whole pecans
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1- 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 cups light-brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
1 tablespoon brown sugar for topping
½ to 1 teaspoon spice blend (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans on a rimmed baking sheet; toast until fragrant, 6 to 7 minutes. Let cool, then chop coarsely.
Butter and flour and a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter and 2 cups brown sugar until combined. Add eggs; whisk until combined. Add vanilla and rum. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Fold in half of nuts.

Spoon batter to baking pan. Smooth the top with a spoon or spatula. Mix the remaining nuts with the 1 tablespoon brown sugar and optional spice (see notes) and sprinkle on top of batter. Bake until golden around edges and a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes.

Place pan on a wire rack to allow blondies to cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days. Makes 24 bars.

From the cover of CHAI ANOTHER DAY, Spice Shop Mystery #4 (Seventh St. Books, June 2019): 

 Seattle Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece probes murder while juggling a troubled employee, her mother's house hunt, and a fisherman who's set his hook for her.

As owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle's famed Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece is always on the go. Between conjuring up new spice blends and serving iced spice tea to customers looking to beat the summer heat, she finally takes a break for a massage. But the Zen moment is shattered when she overhears an argument in her friend Aimee's vintage home decor shop that ends in murder. 

Wracked by guilt over her failure to intervene, Pepper investigates, only to discover a web of deadly connections that could ensnare a friend - and Pepper herself.

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries, and the winner of Agatha Awards in three categories. Death al Dente, the first Food Lovers' Village Mystery, won Best First Novel in 2013, following her 2011 win in Best Nonfiction. Her first historical short story, "All God's Sparrows," won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story; read it on her website. A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

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  1. Don't you wish there was a Cookie Diet? We could have a lot of fun with that.

    1. I think I'm kind of on one. Oh, you mean to LOSE weight!

  2. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. I affectionatly call my husband the Cookie Monster. I am always making cookies for him. Ok, I eat some of them. But I am really trying to loose weight and those dont help. LOL

    1. My pleasure! No, they don't help with the weight loss plan, sadly, but might it help to know they freeze well? Out of sight isn't necessarily out of mind, though...

  3. I love, love, love pecans! These sound similar to the pecan pie muffins I've made in the past. Thanks for sharing, Leslie!

    1. Right? We love all kinds of nuts, but pecans are particularly delightful!

  4. Yum, we love anything with pecans! Those blondies sound great, and now I want some advieh, too! Thanks also for the link, Leslie, where I found a great-sounding recipe for Persian Spiced Meatballs.

    1. Oh, you're welcome, Lynn. And yes, the meatballs sound great -- we're loving Persian spices!

  5. Pecans and butter--fantastic!
    Does the pepper add a back of the tongue "bite"?

    1. Just a tiny bit. The blend is really subtle, and of course, completely optional.