Third Time Lucky Bro...Blondies

These "Third Time Lucky Blondies" are so named for a reason. Of course, everything has a reason behind it but this title is particularly pertinent to me.
Have you ever baked a recipe from a cookbook, either penned by a reliable cook or that has been recommended by another reliable cook, only to find that the first recipe you cook is completely duff? Bowed but not beaten, you give the book another go. Perhaps the oven was too hot or you didn't sieve the flour for long enough.

(left) Bad Blondies (above) Great Blondies!

Deep down you just know that you did everything to the letter, yet you still plough on, like the culinary powerhouse you are.
The next recipe is also a stinker. And the next. And then the book is relegated from "next to the bed" status to "shoved away in the spare room under the bed" status.
The book I am referring to is Tamasin Day-Lewis' latest, Tamasin's Kitchen Classics. And indeed, this book is her own original take on classics from across the world. I have previously found all of her cookbooks to be impeccable and infinitely preferable to certain other female TV cooks who tend to perhaps rely more on seducing viewers with a lifestyle rather than concentrating on cooking. Tamasin has always been about the cooking and I cannot recommend her other books highly enough.

(left) Ooey, Gooey, Perfect Blondies

My gripe with Kitchen Classics is less that the recipes are bad, more that they are poorly notated and seem rushed. This is perhaps a reflection more on her publishing company than the author herself, her previous book, the mammoth and indispensable Kitchen Bible, having been published exactly a year before (in fact, a cursory glance on Amazon reveals that the prolific Ms Day-Lewis has another book due for publication in, you guessed it, September 2007. I'll still be buying it though).
"How does all this typical preamble and waffle connect to Brownies though?" I hear you ask. Well, I baked my first batch of chocolate brownies a few years ago, using a Tamasin Day-Lewis recipe from her Good Tempered Food and found them to be completely and utterly darkly delicious. They are as chocolatey as you could ever imagine, fudgy and dense. I don't bake them too often though because the recipe hinges on using excellent quality chocolate and I covet my expensive chocolate as though it were an internal organ.

(right) Bad Blondies, note Flapjack-type texture

Whilst idly (and I probably mean avidly) flipping through Kitchen Classics, a recipe kept catching my eye: Walnut and Date Blondies. Blondies! A cheaper variation of the chocolate brownie. Something in the ingredients seemed to click: the brown sugar, the sticky chopped dates and the crunchy, slightly bitter walnuts. I had a feeling this cheeky little recipe would jostle with the saucy chocolate brownies - who would be the cakey treat that got to rub mama's feet?
Strange metaphors aside, I got to work. This is a recipe that relies on few ingredients, my favourite type. I replaced the walnuts with pecans, which I prefer, and I refused to use a whole expensive vanilla pod on a small batch of bro...blondies. I used Vanilla Extract instead. Other than that, I followed the recipe to the letter.
Perhaps it was the direction "gently melt the butter and then stir in the sugar. Allow the sugar to dissolve but cook for no longer otherwise you'll have toffee" that I had problems with. In fact, it was that direction. The first two times. I must have melted the sugar too much each time because when I then whisked in the beaten egg, I ended up with toffee scramble. Don't get me wrong, I still used the mixture but instead of it being a cake-like batter, it was more like raw shortbread. I had to knead it into the corners of the tin!! However, the finished product, whilst divinely yummy, was a bit too dried-up Toothpaste-like in texture to deserve the title of bro...blondie.
Because I know that there is a great recipe in here somewhere, and I knew that the issue lay within the sloppy directions, I decided to make a third batch this week. Using my brain instead of relying on the recipe, I decided to melt the butter and stir in the sugar into the butter off the heat. It remains liqueous but doesn't turn to caramel, which, of course, is going to seize as soon as you dump any cold liquid into it (i.e. beaten egg). I tentatively stirred the beaten egg into this third batch of melted butter and sugar and was happy to see no seizing and no scrambling! The rest of the ingredients followed, I poured the batter into the prepared dish and waited, with baited breath. 25 minutes later, a golden, sugar-crusted bar of blondies emerged triumphantly from the oven! No way was I going to let this recipe beat me and it didn't! If I had been using my precious chocolate, then I might have fallen at the first hurdle, but seeing as I have a huge bag of dates and tonnes of pecans rolling around my bread-bin (don't ask), I felt happy to experiment.
Other dishes from this book that I wouldn't particularly recommend using, at least word for word, are her Butternut Squash and Crotin (baby goats cheese) tart - really, really bland. The Coffee, Chocolate and Raspberry Tart - the gelatine didn't work and neither did the flavours together. I feel strongly that this is just a case of recipes not being tested properly, a bit like wayward children with no direction in their life. With a little love and encouragement, these could all become dishes of great merit! And therein lies the lesson for today - perseverance pays off. Most of the time.
Oh, and of course, this is my entry for Brownie Babe of the Month, held by Miriam over at Once Upon A Tart. I doubt mine is worth one of her gorgeous aprons, but it must surely be worth a gold star for effort!

PECAN AND DATE BLONDIES aka Third Time Lucky Blondies makes...nowhere near enough!
Ingredients:
55g Unsalted Butter
180g Light Brown or Muscovado Sugar
1 Egg Beaten
100g Plain Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
55g Chopped Dates
55g Chopped Pecans (or walnuts)
METHOD:
Preheat Oven to 180c.
Line a small loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once melted, stir in the sugar and warm very gently until it just starts to become absorbed into the butter.
Whisk in the beaten egg and vanilla extract.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and stir into the butter/sugar mixture.
Fold in the chopped dates and pecans, pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 25-30 minutes until you have a paper-thin sugar crust. A skewer will not come out clean because you want that gooey texture of the brownies.
Leave to cool. They will probably crack and collapse a little in the middle. This is all part of the blondie/brownie's ramshackle charm.
OK, once they have cooled a little, you can cut a slice. I should really make you wait until they're completely cold but I didn't (who does?)!
Enjoy!

P.S. EIGHT DAYS LEFT UNTIL THE DEADLINE FOR BIG BURGER BALLYHOO! AND THERE WILL BE NO EXTENSIONS THIS TIME! WE HAVE HAD AN OVERWHELMING RESPONSE ALREADY BUT WE WANT MORE, MORE, MORE BURGERS!!

40 comments:

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Threes charm! Just goes to show you, when you cook, brain must be engaged. That's always my biggest problem.

Lydia said...

Bad things happen to good authors along the way to publication -- worst is publishers who do not adequately test recipes, and who do not check for typographical errors. Sometimes, of course, it is the fault of the author too. Remember Julee Rosso's first book on her own after the Silver Palate due broke up? Terrible cookbook in which half of the recipes didn't work.

Anonymous said...

I can confirm these were the best batch yet. I can also confirm that this post was almost completely free of grammatical errors, typos, or homonyms. Also, the post lacks the abundance of syntax errors I'm used to correcting after publishing.
Way to go, Freyaikins!
-Paul

Gattina said...

I like author to explain things that I help me to predict what will happen next :) Freya, your blondie really looks great !

Lucy said...

Delicious. Glad to hear that Tamasin has the occasional bad recipe.

Well done for giving it three goes. I'd have given up on try number one...

Madeline said...

Those Third Time Lucky Blondies look so good I am tempted to lick my computer screen.

breadchick said...

Freya, well put about even some of our favourite cookbook authors having bad books. I have one or two like that as well (Ina Garten's Paris book for example...good thing it was the perfect height to hold the bedside lamp up a bit taller!). I actually think...hold on sacrilege about to be typed...blondies are more fun than brownies ;-)

Oh for the love of food! said...

Hi Freya and Paul, Congratulations on your successful Blondies! I know all to well about failed attempts with recipe books, and strangely, I said the same thing to myself, " use your brain" because some methods of doing certain stuff are just plain unnessassary, like the other day when I ended up with scrambled chocolate. It was Valrhona Too! (sniff sniff)
Anyway.., .I really enjoyed reading your post!;o)

Janet said...

Hi Freya - I just love reading your posts... good recipes AND you make me laugh.

Cheryl said...

Wow, this is one loaded blondie. That looks incredible and was worth the three tries you gave it.

Dianne said...

Oh my goodness! Those look so delicious!

Susan said...

Syntax errors? I've never even noticed. Well done, Freya - in any language.

Cynthia said...

Oh yes, been there and what a frustration it can be. Thanks to the hard work of you and many other cooks out there, those of us willing to give up don't have to because you have done the work for us :)

Blondies look delicious.

Patricia Scarpin said...

It happens, Freya - and yet we get to disappointed!

I've never made blondies and now I'm craving these!

Kelly-Jane said...

They look lucious! and I have made them (a few times) so I can vouch for their taste too. I often replace walnuts with pecans as well, but I went with it here and they were fine.

Good luck with that apron :)

Kathryn said...

I've never eaten or made blondies! but these look seriously yummy.

Jes said...

Those look fab once they turned out right! Don't you just love the browniebabe excuse to make brownies? :)

Monkey Wrangler said...

Proof that blonds have brains, for those who insist on using the bad joke. (Crap! That's me!) Really though, careful using that brain too much. It has been known to cause rapid stomach expansion.

I've been wanting a good burger, thanks for the reminder. Maybe I'll english it up a bit. Should I use my brain though?

Joyce said...

You deserve a medal or at the very least, a gold star for perserverance. I would have thrown in the towel after the second try! They look wonderful.

Quellia said...

If you didn't object to my picking the pecans out, I'd eat either batch! :-)

Aimée said...

Thanks for testing these out for us, Freya, they look amazing!

tigerfish said...

Hahah...you are too funny.
At least the brownies still got lucky...even if it's the 3rd time.
I or rather my imaginary brownies would never have come so far. The raw ingredients would just forever sit inside the pantry cabinet. When I need a good lucky brownie, I would come to you :D

sunita said...

Hi and thanks for visiting my blog...you've got a nice place here as well...I see that you're from Colchester...my association with this place was nearly a year and a half ago, when, for three months, I ran up and down from Ipswich to the Colchester Institute to complete my TESOL course...

Little Foodie said...

Never eaten a blondie (see you had me at it then I nearly typed brownie and I've had plenty of those!) You have amazing perseverance and should definitely drop a line to the publishers with a bill for proper recipe testing.. Amanda

Nora B. said...

I've never tried making blondies, but I feel convinced to try this recipe since you've gone through so much suffering to get to this result. Thanks for all the tips.

Callipygia said...

Oh I love Blondies so much I'd probably still love your seized up ones...but the thirds the charm is really fetching in its collapsed gooey goodness. And about the ballyhoo- I honestly have the best burger recipe in my head! unfortunately I won't have the time to make it and submit it, maybe next time.

Chris said...

You're third attempt looks great. I giggled when I read about cookbook recipe issues - only because it happens to me more times than I would like to admit. But, that's one of the reasons I love blogs - to live and learn from one another!

Jann said...

Well, it turned out really well the third time-I love the crusty top. It looks delicious!

Shaun said...

Freya, love - It is admirable that you sincerely tried to uphold the integrity of the recipe and, inherently, its author. I have noticed in some of Ms. Day-Lewis' she states that she just made the recipe the night before or some other recent time. This has made me question her testing methodology. Perhaps she was rushed into publication with this book. Who knows what happens once corporate interests get involved? Your dedication is appreciated, and the result of your Third Time Lucky Blondies induces cravings.

sher said...

I adore blondies--so it's torture to see those photos! But, good torture! :):)

Anonymous said...

Ah! Blonde Brownies, Check the Appel Family cookbook that you have for a blonde brownie recipe that originally came from Scott's mother, one of Paul's childhood friends who by the way is having his first child this week. We are praying all goes well because his wife has miscarried twice. He is now happily married to another forester type. Your across the sea mother

valentinA said...

As the says goes: practice makes perfect!
I'm sure they were worth trying three times till you obtain perfect results!
What a great way to start the week end!:)

joey said...

Good for you! You definitely deserve a medal for effort...and another for those delectable looking Blondies! :)

Katie said...

It's the journey, right?
They all looked pretty good to me!
Of course, I'm coming down from a sugar high - after spending 2 weeks in the U.S. with family who don't cook (vegetables? you must be joking) but love to bake. Actually, they all look REALLY good!

Rose said...

Thanks for being our test/ judge/ chef. I just love the crust of your blondies. Yummy!

Lynda said...

Oh so frustrating! - this happened to me when I was making Zopf last easter - 6 attempts before I got it right... nearly drove me to drink - ok so I was already drinking - perhaps that was the problem. Glad to hear I am not the only one that dosen't trust 'celebrity cookbooks!. Thanks for dropping by my blog - I am such a goof, just love finding a new comment in the morning! Cheers Lynda

Anh said...

I have never tried blondie! Can you believe it? :D It's because white chocolate isn't my thing. But yours look very good. :D

Lis said...

I am so glad you kept trying because these blondies look amazing!! xoxoxo

Helen said...

Hard work does pay off! They look great! I just put a batch of blondies in the oven too(without reading your post first...great minds!)...wish me luck!

Paprika said...

Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe! I've never heard of blondies until now. I made them last night, you're right - its definitely not enough! Mmmmm. Come have a look at my blondies!!