Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cream Cheese Blondies . . . with Milk and Dark Chocolate Chips and Honey Roasted Almonds

It's a quiet, rainy Wednesday morning here in Berkley, Michigan. My 13 year old son's skateboarding camp has been cancelled for the day, so I let him sleep in. He just rolled out of bed, at his leisure. (I guess skateboarders don't ever like to skate in the rain--something about ruining the "grip tape," according to my little resident expert.) My older son, the 16 year old, is still snoozing. He's a lifeguard at an outdoor pool and I have a feeling, what with the soggy weather, that the pool will be closed. Only a couple more weeks until school starts again for the boys, and for me.

I'm looking forward to it because, though I enjoy and appreciate the lack of structure that summer brings, I also think that I function better overall when I'm adhering to a more predictable schedule. I just start to feel more productive and on top of things once autumn rolls around again. Something about fall, here in Michigan, is particularly appealing. Aside from the cooler temperature, the air is just different somehow and so is the daylight. Is it like that everywhere? I don't know . . .

It seems to be ingrained for a lot of adults that autumn still signals the beginning of a new year, don't you think? We were so well indoctrinated to think that way as kids. Makes a person want to go out and buy a whole box of those wonderful, orangy-yellow, Ticonderoga pencils, doesn't it? I love those--they just smell like childhood. And a couple of big spiral-bound notebooks. Maybe a new Pink Pearl eraser too. There's something alluring about the idea of a bright blank page in front of you, with lots of freshly sharpened pencils close at hand, and that cute, rubbery, pink eraser standing by.
One thing I don't like about school starting? Packing lunches. Which somehow or other brings me to the blondies . . .

There are loads of recipes out there for blondies with just about every variation you can think of. And yet, when I was attempting to choose one such recipe yesterday, I couldn't locate what I felt was the perfect specimen. Aside from all the potential "add-ins" (nuts, chips, dried fruit, coconut, various flavorings, even enhancements like rum, etc.) I was more concerned with the dough itself. Some doughs require chemical leavening and some don't, while some contain eggs and others don't. Some require melted butter and some solid butter or shortening. And so on and so forth. Sitting amidst a small field of open cookbooks, I finally decided I'd better just devise my own recipe, so that's what I did.

And, lo and behold, it was good.

Cream Cheese Blondies with Milk and Dark Chocolate Chips, and Honey Roasted Almonds

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

10 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened (one stick, plus 2 Tbsp.)
3 oz. of cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups All Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (bittersweet)
3/4 cup honey-roasted almonds, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 8" x 8" pans with parchment so it overhangs two opposite sides (you'll lift out the cooled blondies by those "handles") . Spray the parchment and the two bare sides of the pans with baking spray, or grease the parchment and the two bare sides of the

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment, on medium-low speed, cream the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar until very well blended and smooth; about two minutes or so. Scrape the bowl and paddle.

Add in the eggs and vanilla extract, beating on medium until well combined and smooth.

Add in the flour mixture gradually on lowest speed, beating just until blended.

Add in the chocolate chips and nuts on lowest speed just until mixed in.

Divide the dough evenly between the two pans and smooth it out with a spatula.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Check the blondies early to make sure they're not overbrowning; cover lightly with foil if they are. Remove them from oven when they're golden all over the top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool the blondies in their pans on a rack for about 20 minutes. Lift them out of the pans using the parchment handles, and cool them further, still on the paper, on the rack.

When they're completely cool, cut them with a really sharp knife.

Okay, now taste one of the blondies, and be happy.

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