Double Coffee Brown Butter Blondies

Those of us who work retail know that labor day is only a holiday for other people. For us it’s a weekend of whirlwind activity while we try not to let our sale-crazed customers tear down the shelves along with the books on them. It’s also the second week of school, so every third customer wants half a dozen college textbooks, and they just stare at you as though you can make the textbooks that we don’t have magically appear so that they can buy them during the sale.

The sad thing is, I actually kind of like sales. They’re so insanely busy that you don’t get to stop and think for 30 seconds, which means that when the shift is over you’re left tired and sweaty but thinking, “It’s been eight hours already? I just got here!”

Because I work in a bookstore, and because I spend so much of my time there among the cookbooks, I don’t use the many blogs I read for recipes nearly as often as I use cookbooks.  Not that I know how to leave a recipe unchanged, but I have a sort of addiction to glossy pages full of photography infinitely better than mine sitting dangerously close to messy things bubbling on the stove.

These blondies are an exception. I found them first on Une Gamine dans la Cuisine, where they were called Jensen bars.  That blogger adapted them from Not Without Salt, where they were simply brown butter blondies. Not Without Salt adapted them from Honey & Jam, where they were called toffee brown butter blondies. Honey and Jam adapted them from Martha Stewart. In other words, I’m fifth in a game of culinary telephone from an actual print-on-paper cookbook.

There’s something sublime about that, and it’s hard to see it in most cookbooks. Recipes change every time someone new makes something, or every time a cook gets bored and decides to shake up a recipe he’s made a thousand times before. Watching a recipe change significantly over the course of two short years, yet remain easily recognized from its roots is something special.

Corvids love coffee, but we do not drink it.

For my own version, I added coffee. Then I though about it for a second, looked at the huge amount of butter in all of the recipes that came before it, reduced it (I know, I know. Butter’s even in the title. But trust me) and added coffee again. Coffee liquor and instant espresso. The result is unspeakably good. I panicked. If I didn’t get rid of these things I was going to eat them all and them go on a maniacal caffeine-induced rampage about the town.

Ingredients (makes a 9×13 pan of blondies, about 20 bars)

2 sticks (16 T) butter

2 1/4 cups flour

1 t baking soda

1/2 t baking powder

1 1/2 t salt

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs

1 T vanilla extract

2 T instant espresso powder

1/4 cup coffee liquor (Kahlúa or my favorite, Caffé Lolita)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. The first step is to brown that butter. Put the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

Melt it.

Bring it to a boil. Stir it to keep it from heating unevenly or boiling over.

Keep stirring. It will become quite frothy and sea-foam like as the butter turns brown. Your kitchen should smell distinctly of roasting nuts.

Pour the browned butter into a large bowl and give it a minute or two to cool.

Add the sugars.

Mix the sugars well.  Contemplate just eating this mixture, because it smells like the tastiest thing in the whole world.

Add the eggs, vanilla, and coffee liquor.

Mix the wet ingredients thoroughly.

Combine the flour, leavenings, salt, and espresso powder in a sieve.

Sift them into the batter.

Mix the dry ingredients into the batter gently. Don’t overdo it; you want the blondies to be very tender. The finished batter will be a lovely golden brown.

Because the batter is so thin, I lined my baking pan with buttered parchment paper. It probably isn’t necessary, but it was nice to be able to lift the blondies free of the pan to cut them.

Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes for a very moist blondie, or 40 minutes for a firmer one. I like them very moist, just on the edge of uncooked. That way it almost feels like eating cookie dough.

This is definitely a bar for coffee lovers. It’s extremely dangerous, because eating one of these caffeine-laden delights after dinner (with a scoop of coffee ice cream, obviously) will keep you up half the night. While you’re buzzing around the apartment wide awake, one thought will keep coming back to you every five minutes, with increasing urgency: “I really want another blondie.”

Thankfully, they make great gifts. Mr. B’s car battery died while we were on vacation, and we discovered it the day we made these. So when our extremely helpful neighbor gave it a jump, I hopped on to the excuse to present him with a pile of these as thanks. If I actually ate all the desserts I’ve been making lately, I’d be in for a lot more time at the gym, and probably still need bigger pants.

There are a thousand more things I could say about these, but as I mentioned, labor day is not a holiday for us retail folks. It’s 11:30 at night and I just got home from work half an hour ago. For the rest of you who worked today, reward yourselves with some of these. You know, in a few days, once you’ve recovered from the sale.

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  1. #1 by Sasha @ The Procrastobaker on September 7, 2011 - 4:31 AM

    Ive been wanting to try these ‘jenson bars’ for ages and seeing them on your blog has just convinced me I simply must! Your version looks stunningly good, I adore coffee treats, seem sophisticated in their loveliness 🙂 Great recipe!

    • #2 by koshercorvid on September 7, 2011 - 9:10 AM

      The coffee flavor is very pronounced at first, then it just melts into brown butter goodness. I think the only way to make these even better would be to stir in some hazelnut chunks at the very end.

  2. #3 by Peggy on September 7, 2011 - 11:43 AM

    I’m planning on making these at my next available excuse (how can anything with the words “brown butter” be bad?), but am considering substituting hazelnut liquor for the coffee. They look delicious.

    • #4 by koshercorvid on September 7, 2011 - 6:38 PM

      Everything’s better with hazelnut. Let me know how they turn out!

  3. #5 by Joanne on September 8, 2011 - 5:53 AM

    Culinary telephone is one of my favorite games to play! It’s always interesting to see how much recipes change over the course of a few interpretations. These look like they’ve weathered the game with their deliciousness intact. And amplified.

    • #6 by koshercorvid on September 8, 2011 - 10:13 PM

      It’s definitely recipes like these that make me feel better about playing with recipes-as-written. I can’t help but feel like I’m wrong when I change things from cookbooks like Baked: Explorations, but with something as good as this I’m sure the changes make them even more devourable.

  4. #7 by Lynda Kayes on September 18, 2011 - 2:17 PM

    I guess I’ll have to try these how can butter , brown sugar and coffee not be fabulous. Coffee just gets me buzzing so, maybe a treat before I clean the house, the possibilities are endless! I used to make something along these lines called blond brownie, wonder if these would support a chocolate chip?? Perhaps better to not gild the lily…

    • #8 by koshercorvid on September 18, 2011 - 4:40 PM

      They can hold up chocolate chips, or better yet a drizzle of ganache on top!

  5. #9 by Nicole Smith on February 2, 2012 - 4:22 PM

    I just found your amazing bar recipe and wanted to reach out! I am a community management assistant at Instructables.com, the largest project-sharing site with well over 60k projects all submitted by our users, and I just know our community would love to see this recipe!

    I wanted to give you a shout out and let you know about the Coffee Challenge we have going on right now. We’re giving away some great prizes including a Breville Barista Express BES860XL machine and Baratza 585 Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder and I think your recipe would be a great entry!  I would be happy to feature it on our site if you decide to post the instructions and help get it noticed among our over 13 million visitors. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Hope to hear from you soon!

  6. #10 by Jen on June 29, 2013 - 11:21 AM

    My batter is never as thin as the one pictured before I pour it into the pan. Why might this be the case? Should I be sifting the flour before I measure it? I’ve only made these once, and they turned out a bit dry the first time. My second batch is in the oven now, and I’m praying I’ll have a better result, despite how thick the batter was when I stuck the pan in. I confess – I added additional splashes of coffee liquor to the batter to thin it out a bit…

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