Friday, December 4, 2009


I knew this recipe would be good when I saw that it had 4 teaspoons of vanilla extract (the 12 tablespoons of butter couldn't hurt either). I am of the opinion that one, you MUST use pure vanilla extract and not imitation vanilla flavoring, and two, it never hurts to add a little more to a recipe. I know that pure vanilla extract is far more expensive than imitation vanilla flavoring, but it is definitely worth it. The last time I bought vanilla extract at a grocery store I believe it was $3.99 or so for a 2 oz. bottle, while imitation vanilla extract was $0.99 for a 4 oz. bottle and that's why I don't buy it at the grocery store anymore. At Sam's Club you can buy a 16 oz. bottle for only $6.48! I think I get my Sam's Club membership's worth from vanilla extract and tires alone. I've never checked out Costco, so they might have a great deal like that as well. But I'd still buy pure vanilla extract over imitation vanilla flavoring any day, even at grocery store prices.

Now, as much as I adore America's Test Kitchen, I don't follow all their recommendations, mostly because I'm lazy. Because weighing is more accurate the measuring out ingredients, the America's Test Kitchen Baking Book provides weights for many of the ingredients. Despite the fact that I have a digital kitchen scale, I still use measuring cups. Although toasting nuts gives them a deeper flavor, I don't always do it, usually because I don't have the time. The foil sling works well if you're going to remove the bars from the pan you baked them in for cutting and serving, I rarely am, so I just make sure to grease my pans well. My 9x13-inch pan has a cover, so I see no reason to remove them from that pan to serve or store them. Why create extra dishes? It's also a rare occasion that I can wait until a baked treat is completely cool to try it, unless I need to frost it first. Who doesn't love a warm brownie or cookie?

from the America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups packed (10 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (3 ounces) white chocolate chips
1 cup (4 ounces) pecans, toasted* and chopped

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with a foil sling** and grease the foil. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in the chips and nuts.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the blondies until a tooothpick inserted near the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 22 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

4. Let the blondies cool completely in the pan, set on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove the blondies from the pan using the foil, cut into squares, and serve.

*You can either toast nuts in a skillet or in an oven. To toast less than 1 cup of nuts (or seeds), heat them in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking periodically to prevent burning, until the nuts are brown and fragrant, 3 to 8 minutes.

To toast a large quantity of nuts, spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in a 350-degree oven until they are browned and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Shake the baking sheet every few minutes, keeping a close eye on them because it doesn't take long to go from toasted to burnt.

**To make a foil sling, fold or cut two pieces of aluminum foil so they are as wide as the baking dish, but longer. Lay the sheets of foil in the pan, perpendicular to one another, with the extra length of foil hanging over the edge of the pan. Push the foil so it is as flush with the pan surface as possible, ironing out any wrinkles and making sure to get it pushed into the corners. Grease the sides and bottom before you add the batter. When your bars are finished baking and cooling, you can easily lift the bars out of the pan using the foil overhang as handles to cut and serve them.


  1. Yum!! Have you ever tried making your own vanilla? It taste better then the store bought stuff - stronger! I knew I wanted to save money around Christmas so I made up a bunch that would be ready then... Plus the longer it sits the better it tastes :) I will have to make these sometime!

  2. No, I haven't, but that definitely sounds like something I need to try.