Anyhoo, whilst there aren't many foods in the world that I actively dislike, there are a number that I am, well let's say, indifferent to. I don't hate them; I wouldn't turn my nose up in displeasure if you put them before me, but at the same time the prospect of eating them doesn't excite me, so more than likely, I'd pass up the opportunity.
White chocolate falls squarely into this category. My thoughts on it are simply: if I'm going become a heffalump, I'd rather do so by stuffing my already chubby face with milk or dark chocolate, thanks all the same.
Now, let's park my ramblings about white chocolate for just one second. We'll come back it in a tickety-boo. In the meantime, I'd like to tell you about a place in London that I absolutely adore. It's a coffee shop/bakery called Bea's of Bloomsbury. If I ever owned a café, Bea's is more or less everything I'd want it to be: warm, inviting, cosy and with some of the best red velvet cupcakes around. Bea's is also where I first tried blondies.
For the uninitiated, blondies are basically brownies, but they don't contain cocoa, instead using brown sugar to give them an almost butterscotch taste. I hear ya’ - a brownie without the cocoa, what's the point?! And yet, when I bit into this blondie, O. M. Gosh!!! It was most delicious - moist, dense, fudgy and yummy in my tummy! This was something I was going to have to try making myself.
Enter white chocolate, stage right.
You see, despite my nonchalant feelings towards white chocolate in its most natural form, I'm pretty darned sure that Bea puts white chocolate in her blondies. So I set about trying to recreate the little beauties. The problem is, whilst my intention was to get something as close to Bea's blondies as possible, I got led astray…
A while ago, one of my favourite food bloggers, Emma at Poires au Chocolat, introduced me via her blog to caramelised white chocolate. Emma, like me, is indifferent towards white chocolate in its normal state, but she argues that if you caramelise it (roast in the oven at a low temperature for about 45-50 minutes), it transforms into a delicious golden goo that could easily be eaten by the spoonful. I tried it. She's right. It's like liquid toffee. This stuff was going into my blondies!
Needless to say, I got carried away, decided to throw some browned butter into the mix, just to add to the deep, unctuous flavour already created by the caramelised white chocolate and ended up with some blondies that were nothing like Bea's. It didn't matter. These are good. Seriously good. They're like a chewy, fudgy, sticky, toffeeish non-brownie blondie.
As for replicating Bea's blondies, well perhaps I'll try again sometime, but until then, I guess I'll just have to go back to one of her coffee shops next time I need a fix of one of her blondies. It's a hardship but I reckon I'll manage.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes approximately 40 blondies
- 300g good quality white chocolate (I used Lindt Lindor)
- Pinch of ground sea salt (I used Maldon salt)
- 225g unsalted butter
- 400g brown sugar (I used dark, but light or dark is fine)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsps vanilla extract
- 250g plain flour
- 250g dark chocolate (40% cocoa), chopped into chunks - optional, for extra chocolatyness (if you prefer, you can use 125g and stir it into only half the batter so that you have one set of blondies with chocolate chunks and one without. I did this but personally I much preferred the blondies with chocolate chunks)
This is a very easy process but it takes about 50 minutes so make sure you allow yourself the time. If you don't have the time, you can simply melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a bain marie, but it won't turn golden and turn into that caramelised liquid toffee I told you about.
Preheat your oven to 120C.
Break the chocolate into pieces and place into an oven-proof dish. Put the dish into the oven, stirring the chocolate with a spatula every five to 10 minutes, until it becomes a lovely golden colour. This should take roughly 50 minutes. Once your chocolate is done, remove from the oven and stir in the pinch of sea salt.
Note that my chocolate didn't start to change colour until about 30-45 minutes into the process, so I let it carry on for about 55 or 60 minutes in total. Don't worry if the chocolate looks lumpy or as though it's seizing at first, it should eventually become smooth, glossy and lump-free.
To brown the butter
Browning butter can be a daunting process if you've never done it before. The very first time I did it, I burnt my butter and had to start all over again! If you're nervous about it, there's a great picture how-to guide over on Ambitious Kitchen. As with the caramelised white chocolate, you could just melt the butter normally, but without roasting the chocolate and browning the butter, the blondies won't be as deeply toffeeish and caramelised as they should be.
To brown the butter, slice it into a few pieces, place the slices in a saucepan (it's easier if you have a light-coloured saucepan so that you can see the butter start to take on a golden colour as it browns) and have a whisk at the ready. You should also have a cold bowl ready (either chill it in the fridge or place it over some ice.
Place the saucepan over a medium heat and begin melting the butter. Small bubbles will soon start to appear all over the surface of the butter. As soon as this happens, start to whisk it consistently.
Next, the butter will start to crackle and foam, with larger bubbles all over the surface. Continue to whisk.
Finally, the crackling will stop and the bubbles will reduce in size again. The surface of the butter will remain foamy. You should still be whisking!
After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan and the foam will reduce a little. Remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to turn a golden brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to the cold bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool.
To make the blondies
Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease and line two deep baking trays that are roughly 8 x 8 inches each.
With a wooden spoon or a handheld electric whisk, beat the browned butter and sugar together in a bowl until smooth.
Add the eggs and vanilla to the butter-sugar mix and beat again.
Next pour in the caramelised white chocolate, mixing vigorously to incorporate it into the mix.
Sift the flour over the mixture and then beat it in.
Finally, if using chocolate chunks, stir these into your batter (if only using 125g chocolate, first spoon half of the plain batter into one of your tins, then add the chocolate to the remaining batter in the bowl).
Spoon the batter into the baking trays and bake for around 25 minutes. At this stage they should still be gooey inside but they will set as they cool. Don't over-bake them as you want them to be moist and chewy.
Remove from oven and leave to cool before cutting into small squares.