I’ve never been big on Valentine’s Day, it always seems like a commercialised mess of over-priced wilted roses and unrealistic expectations. What I do like though is demonstrations of love and affection any day of year, and handmade or personalised gifts. And cakery. So why not combine those things, and time them right for Valentine’s Day, just because?
Here’s another thing I’ve never been big on: blondies. I think because I always just thought of them associated with white chocolate, which I really don’t like. Chocolate is great, white chocolate is not the real thing – so therefore brownies are awesome, blondies are weird and too sugary. So why I had a sudden hankering to make them is beyond me, but I’m kinda glad I did. Realised they don’t actually have to have white chocolate in them! Who knew? (probably most people…) What they do have in them is still a lot of sugar, sure, but also a lot of butter. Here’s what I absolutely love: butter.
So anyway, in line with the Valentine’s Day theme, I thought that I’d make them flavoured with my husband’s favourite drink (bourbon), cut them out in heart shapes, and then pack them up for his lunch. And then I could take the leftover bits to work and make my colleagues love me too…
In the end the recipe I used was a kind of amalgamation of a bunch of different recipes, and also what I had in the pantry. Here’s what I’d do differently next time: use all brown sugar (I only used 1/4 brown sugar and 3/4 raw sugar, because that’s what I had. It worked fine but the brown sugar would make it more caramel-y I think) so that’s how I’ve written the recipe.
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
2 cups plain flour
First thing is to brown the butter. Melt it in a saucepan over low heat, until it is just bubbling. Keep it going, swirling the saucepan around regularly so that it doesn’t stick, until it starts to go dark golden. At this point take it well off the heat because it will continue to darken, and swirl it around a bit more to cool it down because it can tip over into burning point pretty quickly. Then just let it cool down for about 10 minutes.
In the meantime preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line an 8×12 inch tray with baking paper.
Put the brown butter and the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for a few minutes, then add the vanilla and bourbon, beat for another minute or so, add the eggs and then beat again for another minute or two. Add the flour and beat lightly until just smooth, then pour into the tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes until just golden brown on top. Leave to cool in tin for about 15 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Leave to cool completely before slicing – they will be chewy in the middle and crunchy on the edges.
You can either just cut into squares like usual, or use cookie cutters to cut out fancy shapes. Delicious on their own but also excellent as a dessert with vanilla ice cream!