Daily Herald
Sugar pushed into lead role with blondies
By Annie Overboe | On Baking
Published: 5/27/2009 12:00 AM

Recipes

I have been in somewhat of a dessert rut lately.

Chocolate has pretty much run the show and in my case that means the dark chocolate. No milk or white for me. Last month's Edge Pan Brownie recipe (yes; that decadently dark chocolate treat) drew interesting responses from readers, friends and, surprisingly, my son. (BTW, You can get that recipe in the archive at dailyherald.com/food.)

I saw it as a sign when three separate requests for blondies came in the same day. As a chocoholic, a brownie sans the cocoa seems a culinary crime. But chocolate does more for brownies than simply provide that signature flavor.

Without cocoa to darken the batter, a brownie wouldn't be, well, brown.

With blondies, brown sugar and butter bake into a light caramel shade; egg yolk enhances the sandy hue texture of the finished bar.

One other challenge arises when you remove a very powerful ingredient, like chocolate, from a recipe: another ingredient takes its place of dominance. With blondies, sugar muscles out the other players. If you don't control the sugar, culinary disaster could follow.

In dessert recipes dark chocolate is the one ingredient that easily keeps sugar in check. When partnered correctly, chocolate and sugar combine to create a unique flavor balance: chocolate prevents over sweetening and sugar softens cocoa's sharp savory edges.

Blondies generally appeal to those who enjoy a serious blast of sweetness. Sugar has all the potential to create a great dessert: case in point, caramel. Yet as bakers, we must use supporting ingredients and baking methods to avert a complete sugar overload.

Before reworking the recipe, I purchased blondie samples from local bakeries and restaurants. Textures felt under baked and the sugar notes tasted raw and under developed. Several samples gave off overwhelmingly artificial aromas. It became clear I had my work cut out for me.

To produce great texture and taste in a blondie, I had to incorporate ingredients that enhance sugar's natural sweetness without knocking it out of its dominant role in the recipe. I thought dark brown sugar would do it, but its high molasses content proved too strong and offensive on the palate. A great blondie should be gently sweet and mellow.

I found light brown sugar provided sweet notes with a hint of savory molasses. Golden seedless raisins and toasted walnuts added texture and didn't disrupt blondie's color theme.

This easy dessert offers a great alternative to the traditional brownies, and coming from an unremorseful chocoholic, that says a lot.

• Annie Overboe, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, lives in Villa Park. Write her at Baking Secrets, Daily Herald Food section, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or food@dailyherald.com. Questions will not be responded to personally.