These bars were baked with a very specific person in mind: My father-in-law, Jim. He and my mother-in-law keep to a gloriously healthy diet. They have a bountiful garden behind their small urban home, and they eat two modest home-cooked meals a day, one after a vigorous early morning swim. However, on special occasions, restraint vanishes and I find a lot of pleasure in offering Jim his two favorite foods in the whole world: Butter and maple syrup.
One such occasion presented itself this past week when Jim showed up at the house my husband and I have been painstakingly renovating for months just to help with the project nearest to my heart: The kitchen. Cheerfully assembling kitchen cabinets? Out of thousands of tiny pieces? From IKEA? This gift called for a treat of epic proportions.
I haven't talked much about my home renovation and kitchen project yet here on The Kitchn — perhaps out of superstition, and also exhaustion. (I understand now why people often have so few helpful photos of their renovations in progress. By the time you get to the interesting bits, you're so exhausted and ready to be done, the camera is the last thing you reach for. Bourbon is much more the thing at this point in a full home renovation.)
But at every step in this long and overwhelming project, my in-laws, who have quite a lot of building and renovating experience themselves, have been unfailingly encouraging and helpful. The crowning moment, though, was when Jim came gladly over to help us push, shove, and lock those infamous IKEA AKURUM cabinets together. To me, that's love.
Putting cabinets together, assembly line style!
I felt like the moment called for an extra helping of maple syrup and butter — together. I've been thinking about a maple blondie for a while, as I felt it had a good chance of being truly maple tasting, unlike a lot of maple desserts, which are often too subtle for my taste. I wanted the maple taste in these blondies to come through strong.
I did this through a triple dose. First, there's maple syrup in the batter. Secondly, I chop up a 2-ounce piece of maple sugar candy (one of those thick maple sugar leaves you find in specialty candy sections at the grocery store should do fine), which adds unexpected melting bits of pure maple in the bars. And finally, I drizzle on a glaze of maple syrup cooked with butter. The result is very sweet, and quite soft and chewy, as I think a blondie should be. They are also quick to whip up.
These blondies turned out to be the indulgent treat I was looking for, and one that's going on my Thanksgiving table this year. I have a lot to be thankful for — a soon-to-be-finished new kitchen, handy in-laws, and good folks who really, really love the taste of maple syrup.
Maple Pecan Blondies
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup grade B maple syrup
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ounces maple sugar candy, chopped
Maple Butter Glaze
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup grade B maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with parchment paper so that the ends fall over the long sides of the pan. Grease very lightly with butter or baking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, chopped pecans, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda. In a separate bowl or large measuring pitcher, whisk together the melted butter, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla extract. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, and fold together quickly and firmly until completely combined. Fold in the chopped maple sugar candy.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. It will be quite thick and sticky. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the center is just barely cooked and set. The blondies should be very soft still.
While the blondies are baking, make the maple butter glaze: Melt the butter in a small saucepan then stir in the maple syrup and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat (watch out that it doesn't boil over) and cook at a full boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Drizzle the warm glaze over the blondies. Reserve any leftover glaze and refrigerate, well covered. It will last for at least a week in the refrigerator, and can be used for serving the blondies, or drizzled over ice cream.
Set the blondies aside to cool for at least a full hour. Lift out of the pan using the parchment to lift them straight up. Cut into small squares to serve.
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(Images: Faith Durand)