Recipe Review

I Tried Smitten Kitchen’s Customizable Blondie Recipe and Did Not Expect These Results

updated Mar 1, 2021
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Credit: oto: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen has long been a trusted source of food and cooking wisdom. Over the years, she’s shared hundreds of winning recipes that she’s either developed or adapted, weaving in stories from her small New York kitchen along the way. So when it came time to pick contenders for our blondie recipe showdown, it was no surprise that one of Deb’s recipes, called “Blondies, Infinitely Adaptable,” came highly recommend. Kitchn’s Editor-in-Chief, Faith Durand, described them as “a solid tablet of sugar and butter,” so how could I not add them to the list? Here’s what happened when I gave them a go.

Credit: oto: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make Smitten Kitchen’s Blondies

You’ll begin by melting unsalted butter on the stovetop and cook it until the milk solids brown and the butter has a nutty aroma. Pour the butter into a bowl and whisk in brown sugar until combined and the mixture cools slightly. Whisk in an egg, vanilla, and salt. Finish the batter by stirring in flour and mix-ins. Although she says you can use anything from dried fruit to crumbled heath bars to candy canes here, I made the blondies with Deb’s self-proclaimed favorite combo: chocolate chips and chopped, toasted walnuts.

Transfer the thick batter to a parchment-lined baking pan and smooth the top. Bake until lightly browned at the edges but slightly under-baked. Cool the blondies in the pan, then use the parchment to remove them. Cut into squares and serve.

Credit: oto: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Smitten Kitchen’s Blondies

While this blondie recipe was originally sourced from Mark Bittman’s book How To Cook Everything, Deb has tweaked it over the years to make it her own. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by both the flavor and texture of these blondie bars. I followed all of Deb’s recommendations — browning the butter, mixing in a combination of chocolate chips and walnuts, baking just until lightly browned on the edges — but alas, they fell short for me.

Notes throughout the recipe warn against over-baking the blondies, so I was especially conscious of pulling the pan from the oven as soon as the edges browned — right at 20 minutes. But that resulted in very pale blondies (the palest of all the ones I tried), and they didn’t develop the rich butterscotch flavor I was looking for, despite the extra step of browning the butter. In addition, the texture of these blondies was very dense — almost brittle — and not chewy at all.

It seems others had this same issue, and while Deb ascribes this to over-baking, I know that wasn’t the case with my batch. I think a lot of the reason for the dense and flat squares has to do with her decision not to include any leavening (such as baking powder or baking soda). The walnuts did add a welcome nutty flavor to the bars and paired well with the semi-sweet chocolate chips, but all in all these blondies didn’t deliver the chew and flavor I’m looking for.

Credit: Patty Catalano

If You Make Smitten Kitchen’s Blondies, a Few Tips

  1. Add baking powder. Giving these blondies a little lift will go a long way in improving its texture. Whisk 3/4 teaspoon baking powder into the flour before continuing with the recipe.
  2. Don’t brown the butter. Melt the butter without browning it to give these bars a buttery, caramel-like flavor that is a key characteristic of good blondies.
  3. Add more vanilla extract. Just 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract isn’t enough to marry the flavors of the brown sugar and butter. For this amount of batter, you’ll need at least twice the amount. I recommend using 2 teaspoons or even 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract.

Rating: 6/10

Credit: oto: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Have you ever made Smitten Kitchen’s Blondies? Tell us what you thought!