Salted Chocolate Chunk Blondies / by Chelsea Zwieg

I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions but, if I were, mine would have been to keep a cleaner pantry. I live with my sister and, luckily for me, she is the yin to my yang, the peanut butter to my jelly and the organized to my very very disorganized. Lucky her, right? When it comes to pantry organizing, I love the idea of a nice clean space. All neatly organized on the shelves, cans with their labels all facing the same direction, cereal separated from soup separated from granola bars. My saint of a sister has a similar vision and has, multiple times, embarked on a pantry organizing crusade only for it to be reduced, by me, to it's current look (complete with a punctured 25 pound bag of Costco flour that can go nowhere but all over the floor) that I would patent as "baker disorganized chic with a touch of hoarder chaos".

My main problem is that I usually buy ingredients for a baking project and wind up with just a tiny bit leftover. Never would I ever consider throwing them away, because I just KNOW there's a bright future for those 5 honey roasted almonds leftover from a cake I made in April. Which is how I wind up with a pantry overflowing with 1/8 full bags of unsweetened coconut flakes, white chocolate chips and meringue powder. So, in an effort to make a dent in this stockpile of semi-usless ingredients, I decided to bake something on my day off and forbid myself to go to the grocery store (bonus, I didn't even have to change out of my high school era Hollister pajama pants). Instead, I would use what was already there. Which, thanks to my hoarding, is pretty much the equivalent of a baking aisle anyways. 

There is no safer bet than blondies when you are looking to bake with what you already have on hand. They use 1 stick of butter, brown sugar, 1 egg and 1 cup of flour. The most minimal, most delicious, most rando-ingredient welcoming treat on earth. I filled them with dark chocolate chunks, chopped pecans and gorgeous gray flaky sea salt that I got as a Christmas gift (a testament to how much my friends and family get me, that they know how much I would want sea salt as a gift). 

If you've never ventured into the world of blondies before, picture the texture of a slightly under baked brownie with a deep caramely, almost butterscoth-like flavor that is like a chocolate chip cookie but SO much better. Then close your computer, get to the kitchen and make these, pronto. 

As I said, blondies are accepting of any and all ingredients which means you too can clean out the deep dark corners of your pantry. Please, tell me you have those. That I'm not the only one with 3 white chocolate chips from last October in a partially ripped ziploc bag? Any nuts, any chocolate, anything salty, anything sweet. Pretzels, peanuts and milk chocolate, pistachios, white chocolate and a little bit of cinnamon, almonds, espresso powder and toasted coconut. Ok, I'll stop now before I get a new idea and wind up at the grocery store all over again.

Salted Chocolate Chunk Blondies

Adapted from Mark Bittman

Makes an 8x8 pan

| Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (plus more for topping) 
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional) 

| Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper or butter/flour well. 
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and melted butter until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. 
  • Add salt and flour and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks and nuts, if desired. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes, until set in the middle. Given that blondies' signature look is the gooey/chewy center, it can be a little tricky to tell when they are done. I usually wait until the center just begins to set and the sides are golden and pull away from the pan a little. When in doubt, err on the side of under baked and let them cool completely in the pan. They will set up just fine and a little extra melty chocolate chewy goodness never hurt anyone! After they have cooled, finish with a generous sprinkling of sea salt.