This favorite recipe for blondie bars with caramel originates with Claire Ptak’s The Violet Bakery Cookbook. I’ve added orange blossom water, which is such a good friend of caramel, and tahini, a good friend of most everything! These bars will become your go-to for picnics, potlucks, and parties of any kind…
Couple of months ago, I showed up at a family dinner with not one, but two kinds of cookies: a beautiful plate of graybeh, which is normally gobbled up, and another beautiful plate of white chocolate-dipped molasses, which was new to our people, gorgeous and chewy and delectable.
What happened took Aunt Maureen aback. When it was cookie time, and I said so loud and clear, my niece squealed: YOU MADE BROOKIES?!!!!!
The others heard her and came a-running. I unwrapped my plates of goodness, and I tell you, faces dropped. Dropped. I heard someone say, “those aren’t the ones.”
The ones what?, I asked.
The blondie brownie cookies Aunt Peg makes. With caramel shards.
Oooooookaaaaaaay. Wow. Owie.
You have to understand. Aunt Maureen shows up with Baked Alaska and lights the darn thing on fire. She throws down smooth hummus in the blink of an eye for these people and feeds them like little baby birds in her nest. She makes huge tunjuras of vanilla buttercream for their fluffy white flag cakes.
Here now, with my time- and love-invested plates of cookies (did I say I made not one, but two types?) my people reached for my cookies to taste them . . . out of obligation. Their dad, my brother, made them do it, after Victoria described how she loves Aunt Peg’s blondies so much that she’s dubbed them “brookies,” and they are the centerpiece of her list of treats she will be offering in her some-day bakery.
I showed no hurt. I promise. Or at least I tried, even as that little stinker went into the FREEZER to find a frosted sugar cookie leftover from some other century that she’d rather have eaten than my fresh plates of disappointment.
Peg says this was simply sweet justice for the time she took Sitto grocery shopping and the whole time she was running the aisles for Sitto’s list, Sitto was saying things like: I LIVE for that Maureen. That MAUREEN is my habibti.
At least I can say that the brookies come from a book I gave to Peggy, the Violet Bakery Cookbook of royal wedding cake fame. (Note that we got after that fabulous book loooong before Megan Markle was a twinkle in Harry’s eye….)
Peggy in her great taste, latched on to the blondies when she first got the book, and now that they’ve made her famous and prompted Brookie-joy among her fans at home, I had to give them a whirl.
But not without working a little Maureenie-twist—a little tahini here, a little orange blossom there, and OH. MY. HEAVEN!
Here’s a chewy bar that is going along with you to every party, every pot luck, every picnic you meet this summer and then to every holiday cookie bake after that. Claire of The Violet Bakery Cookbook says in her recipe headnote that “guys really love” her blondies. I’ll add to that every child, and their aunts too.
Blondie Bars with Caramel
This favorite recipe originates with The Violet Bakery Cookbook. I’ve added orange blossom water, which is a good friend of caramel, and tahini, a good friend of most everything. Also, I take the melted butter all the way to brown butter for added flavor. The caramel shards are hard candy when they top the batter, but melt when they bake. Keep the bars in an airtight container, where they will be delicious for several days.
For the caramel shards:
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
For the blondies:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more to coat the pan
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1 3/4 cups brown sugar
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips, or pieces broken from bars
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13x9x2-inch pan with butter. Line with a sheet of parchment that hangs over the long sides by a couple of inches, to form a sling.
To make the caramel shards, line a sheet pan with a Silpat or parchment paper. In a small heavy saucepan, sprinkle the sugar over the water and orange blossom water. No stirring during this process, or the caramel might crystalize. Over medium heat, dissolve the sugar. Turn up the heat just a touch and continue cooking until the mixture is bubbly and turns golden brown. Carefully pour the caramel out onto the prepared pan. Cool, then break the caramel into small-ish pieces, about the size of a nickel.
To make the batter, first melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Increase the heat to medium and continue melting until the solids brown. Stay close, as this will happen quickly at a certain point. This will take 5-10 minutes total. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, orange blossom water, tahini, and brown sugar until well-combined. Add the cooled butter and whisk to combine.
In another smaller bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Use a spoon to add the flour mixture to the batter, stirring just until combined. The stir in the chocolate chips.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Scatter about half of the caramel shards over the top, saving the rest in an airtight container for your next batch. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the brookies are golden but still soft.
Cool in the pan completely, then run a knife around the edges on the short ends where there is no parchment sling. Then use the hanging edges of the parchment to lift the brookies from the pan. Cut into bars or squares and serve.