Brown Butter Blondies

December  2, 2014
37 Ratings
Photo by Phyllis Grant
Author Notes

Inspired by Mark Bittman’s recipe for Butterscotch Brownies from “How to Cook Everything.” This recipe makes enough to get you through a long hard weekend. If you cut the blondies into 1-inch squares, you have enough treats to bring to a holiday party. If you cut them into larger squares and top them with vanilla bean ice cream, you have enough to feed 9 people a very rich dessert.

It might take a few experimental rounds, but you can use this template to create your very own perfect blondies. I cook mine for at least 25 minutes. I like them dense and gooey, almost like a square of raw chocolate chip cookie dough with a crunchy top. But you can cook them a bit longer for a cakier version.

I don’t mess with the amount of butter, flour, or eggs. But all the other ingredients are changeable.

Add anywhere from 1 to 2 cups brown sugar. The more sugar you add, the crunchier the top becomes (a good thing!). But to some, a full 2 cups can be sickly sweet.

If you stir the chocolate chips in while the dough is still warm, you will get a marbled effect. Quite cool. But you can prevent this by completely cooling the melted brown butter before making the dough.

I recommend 1 cup of chocolate chips. But my daughter loves it with 2 cups because the top is like a blondie while the inside looks and tastes almost like a brownie. Super crazy town rich. Watch out.

I’m liking a heaping teaspoon of kosher salt. But you can cut it down to a 1/2 teaspoon and sprinkle an additional 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt on top of the dough before baking.

You can add 1 cup of any kind of chopped and toasted nuts, chopped dried apricots, white chocolate and/or butterscotch chips, rosemary, thyme. Play. —Phyllis Grant

Test Kitchen Notes

If you invite me to your birthday party, I am bringing these blondies. Same goes for a potluck, picnic, or holiday cookie swap. And, okay, sometimes I’ll bring them even if we’re just hanging out. They check every single box: They’re dead-simple to make, call for pantry-staple ingredients (such as all-purpose flour, eggs, and brown sugar), and I’ve never seen someone take a bite of one and *not* break into an enormous grin. Baking them will render any kitchen so redolent with nutty brown butter, you’ll wonder if you should start hawking it as a room spray. And they keep for literal months in the freezer. (I like to wrap them in parchment, then foil, so they don’t stick when defrosted.)

But let’s back up for a minute. I wasn’t always a fan of blondies. “You mean, less-fun brownies?” I’d think when I saw them in a bakery case. I’d encountered dry, boring ones—the stuff of stale synagogue sweets platters after a holiday service, or ill-executed bake sale contributions. And then I read Phyllis Grant’s recipe for these brown butter guys. She had me at “almost like a square of raw chocolate chip cookie dough with a crunchy top.” Before I knew what I was doing, I found myself paying for several pounds of butter at the grocery store down the block from my apartment, as if in a fugue state. Her description was totally accurate, of course. And these blondies are the furthest thing from a “less-fun” anything: They’re extra-caramelly, thanks to the browned butter and dark brown sugar. They have crisp, crackly tops. And they’re deeply steeped with vanilla flavor. You can play with the volume of dark chocolate chips, use milk chocolate instead, or chop up a few candy bars and toss those in. Dried fruit and nuts are fair game too. In fact, it’s hard to think of a mix-in that wouldn’t work.

You’ll see—when I bring them to your next birthday. —Ella Quittner

Watch This Recipe
Brown Butter Blondies
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 34 minutes
  • Serves 9
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 teaspoons good-quality vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar (light brown is a good second choice)
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
In This Recipe
  1. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Swirl it around a few times. It will foam and spatter. After 3 to 4 minutes, it will start to smell nutty. Don’t walk away. It’s ready when the sizzling quiets down and you see little brown bits drop to the bottom of the pan. Pour into a large bowl. Cool completely (about 30 minutes). Alternatively, if you want a blondie marbled with chocolate, cool butter for only 5 minutes and proceed with the recipe. The warm dough will melt the chocolate chips a bit.
  2. Heat oven to 350° F. Prepare your 8 by 8-inch baking pan with butter and flour, parchment paper, or aluminum foil (I find foil to be the easiest: just press it into the pan with a little overhang, no need to grease). Set aside.
  3. Whisk together flour and salt. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. Add brown sugar to the cooled butter. Mix with a wooden spoon for about a minute.
  5. Add egg/vanilla mixture to butter/sugar mixture. Mix until combined and shiny, about 20 seconds.
  6. Add flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Mix until there are still a few pockets of flour visible. Add chocolate chips. Mix until evenly distributed and all flour pockets are gone, but be careful not to over-mix! Spoon dough into your prepared baking pan. Spread evenly with the back of your wooden spoon (it will keep its shape). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. You can’t do the toothpick test with this because it always comes out clean. Instead, look for a crispy top that's just starting to crack. Firm slightly-browned edges. And when you press on the center, you don’t want it to feel really soft. Don't stress. You can always throw it back in later. Just know that once it's cool, it will firm up quite a bit. And once frozen, it is dreamy in all forms.
  7. Remove from the oven. Cool completely before removing from the pan. The blondie block should pop right out (either pull out by parchment/alumninum foil or if in a greased pan, just invert onto a cutting board and carefully flip it back over). Cut into desired portion sizes. These keep for a few days at room temperature in an airtight container. Or you can freeze them for a few months.

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Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.