This post is either about blondies or bipolar disorder.

blondies.jpg
I took this bandanna off my head because I needed something for the picture and have no cute dishtowels. I’m not sorry if that squicks you out.

Modern science can be a wonderful thing: penicillin, the polio vaccine, tiny cameras that can be inserted into your veins all Innerspace-style, the iPhone. (Of course, I’m still waiting for a cure for AIDS and a rocket car, but I’m sure that modern science is working hard on them.) So I have to give modern science a hand for inventing depakote, a wonderful drug that helps keep me from being crazy. Because the food in psych wards really isn’t up to snuff, so I can’t really see myself going back there. That, and I like my shoelaces.*

An unfortunate side effect of being sane is that I can sometimes be a little tired and don’t always feel like jumping up to make a 7-layer cake for a party I’d promised to bring dessert to, especially when it’s a bucolic spring day and the empty hammock is swinging invitingly in the breeze under the ginkgo trees.** Luckily, that’s what one-bowl blondies are for. They’re dense and chewy and stuffed to the gills with chocolate-y, pecan-y, coconutty goodness, and they pull together in about 3 minutes.***

*I know people have different opinions and different experiences with drugs of the mental health variety, and I deny none of those. Depakote works for me in that it helps keep me from offing myself, which I take to be a plus. As always, if you want to start some kind of Tom Cruise-style argument in the comments? You know what I’m going to tell you: Just say no.

**I acknowledge that this might have less to do with depakote than it does with my excessive love of napping in hammocks.

***Sorry about all the asides lately.

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Butter and sugar: 2 of the 4 major food groups.

I get pretty picky about my blondies. To me, they should be a brownie counterpart, which means a brownie equal – rich, moist, chewy, flavorful bars, not cookie-like or overly fluffy. I don’t really eat many blondies other than my own because they’re not to be trusted; I’ve been burned too many times to go down that road. If I want a tiny piece of cake studded with chips and nuts, I’ll eat a tiny piece of cake studded with chips and nuts. For a blondie, I require the fudgy texture of a brownie sans actual fudge.

(Of course, this assumes that you’re not one of those people who likes cakey brownies. Which, if you are, maybe you should be in the insane aslyum.)

How to do that without chocolate? Copious amounts of brown sugar and butter. No white sugar – it would make things too crisp, and doesn’t add enough flavor of its own. Light brown sugar adds a subtle molasses tone and keeps things good and chewy. A few eggs add just enough structure to keep things afloat, and vanilla adds a deep bourbon-y note. (Buy the best vanilla you can afford. You’ll notice the difference.)

2.jpg
One of my few instances of baking without the KitchenAid.

Barely enough flour to create a batter, a smidge of baking powder and some salt for balance, and my drug-addled brain can just manage to stir the batter together with a wooden spoon.

There’s something very satisfying about stirring batter with a wooden spoon instead of using a mechanical device. The KitchenAid Professional 600 is still my not-so-secret boyfriend, but sometimes I like the Suzy homemaker thing. Or, in my case, the 1950s housewife on valium and her second vodka martini thing. Either way, we’re going back to basics!

3.jpg
The third food group: chocolate

Once the basic batter is together, you can mix in whatever you want according to your personal blondie requirements. Me, I like to start with bittersweet chocolate chips; the batter is plenty sweet with all the brown sugar, and milk-, white- and even semi-sweet chocolate make things too cloying for me.

Also cloying? The mannerisms of the people who work in the looney bin. I mean, I get that you’re working with unstable people, but COME ON. Your constant unflappable good moods and chirpy voices make me want to punch you. Which would probably be seen as a step backward by the powers that be, which means I have to stay in the nuthouse LONGER, which means I have to KEEP LISTENING TO YOU CHIRP, which makes me want to punch you, and so on. I’m firmly convinced that people who have been patients in psych wards for more than 5 days are only there because of this vicious chirp-and-punch cycle. I demand mental health reform.

4.jpg
These blondies don’t include the fourth food group, bacon. Although you know, that could be really good, if you candied the bacon and sprinkled it on top… the wheels, they are turning.

I also like coconut – just a touch – less for the flavor and more for the texture. Adding the moist shreds of sweetened coconut adds weight, density and chew that helps boost these blondies’ confidence so they can stand up to their chocolatey colleagues. Too much sweetened coconut makes these too sweet (duh) for their own good, so if you’re after big coconut flavor you might want to try using a greater amount of unsweetened flaked coconut and/or a bit of coconut extract.

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I’m nuts for blondies, but I don’t need no psychotropic drugs for THAT ailment!

You gotta have the nuts. Unless you have a fatal nut allergy, in which case permission to omit is freely granted.

I don’t like for my blondies to think of themselves as “brownies lite,” so I don’t use the traditional brownie walnut so that we can avoid that point of comparison. That, and the subtle sweetness of some roasty-toasty pecans just plain tastes better in these than walnuts.

See how quickly these are coming together? There’s not even enough time for me to pad this section of the post with more rambling about mental illness!

blondie.jpg
Et voila.

I give you: the perfect blondie. Fantastic texture, studded with just enough add-ins and with rich caramelly undertones that really make it stand out as a blondie sine qua non. A tall glass of cold milk is not optional.

What is optional? Pretty much everything other than the basic batter together. You can use whichever chocolate you like or none at all*, use chips or chunks, add or subtract coconut, use whatever nut floats your boat, throw in some dried cranberries or apricots, use peanut butter or butterscotch chips, sprinkle some candied bacon on top, whatever. They are all things to all people. They are everywhere at once. Okay, they’re not really that last part; if that seemed true to you, I’m willing to share my drugs.

If you’re going to a party tomorrow and you’ve promised to bring dessert, and you’re dragging ass for whatever reason, I’ve just given you a gift. So I expect you all to come visit me with Chinese take-out and pints of Chunky Monkey if the depakote ever lets me down.

*Even though you could do this, you really shouldn’t.

Blondies sine qua non
makes approx. 24 bars

12 tbsp. unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. AP flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 c. pecans, lightly toasted and roughly chopped

Pre-heat your oven to 350. Line a 9×13 pan with buttered parchment or foil to make it easier to get the baked blondies out.

Melt the butter over low heat (you want it melted but not super-hot; if it gets too hot, wait a few minutes before proceeding). In a large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and brown sugar together until combined. Add both eggs and the vanilla and whisk until smooth.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt in two additions, mixing until fairly smooth each time; you’ll probably need to switch to a wooden spoon or spatula, as the batter gets quite thick. Fold in the chocolate, coconut and nuts.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread/smooth to the edges. Bake for 28-32 minutes until the edges are just turning golden brown and cracks are running across the top. Cool in the pan before removing and cutting into bars.

45 thoughts on “This post is either about blondies or bipolar disorder.

  1. “A tall glass of cold milk is not optional.”

    no way.

    you said psychotropic. hehehehehe.

    beautiful stuff michelle. thanks for this post.

  2. I always thought Depakote was only for epilepsy, I had no idea it was for bipolar disorder. Hey man, whatever works why not use it.

    I love the brutal honesty.

  3. I don’t generally do desserts but I can get on board with this – it requires neither a Cuisinart or KitchenAid. You did give me a gift – thanks! Where do I send the take-out?

  4. Yay for drugs! I haven’t needed them myself, but I have people close to me for whom their meds are a godsend (for them and for me). Don’t let Tom Cruise get you down.

    Yay for napping in hammocks! Actually, I’d settle for just napping. I was rehearsing till 11:30 last night and then had to come into work at 6:30 AM for a conference call with London. I’m leaving the office early and napping in a hammock. Wait, I don’t have a hammock. I’ll nap under a tree. You can bet that I won’t be baking ANYTHING. No 7-layer desserts for me, not even a blondie.*

    (However, if I were going to bake something I think those blondies would be at the top of the list)

    Hand mixing is really best for this type of recipe. I would have used a wooden spoon too. I also agree that brownies should be nice and dense and chewy regardless of the base.

    *Asides are fun!

  5. Hi There

    I just stumbled upon your blog and think it is an excellent read for foodies and especially like the photos and design of the blog.I started off as a blogger myself and realise the importance of a good clean design like you have here. I have now bookmarked it for myself to read and have added you to our new list of “all the food blogs in the world” on http://www.ifoods.tv which we have been compiling for the last month! Hopefully it will send you some traffic in the long run. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on food so keep up the good work and talk soon. Cheers

  6. Mmmmm never had blondies. Thinking i should as they *do* include three of the four food groups that i adhere to as well. i think you’ve got a good thing going there with the bacon ideas though. mmmmmm.

    depakote, unfun. chirp and punch cycle, more unfun. So I think you have at least a better thing going there ;) especially with access to a hammock.

  7. paz, thanks and welcome!

    melissa, anytime.

    laura, when i finally acquire a child of my own, i’m going to teach him or her that tom cruise is the living embodiment of loki the trickster.

    noble, yup, bipolar disorder, epilepsy and migraines. the other main option for bipolar is ablify, which, aside from having a stupid name, has “involuntary tics and spasms that may become permanent” as a main side effect. thanks but no thanks! i’m already crazy, i don’t need tics too.

    esz, it’s only a stick and a half of butter, what’s the problem? paula deen would use these as the bread for a butter and cream cheese sandwich.

    second laura, they’re so easy and so good. and i like general tso’s chicken and crab rangoon.

    rachel, i second both of your “yay”s. i’m sorry you don’t have a hammock of your own. you should acquire one immediately.

    niall, thanks, and glad you like it here.

    christey, depakote IS fun if it means i get to spend my time baking blondies and napping in hammocks instead of curled into the fetal position under the coffee table and crying. although i guess that’s cathartic in it’s own way…nope, i’ll still take blondies.

  8. We’ve come a long way since my uncle who is manic/depressive was prescribed lithium to go with his alcoholism.

    100% with you on the psych-wards, they give me the willies, I just hope no-one ever figures out that I’m insane, oops was that my out-loud voice?

    Blondies rock. Mostly I’d rather have a *plain* blondie than any brownie with nuts in the whole world. Yes, I’m a heretic, I make mine plain with no chips, nuts, coconut, etc.

  9. OOOH! This is kinda like Magic Bars, but much less construction. Anything that can get chocolate, nuts and coconut into my mouth more quickly is a good thing.

    Did that sound mildly dirty?

  10. courtney, damn straight.

    canary, if making these for dinner is wrong, then i don’t wanna be right. and i saw your blog – thanks for the E!

    fuzzy, i understand no chips or coconut, but no nuts? what are you even eating then?

    anne, you know what does sound kinda ditry to me? “magic bars.”

    jen, heh, you said “tootin’”.

  11. The latter (though, ironically, it’s much more expensive.)

    For a Galactic Overlord, he’s kind of a dick; it’s probably because all his minions here on Earth are creepy, pitiable closet cases. Also, unlike his minions, I don’t think he gets to eat any delicious blondies very often.

  12. First, my husband drives me nuts by calling these chewies. His crazy mama does it, too. But regardless, they look fab!

    Second, “squick you out” made me laught.

    Third, thanks for stopping by! The banana bread IS great. I recommend it!

  13. Oh yum. OH MY GOD, yum. Those blondies look….(thump)…sorry, it’s a bit early in the morning for that sort of food porn.

    It was so great meeting you last night! I hope we get to shop for cute clothes and hot spoons again soon.

  14. where’s the bacon? am i the only one that was wishing that wasn’t a joke? i’m a strange one, though and love bacon w/ sweet stuff.

    these blondie look so good. i forgot i even LOVED blondies. and i forgot i love blonds, ooops, my husband is almost one. i may have to make these soon.

    and tom cruise should be on drugs. or someone should give him a dose of some. i can’t stand that asshole.

  15. peter, i bet the higher-ups who sail around the world in saelab 2021 or whatever the fuck it’s called get all the blondies they want. motherfuckers.

    abby, heh, “chewies.” i would so make fun of him.

    marc, read more closely, grasshopper: chocolate and bacon.

    heather, i’m physiological incapable of NOT being glib. but they haven’t invented a pill for that one yet.

    sherry, ditto! let me know the next time you have a night off. and the spoon? i used it as soon as i got home. and it was FUCKING AMAZING.

    WANF, who said it was a joke? i don’t joke about bacon. i think a bacon blondie would be awesome.

    rosa, thanks!

  16. mmm blondies. i just gifted some hazelnuts and am thinking blondies with hazelnuts would make a good combination. thanks for the idea!

  17. I am going to be lusting for these until I make them. I’m not good at deprivation so it will be real soon. Ummm…like today!

  18. Funny, funny stuff. Good times. Nobody should be this witty AND be able to cook. And, for what it’s worth, I’d take a well-constructed blondie over a brownie any day of the week.

  19. forkful, you are a woman after my own heart.

    julia, they would be wonderful with hazelnuts. great, now i have to make more.

    judy, there’s no time like the present.

    cheryl, what can i say? i am a woman of many gifts. a renaissance woman, if you will.

  20. Since we found out my daughter has a nut allergy, I pretty much don’t cook anything with nuts, but these make for very satisfying nut-dessert porn.

    It’s hard not to condemn the perils of using real medication to treat a real condition, as I glibly jump on my couch. I know, that horse has been beaten to death, but it’s just too easy to go there.

  21. Now THAT looks like a quality fucking blondie. I actually ate a blondie last night at a friend’s birthday party (why 30 year-olds still have birthday parties is beyond me)- it was Martha’s recipe. It was the fluffy variety you were describing. I was deeply saddened.

  22. THanks as always for your honesty-so refreshing in such a chirpy world. When are you traveling to Argentina? It’s not so chirpy there! These are just the recipe I’ve been looking for-but can I add some dulce de leche? ;)

  23. Thank you for stopping by my site! Come back anytime! I love your site! Your a spitfire and I love it! And these blondies look delish!

  24. Made these last weekend and my god they’re good.

    There may have been some slight quantity miscalculations in my comversions of cups into something my poor little brain understands (in this case, ounces – ) though, given they ended up more chocolate and nuts than actual blondie.

  25. i took depakote for a while. i wish they had perscribed blondies instead. also, i wish that blondies were everywhere at once. if only that were true, i wouldnt need drugs in the first place. stupid imperfect world.

  26. TWO TABLESPOONS OF NILLA?!?!!? ahhh this is the recipe for me. i always put way more then needed. i hate when recipes ask for one or two teaspoons. what the hell is that going to do?!!?! im off to make them right now!!!!!!!!

  27. *Drool* …it’s recipes like this that make me hate uni. I cannot wait to go home this weekend to feed my baking addiction. I need an oven! In addition, chewy always trumps cakey. Cakey-ness is just so tragic. This recipe looks like a winner!

  28. Michelle,

    Your blondie recipe is very close to mine, but I use 2 cups each of flour, brown sugar, and butter….easier to remember…the ‘rule of twos’
    Such a simple recipe with such mind blowing results!

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