Snooping has its merits.
As a kid, I was a voracious reader. So voracious, in fact that I became a nuisance to my first grade teacher who couldn't find enough reading material to keep me occupied as my classmates trudged at a maddeningly slow pace through the reading workbooks featuring the antics of Sam and Ann and their poodle, Nip. (Eye roll. Blew through that, was ready for more, and this lady can't find anything else for me to read?! Really?!)
It wasn't until the sixth grade when I was placed into an advanced reading class that wanting to read more was not considered troublesome. Oh Happy Day! IN the meantime the library became like a second home and I took to prowling my parents bookshelves at home. The books they had collected provided a reading potpourri that was duly noted by my teachers at school. One English teacher was especially fascinated by my choice of Gone With the Wind for a book report (fantastic read, by the way) after gently steering me way from For Whom The Bell Tolls.
It was while snooping through a stack of vintage dime store paperbacks (can you even imagine?! TEN CENTS...for a book! Egads!) shoved into the opening between a shelf and more books that I discovered a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Jackpot, I thought! The title alone felt like some kind of magic recipe book for potions that would guarantee mass adoration. Flipping through the book, I was mesmerized by the chapter headings.
Three Fundamental Techniques in Handling People.
(ha, ready to spring on my bratty little brother!)
Six Ways to Make People Like You!
(I tried these on my childhood crush, Scott D. And then he suggested marriage when we were on the swings one day, and TOTALLY freaked me out. The power of this book was not to be underestimated.)
Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking!
(Bwahh, haa haaaaa....perfect for influencing my parents in the campaign for my own room.)
Nine Ways to Change People Without Arousing Resentment!
(Could it be?! A way to make Ramona, the bully at school, leave me alone?)
Despite its bold promise, How to Win Friends ended up being like most of the self-help books I came across later in life when I worked at The Oprah Show...a couple of good nuggets of advice wrapped in a heap of general bullshit.
Over time, and with some life experience, what I've come to realize is that one of the easiest ways to Make People Like You or Win People to Your Way of Thinking is to cook for them. It's not too difficult to establish with some trial and error, the recipe that is guaranteed to make people adore you. Aside from my sparkling wit and vivacious personality, for some years now, my secret has been a brownie recipe that's worded wonders for me. Guaranteed to win anyone over, the brownie recipe includes a swirl of dulce de leche to counterbalance the fudginess of the brownie with caramel goodness. David Lebovitz, creator of said brownie recipe used it to win over grumpy Parisian bureaucrats, shopkeepers and the like when he moved to Paris years ago. I rest my case.
But, I am happy to announce, (trumpets play and a drum roll, please) I have a second option!
The Browned Butter Blondie.
If you're French, go ahead and give me that perfect I-don't-give-a-fuck Gallic shrug at which your people excel, because, mon dieu, browned butter has been around for ages in French cuisine. But if this is the first you've heard of it, well, you are welcome.
World domination is within my grasp! Bwaaaahhhh hahahahahaaaaaaa!
Brown Butter Blondies with Pecans
adapted from Bon Appetit magazine
Photo Note: We all got a little giddy as I served these up so I didn't have a chance to take a photo. I could have taken a photo of the empty plate with some crumbs left, but then thought better of it. All I have is the photo from my copy of the magazine and yes, mine looked every bit as delicious as theirs!
And, let me just say these actually improved the next day, which is hard to even fathom, but it's true.
Finally, most definitely gild the lily and serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
Brown Butter Mixture
1 stick unsalted butter
1 large egg
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 sticks unsalted butter (room temp)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 3/4 cups (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
butter + flour for buttering and dusting the pan
Toast your pecans
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spread the pecans on a small baking sheet. Toast for 7-10 minutes, until pecans barely darken and are fragrant. Let them cool.
Make the Brown Butter Mixture
1. Cook butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until butter foams and browns. (about 5-8 minutes...and don't take your eyes off this for a minute...butter can go from beautifully nutty brown to black and ruined in the blink of an eye!)
2. Transfer butter to a medium bowl and let cool slightly, before adding egg, brown sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat (by hand) until mixture is light and falls back onto itself in a slowly dissolving ribbon, about 3 minutes. Fold in the flour and set aside.
Make the Blondie batter
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 13" x 9" baking dish.
2. Whisk baking powder, salt and 2 1/4 cups flour in a medium bowl. Using the stand mixer on medium-high beat brown sugar and 2 sticks butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating between additions; mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla.
4. Reduce speed to low and mix in dry ingredients. Fold in half of pecans.
5. Scrape two-thirds of the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top, pushing the batter to the edges. Dollop the brown butter mixture across and alternate with the remaining batter. Swirl a bit with the edge of a knife and sprinkle remaining pecans across the top.
6. Bake until the blondie is golden brown and firm (a tester will NOT come out clean) 30-35 minutes. Let cool before slicing and top with vanilla ice cream to serve.