Coffee Chocolate Chip Blondies

Though I finished elementary school all the way back in 2001 and graduated high school a decade ago, I still associate the month of September with the ever-so-dreaded back-to-school. Don't get me wrong here -- I liked school well enough -- but with its early hours, homework, and test, school never stood a chance against Summer vacation, with its sunshine and ice cream and days at the beach. When I was younger, I remember rolling my eyes at August's abundant back-to-school commercials, turning up my nose at my newly ordered and supremely uncomfortable elementary Catholic school uniform, and feeling downright betrayed when I realized the sun was going down a bit sooner. Though I can't remember the last time I completed a homework assignment, the remnants of the old back-to-school feelings are still there -- this morning, I threw a sympathetic look at a group of tired looking backpacked Italian teenagers waiting for the train, smug in the knowledge that my studying days are behind me. 

That being said, back-to-school meant lunch in the cafeteria, and lunch in the cafeteria meant one thing: blondies. If you're not familiar, a blondie is, well, the blonde equivalent of a brownie, a treat that is rich and butterscotch-y in the same way that a brownie is chocolate-y and fudge-y, made with lots of brown sugar and butter instead of cocoa powder and chocolate. My mom made them for us kids every Fall -- this recipe here -- tucking them in to our lunchboxes where they were coveted among our classmates at lunchtime (we could never be convinced to trade them, though, not even for a Twix bar). Nothing could make us forget the sunshine-y days of summer quite like a blondie, and to this day they're among the most nostalgic foods I know.

I've grown up a little since my cafeteria days though, and so I give you these Coffee Chocolate Chip Blondies, an updated version of my favorite childhood treat. They are, as the name suggests, made with coffee, something my younger self wrinkled her nose at and that I didn't start drinking until well in to my 20s. In the place of my once preferred super sweet milk chocolate, there's semi-sweet chocolate (the chocolate of more adult taste buds) and dark chocolate covered coffee beans, both of which provide a bitterness balances the sweet butterscotch-y flavor of the blondies perfectly. These are blondies, but a bit more mature, blondies that you want on hand to get through a break-up or writing a masters thesis, blondies to celebrate a promotion or an anniversary. Or just to eat in your pajamas while binge-watching something on Netflix. Grown up stuff.

A couple of notes: You can use either chocolate chips or chocolate chunks here; I used chocolate chunks. I also threw in a handful of chocolate covered coffee beans that I bought in Budapest, and recommend you do the same, if you can find them -- it makes the blondies all the more coffee-ish. I used dark brown sugar but I suspect light brown would work well here too. These look more like brownies than blondies in the photos, but that's because the coffee makes them a little darker than your usual blondie.

Looking for more coffee-ish desserts? I've got this Cappuccino Cake and this Coffee Nutella Cake. Looking for more bars and brownies? I've got these classic Blondies, these Fudge Brownies, these Cheesecake Brownies, these S'more Bars, these Dulce de Leche Brownies, these Pecan Pie Bars, these Dark Chocolate Gingerbread Bars, Blueberry Pie Bars, and these Lemon Squares.

COFFEE CHOCOLATE CHIP BLONDIES

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
12 tablespoons (168 grams, 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (345 grams) packed brown sugar (I used dark brown)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons strong coffee, room temperature
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (yes, tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups (240 grams) semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

Chocolate covered coffee beans (see note above)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.

Stir together the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and set this aside too.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, sugar and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is hot but not simmering. Remove from the heat and stir in the coffee until well combined (if the mixture refuses to come together, let it cool for a minute or two and try again). Let the mixture cool to room temperature, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Once the butter and sugar mixture has cooled to room temperature, add the egg and vanilla and whisk until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir gently to combine.

Using a spatula, spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 24 minutes, until the blondies are set on the edges and the top is golden brown and just beginning to form cracks. A toothpick inserted into the blondies should come out with just a couple of crumbs.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely. Grab opposite corners of the parchment paper and gently lift the blondies from the pan onto a flat surface. Cut them into squares (big or small, up to you) and serve.







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