Monday, March 26, 2012

CLASSIC CHOCOLATE CHIP PECAN BLONDIES

ANOTHER TRIP


Summer journeys to Niag'ra
and to other places aggra-
vate all our cares.
We'll save our fares!
I've a cozy little flat in
what is known as old Manhattan
we'll settle down
right here in town!

And tell me what street
compares with Mott Street
in July?
Sweet pushcarts gently gli-ding by.

The great big city's a wonderous toy
just made for a girl and boy.
We'll turn Manhattan
into an isle of joy!
- Lorenz Hart & Richard Rodgers

I am packing for a trip to New York City. How exciting and special is this trip – the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference and I am attending! I’ll be hugging friends once again that I have had the great luck to have already met, meeting and spending time with others. This is a learning and working trip: meetings, appointments, introductions, and sessions. I feel like I’ve finally grown up and can join the real professionals, and that is extremely gratifying, thrilling and motivating. Yet, this will be my first trip back to New York since that visit with my brother Michael during his illness, since his death. My first time not staying with him. Daunting, to say the least. And truly bittersweet, like a thick, bitter-tinged salted butter caramel wrapped around the big juicy sweet apple.

I rush around the apartment, doing laundry, catching up on long-neglected e-mails, finishing articles and cleaning the kitchen. My suitcase lies empty and gaping, nagging me to pay it some heed. I normally begin packing several weeks before a trip, yet I can’t seem to concentrate on the task at hand. Too excited? Distracted? Feeling unorganized and unprepared? Maybe. Likely. So I do more laundry, type more e-mails, change the sheets on our bed once again and bake.


My family has not quite gotten used to my leaving for chunks of time, even as I leave more often. They get along just fine without me – shopping, marketing, cooking, laundry – everything runs smoothly with only men in the house! Yet they are sad when I leave them; my company is always in demand, whether it be for a stroll around town just to get a bit of fresh air or when errands are needed to be run. And now that we are house hunting and decisions need to be made on the spot, I leave a wide gap in that need and decisions risk being made without me. But I am more than happy to leave the three of them on their own for a week here and there, no matter how much I miss them. They do that man thing and bond – they go out for pizza, watch action films (think giant fire balls, gladiators or something military), take Marty outside of the city for a run in the great outdoors. Much time will be spent in the garage readjusting the Lambretta and taking it for a spin around the block, putting together Simon’s portfolio and sometimes I suspect that things may just run a bit more smoothly and comfortably without my female presence and point of view. And big mouth.


Start spreading the news,
I'm leaving today.
I want to be a part of it -
New York, New York.

These vagabond shoes
Are longing to stray
And step around the heart of it
New York, New York.

I want to wake up in a city,
That doesn't sleep,
To find I'm king of the hill,
Head of the list,
Cream of the crop
At top of the heap.
- John Kander, Fred Ebb

What will New York hold for me? Many have such high hopes for me, yet I go with rather a large blank running through my head, quite possibly the reason I find it hard to get overly excited about something so formidable and utterly exciting before I actually step into the crowded hotel lobby. Finding myself surrounded by hundreds of food writers, photographers, editors, cookbook authors and chefs is indeed daunting, yet thrilling and inspiring. As shy and uncomfortable as I am around people that I do not know – and who somehow all seem to already know each other – I rarely have problems introducing myself. I have been promised that attendees of this conference are wildly friendly and open to random self-introductions, happy to take one by the hand and show one the way. I have a list of far-away friends to meet, a schedule written down in black on white of breakfasts, lunches and dinners organized. This will be the time to share ideas, listen and discuss while being back in one of the world’s most exciting cities. Oh yeah. And as my friend Ken says, we’ll be eating our way across Manhattan!


And so I fly away across the ocean, leaving my men one more time. They’ll be perfectly fine with my short absence, yet I do not like to leave them empty handed. And so I bake. I love to leave them a sweet treat or two to see them through my time away; a coffee cake, a tin of cookies and a pan of brownies always soothes their moments empty of me! I threw together one of our favourite snacks, a pan of Classic Blondies chock full of mini chocolate chips and crunchy pecans, flavored with a hint of cinnamon and grated orange zest. Easy to make and oh so easy going down. My men are crazy about chocolate chip cookies and this is as good as if not better.


CLASSIC CHOCOLATE CHIP PECAN BLONDIES
With a kiss of cinnamon and orange – adapted from Linda Burum’s Brownies

A long-time family favourite.

1 ¼ cups (175 g) flour, lightly spooned into the measuring cup and levelled
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ - 1 tsp ground cinnamon, depending on taste
Finely grated zest of one orange, preferably untreated, optional
2/3 cup (about 11 1/3 Tbs, 160 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
½ cup (100 g) granulated white sugar
2/3 cup (140 g) packed light or golden brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 tsps milk
½ - 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
½ - 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and butter a 9 x 9-inch metal cake pan.

Stir or whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon and finely grated zest in a small bowl.

In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter with the granulated sugar until blended, smooth and fluffy. Beat in the brown sugar until blended, smooth and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding the vanilla with the second egg, just until blended. Beat in the milk.

Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients just until blended; fold in the chips and the nuts until evenly distributed.

Spread the batter evenly and smoothly in the prepared baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes until the center is just set; cover the pan loosely with a piece of aluminum foil for the last 5 minutes of baking if the Blondies are browning too quickly.


Remove the Blondies from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. Eat warm or at room temperature. And a spoonful of Salted Butter Caramel Sauce or two never hurt anyone. Mama says.

26 comments:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Gorgeous blondies! So sinful.

Have a safe trip, enjoy the conference and enjoy your stay in NYC!

Cheers,

Rosa

Emma said...

I'm not a chocolate chip cookie fan, but in bar form - and blondie form - I think they're a-okay:) Upping it a notch with some caramel doesn't hurt!

raquel@eRecipe.com said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I've felt your excitement for your trip to New York to be with the culinary professionals, the sadness of not being with your brother anymore and being away for a short while from the other three men in your life. Then I got hungry and envy them for the blondies you will leave them with. Good luck on your journey! =)

Robin E. H. Ove said...

Have a great time in NYC Jamie. Knock 'em dead!

Nicole said...

Have a great trip! I thought about attending but didn't pull the trigger this year.... if you have time for an extra bite (sounds like you're quite booked already!) let me know! We're right downtown!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

You are going to have such fun Jamie, I just know you are. How exciting to be going to NY and to a big food conference with culinary professionals. I realize it will be bittersweet also. Take a brownie with you. You'll feel better.
Sam

Javelin Warrior said...

I hope you have a wonderful trip and meet all kinds of fantastic foodies - how terrifying! I shun hordes of people because I'm dreadfully terrified of introducing myself to random people (although somehow this doesn't bother me online in the least) and yet I admire your gumption to brave it on your own... Good luck and can't wait to hear what happens next...

Terra said...

I adore blondies, but you made them that much better, by adding pecans and chocolate:-) Have a safe trip, and loads of fun! Hugs, Terra

thelittleloaf said...

Oh Jamie, these look absolutely incredible! Bookmarking and definitely going to make....absolute heaven!

Magic of Spice said...

These blondies look fantastic!
Wishing you a wonderful trip...sounds like a great even :)

Sanjeeta kk said...

Have a wonderful trip, Jamie! Hope the blondies cheer up the men in your house in your absence..

Elle said...

Oh how I wish I could use more nuts in baking, but my kids just don't like them. This leaves me stuck with a pan full of whatever baked goodie I just made. Which isn't a good thing, no matter how fun it sounds.

These are classic and look fantastic, Jamie. Have fun in NY!

Deeba PAB said...

Packed your bags again? You are a lucky girl Jamie. Sorry about the bittersweet though :-(.
I have a thing for blondies {sic...LOL}; they hit all the sweet spots. Yours are even sweeter bella. That caramel takes them up several notches. Nom nom nom!

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

I don't know how long you're going to be away but I have a feeling those blondies aren't going to last til you make it home! Hope you saved yourself a piece before you left.

Ivy said...

Have a safe trip and have fun as well. I still haven't made blondies although I've bookmarked Rosa's recipe ages ago. I was thinking of making one the other day but I always seem to postpone it.

MyFudo™ said...

Gorgeous blondies! This is a classic...Will try very soon. Have a great trip! Enjoy!

Helene Dsouza said...

Very exciting Jamie! I always wanted to go to see New york, what a chance u have got to be part of such an event! Cant wait to hear all your adventoures there.

Leaving your man alone is difficult, something what I absolutly hate to do with my own husband. but sometimes one cant help it...

At least your man have your blondies. =)

Charlie said...

I adore the idea of you leaving exquisite blondies in your place, as you disappear and reappear in New York - like some amazing magic trick or sleight of hand. But however delicious the patisserie you leave, they will be so glad to have you home again. I'm full of excitement for you about your trip. Have a wonderful time and I hope it isn't too tinged with sadness.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Have a wonderful time darling Jamie and we can't wait to read all about it when you get back! :D

lisa is cooking said...

Hope you're having a fabulous time in New York! When do you return home? I followed some tweets from the conference, and it sounded like I missed another good one. One of these days, I'll attend. In the meantime, I'd be happy to console myself with these blondies. They look irresistible with the caramel sauce.

Gourmantine said...

Have a nice trip which by the way sounds beyond wonderful and exiting! These blondies in my house would barely last a day I think..

Rambling Tart said...

SO excited for you, Jamie! :-) Wishing you safe and joyous travels and wonderful reunions with your dear friends. :-)

OysterCulture said...

Have a wonderful time and if you have to go, leaving these treats as a parting gift is guaranteed to be make them count the minutes until your return. They sound divine.

Lisa said...

I will always choose a blondie over a brownie..vanilla trumps chocolate for me. Everyone calls me crazy. The salted butter caramel sauce is a more than pleasant surprise. Just pour that down my throat, please. Will email you up to date info in a little while. xoxo

Baker Street said...

Truly a winner of a recipe. the blondies look perfect. chocolate chip and pecans are just perfectly paired.

Cake Duchess said...

I'm with Lisa on the sauce...hand me a bowl and I'll be happy. I'm more of a brownie girl than blondie but will not deny myself one of these;)

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