After a 9 month hiatus, I’m back! And what a 9 months it’s been. One year into life in California, I’m now the proud owner of Birkenstocks, compost like a mad woman, am deeply in love with kombucha and am the proud and nurturing owner of a lemon tree. I miss rain and affordable housing and not having to wonder whether my footwear will protect my feet if inadvertently placed atop a hypodermic needle while walking to work, but all that aside, life is exceptionally good. See below.
Despite the hoards of farmers markets and organic produce, the baking hasn’t stopped. Not even a little. Somewhere between continually applying sunscreen, learning to grow tomatoes, becoming acquainted with wine country and fielding requests for “gunshot wound lotion” (“Don’t you work in primary care?” you might ask. Yes.), I became distracted. I hope that you and any love handles this work may support will accept my deepest apologies and promise to catch the blog up to speed.
One of my favorite new friend finds shares my love for butter. Spotting him across the room at a Christmas party because his sequined unicorn holiday sweater was impossible to miss, we bonded over our party offerings – him, homemade cream puffs, me, dark chocolate brownies – thus sealing the deal on our inevitable friendship. On one of many, many days we’ve spent in the kitchen together, he presented the recipe for Butterscotch Blondie Bars from Bon Appetit. A few modifications and scientific tweaks were made and the result was nothing short of magic, earning them the nickname in Magic Mike Bars in honor of my sequined unicorn supporting, #1 baking companion. I’m so sorry if you thought this was a going to be a post about strippers and baked goods.
These are majestically rich and remind me of everything you might eat at a baseball game. Blondie crust, crumbled snacks topped with caramel, chocolate and sea salt in gooey crunchy harmony? Fool proof crowd pleaser unless there’s a peanut allergy among you. I’ve tried them with chocolate and without and will surprise no one that my preference is in favor of topping with chocolate, particularly of the melted and drizzled variety if you have the time and patience. I recommend 1 inch squares rather than bars, since, even for me, they pack a mean sweet tooth punch. And with that, it feels good to be back. Enjoy!
Magic Mike Bars
Inspired by Bon Appetit’s Butterscotch Blondies with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel
- 1.5 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
- 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp table salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 – 1.5 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 2 cups mini pretzels, crumbled into small pieces
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 stick (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Coarse sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, with edges that extend beyond the pan.
- Brown the butter and allow to cool slightly.
- With a stand or hand mixer, add brown sugar to butter a half cup at a time.
- Add eggs one at a time.
- Add vanilla.
- Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. It will be sticky, but not too dense – more like cake batter than cookie.
- Spread evenly in the baking pan and bake 22-27 minutes. The top will rise quite a bit as it bakes and settle back down once it cools. Test with a toothpick and remove once it comes out clean.
- Cool in the pan on a wire rack.
- On a lined backing sheet, toast the peanuts until golden brown.
- Sprinkle with pretzel pieces over the top of the blondies.
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt sugar over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
- Once the sugar has turned to a dark amber color, add honey and stir. If there were chunks of sugar before this step, they’ll dissolve once the honey is added. Stir and bring back to a low boil.
- Add butter and stir to combine.
- Add the cream, which will cause the mixture to bubble. Stir quickly to combine.
- Once smooth, pour over top of the peanuts and pretzels.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then top with chocolate chips and sea salt.
- Cool in the fridge for at least an hour before cutting into bars.
- Cleaning the saucepans used to make brown butter or caramel is a nightmare. Fill them with water, bring to a boil and all the sticky remnant will dissolve and you’ll be left with a completely manageable pan to clean.
- If you have the patience and time, melt your favorite chocolate chips or bars and top with a drizzle rather than chips.