I had my first blondie at Ruby Tuesday. Back in high school I ate at Ruby Tuesday more than any other restaurant. Not that my options were endless, but with a Ruby’s, a TGI Friday, and an Applebee’s all in spitting distance, I still always chose RT. I went with my boyfriend, I went with my sister and her best friend, I went with my girlfriends. Sometimes all in the same week. And if I had room for dessert after a basket of pumpernickel bread sticks with honey butter and a plate of loaded cheese fries, I was getting a blondie. Always. Even the Oreo Tallcake couldn’t sway me away. I’ve had blondies here and there over the last several years, but they haven’t come in my way much since I stopped making frequent Rubys trips. Until I tried Ina Garten’s recipe, and suddenly found myself wanting them almost as often as I did back in high school.
Like so much of what’s best about Ina, these treats perfectly ride the line between simplicity and excess. To me, that’s the lion’s share of what’s most lovable about her. That she’s luxe without being fussy. It’s the same kind of thing that inspires me to buy really nice hand soap for my bathroom. Why not elevate a little every day thing so that it brings you joy, after all? This particular recipe comes from her Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust, and dang it if she isn’t exactly right. It’s basically a chocolate chip cookie in bar form, with a heck of a lot of chocolate. And lots of walnuts. And it is so very very good. Rich, comfortingly familiar, sweet but not cloyingly so, and simple enough to quickly throw together the morning of a dinner party, as I’ve now very happily done twice.
These blondies also do really well by one of my very favorite baking steps, the creaming together butter and sugar phase. Whenever my mother made chocolate chip cookies (which she happily did a whole heck of a lot), or any other sweet that required this step, she would save me a spoonful of creamed together butter and sugar. Sometimes I’d be in the kitchen hovering around her as she mixed and waiting for my treat, sometimes she’d save a little for me on the counter by the side of the oven, and sometimes she would even bring a spoon to my spoiled self wherever I was in the house. I don’t remember how we first figured out that I thought this was one of the greatest flavors going, but whenever I get to this stage in my own cooking I stop and take a taste, and feel grateful for the moment to say thank you to my mom. Speaking of the little joys.
The title of this post is misleading, as least in regards to my very own gentleman: he prefers his desserts to be chocolate with chocolate and more chocolate (he also, thankfully, is partial to brunettes). So, when I first decide to try out this recipe, it was for a dinner with three of my favorite ladies. Before Hal wisely fled the house the night of my dinner party, I asked him to stir up some Manhattans. We are girls who can really get to talking, so though Hal had absented himself for several hours, we were still at it when he came home. The Manhattans had been such a hit earlier in the evening that we asked him to mix up some more, to have with our dessert…which quickly proved the best idea ever. These blondies are delicious on their own, but along with a Manhattan? Next level. I strongly recommend trying these the next time you need a sweet, and even more strongly recommend having a Manhattan on the side, if you swing that way. Simple with a hint of excess, just the way I think Ina would like it.
Ina Garten’s Blondies
I make ’em just like Ina tells me to, with two small adjustments. I’ve only used regular old semi sweet chocolate chips, rather than morsels. And lacking a 8×12 pan, I’ve just used a more standard (right?) 9×13, keeping a close eye on the time. 30 minutes still seems right.
Hal’s Favorite Manhattans
2 oz bourbon or rye (always bourbon, for my money)
3/4 oz of sweet vermouth–Hal recommends Carpano Antica or Cocchi di Torino
2 dashes of angostura bitters
Combine ingredients in mixing glass. Add ice. Stir, strain into a coupe. Garnish with a maraschino cherry or three. Services one, multiplies easily for a soon to be very happy crowd.