Now for a deep philosophical question: is a brownie still a brownie without the chocolate? No, in that case it would be a blondie. These bars are perfect when you’re craving the dense and chewy texture of a brownie but don’t want chocolate. Yes, a girl can get sick of chocolate after ingesting too much chocolate mousse. I lightened the recipe by using 5 tbsp of butter rather than a whole stick. These bars have plenty of fat from the almonds, so they were still wonderfully moist, although they might not keep as long. But do you really expect to have them laying around for a whole week? They even develop the characteristic skin you get from boxed brownie mix, except these don’t have nasty-tasting artificial ingredients.
Fruity Almond Blondies
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Cookies and Brownies
3/4 cup whole almonds, with or without skins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
5 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp almond extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried tart cherries, cranberries, chopped apricots or any dried tart fruit
8-inch square pan, lined across the bottom and up two opposite sides with parchment paper or foil
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Toast the almonds for 15-20 minutes, or until brown. Stir halfway between baking to ensure even coloring.
Move the rack to the lower third of the oven and continue to heat the oven.
Process the almonds with the flour in a food processor, until the almonds are fine. Add the salt and baking powder and pulse to mix.
Toss the fruit with one tablespoon of the flour mixture so they won’t sink to the bottom of the bar. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Using a wooden spoon, beat in the egg and almond/vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture, followed by the dried fruit. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and have pulled away from the sides of the pan and the top is light golden brown. Cool in the pan. Run a knife along the unlined sides of the pan. Lift the ends of the paper or foil liner and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.
Can be stored, airtight, for at least one week.
Notes: Dream up your own creation by substituting any nuts or dried fruits! Pine nuts would give an Italian twist, pistachio is popular among food blogs like Chocolate and Zucchini and The Food Section, and walnuts would make a richer bar. Tart fruit is recommended to offset the sweetness of the bar.