High Altitude Baking: Irish whiskey blondies for St. Paddy’s Day (recipe)
Editor’s note: High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Butter, brown sugar, nuts, chocolate and a dram or two of Irish whiskey — even St. Patrick might swoon over these rich, chewy blondies. They’re heavenly on their own, and if cut into larger squares and served warm, with ice cream and maybe a drizzle of whiskey, they’re a memorable dessert, as well.
Don’t expect the alcohol to overwhelm; it’s sweet and mellow and adds a welcome layer of flavor, but many nibblers don’t even know it’s there. No Irish whiskey? Substitute the same amount of bourbon or dark rum.
A soft texture is critical to their success, so measure your flour carefully (too much will result in a hard, dry cookie), and don’t overbake these babies. Remove them from the oven as soon as the dough is set but still soft.
We think they’re best the day after baking, when the flavors have had time to blend, so make them ahead, if you can.
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Paddy’s Day blondies
(Make in a 9-inch-by-9-inch metal baking pan. Adjusted for altitudes of 7,900 feet and higher.)
¾ cup plus 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 ¼ cups bleached, all-purpose flour, spoon and level
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 extra-large egg
1 extra-large egg yolk
3 tablespoons Irish whiskey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup chopped toasted pecans
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into ¼-inch chunks
1 tablespoon plus 1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey
¼ cup plus 1 to 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
Line the baking pan with nonstick or regular aluminum foil, extending it several inches beyond the pan on two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the baked blondies. Generously grease any exposed parts of the pan and the regular foil (if using) with a vegetable oil-flour spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center.
Cut up the butter, and heat it with the corn syrup in a saucepan over medium-low heat until almost melted. Gently stir in the brown sugar, bring to a full boil, and boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and let it cool completely (refrigerate it to speed up the process). While it cools, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a 2-cup measure or small bowl to combine, and set it aside.
Using an electric mixer, add the egg and then the egg yolk to the cooled butter-sugar mixture, beating well after each addition and scraping the bowl thoroughly as you do so (the cooled butter-sugar mixture may cling to the bowl’s sides). Add the Irish whiskey and vanilla, and beat again. By hand, stir in the flour mixture until almost combined. Add the nuts and chocolate, and continue to stir until the dough is well blended.
Scrape the dough into the prepared pan, and smooth and level it. Bake until the top is set but soft and the sides just start to pull away from the pan, 22 to 30 minutes. Don’t overbake. Remove to a rack until slightly warm. Use the foil handles to lift the slab out of the pan, place on the rack, and let it cool completely.
If glazing, whisk the 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon Irish whiskey with ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar until blended. Add more sugar, a little at a time, until the mixture is smooth, opaque and thick enough to hold its shape when drizzled. If too thick, add more whiskey. Drizzle decoratively over the uncut slab of blondies, and let the glaze set. If possible, wait until the next day to cut into squares and serve. Store for four days, covered, in the fridge. Present the blondies warm, at room temperature or even chilled; they’re good at any temperature.
This recipe is a variation of one published in “Caprial’s Desserts.” Vera Dawson is a baking instructor and author of the high-altitude cookbooks “Cookies in the Clouds” and “Baking Above It All” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.