violet bakery’s butterscotch blondies

the final day before everything shut down now feels like a celebration before some sort of end of the world. it makes me think of something I heard before, that the world wouldn’t end in sudden flames or in some alien or zombie apocalypse. but it would instead happen in the way that changes that shook the world tend to happen – slowly, imperceptibly, small events that alone don’t seem to add up to much, until you look up one day and realize that everything has become irrevocably different.

it was mid-march. my sister was home to celebrate my dad’s 64th birthday. we sang him the beatles song very quietly in a very fancy restaurant. we made reservations for father’s day on our way out. the next morning, we went out for brunch. the whole family went for a long walk on the bustling schuylkill river trail. we stood and looked proudly over our glittering city skyline, dominated by glass skyscrapers all built in just the last decade. I now look back and realize how fragile the seeming stability of that time was.

it is now the beginning of august. each day of my life lately has felt akin to kintsugi – fragmented, held together by golden threads of hope and a desire to find happiness in a quieter, smaller world, and ultimately whole, though permanently changed. while reading back through old favorite cookbooks, I came across this intensely savory-sweet blondie, topped by thin shards of caramelized sugar, and the process of making and breaking something, then baking it into one whole cohesive confection, felt especially fitting as we settle into this uncertainty in the long-term.

makes one 9•13-in pan

caramel shards
2 tbsp water
150g granulated sugar
250g unsalted butter
2 eggs
300g light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
240g all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
125g milk chocolate
75g caramel shards

claire ptak. the violet bakery cookbook. new york: ten speed press, 2015.

caramel shards|1 have a sheet of parchment paper ready on a baking sheet.
2 measure 2 tbsp of water into a heavy-bottomed pan. cover evenly with sugar and place over medium-low heat until sugar starts to dissolve. do not stir the sugar – this can cause crystallization. once the sugar stars to dissolve, turn up heat to medium-high until sugar is dark golden-brown.
3 pour caramel onto parchment paper in thin and even layer. leave to cool, then break into smallish shards.
4 use right away or store in a plastic bag or sealed container in the freezer. do not store in the fridge – it will soften and melt together.
blondies|1 preheat oven to 320ºF. grease a 9×13 baking pan and line with parchment paper.
2 gently melt butter in a small, heavy-bottomed pan and set aside to cool a bit.
3 in a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, and vanilla until frothy, then whisk in the melted butter.
4 in a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, and add to egg and butter mixture along with milk chocolate pieces. mix until just combined.
5 pour mixture into prepared baking pan and smooth top with palette knife or spatula. sprinkle caramel shards over the top and bake for 30 minutes. the center should be puffed and set, but still a bit gooey.
6 leave to cool completely in the pan, then cut into 12 pieces. blondies will keep well for up to 3 days in an airtight container.