Perfect first baking project: Blondies
What's the first dessert you remember baking all by yourself? Cake from a mix? Chocolate chip cookies? Well, I stumbled onto a recipe for Mark Bittman's Blondies over the weekend, and I hereby dub it The Perfect Recipe for a New Baker.
- The ingredient list is small (and you've probably got everything on hand).
- The measurements are straightforward.
- The preparation is simple.
- The cleanup is quick.
- The results are chewy, luscious heaven.
- There are tons of variations, so one could make these 10 times in a row and have a different dessert each time.
My 8 year-old daughter made these bar cookies by herself. And I mean she did everything by herself except take the pan out of the oven (which she could have done but was too nervous to try). Not only did I have the pleasure of watching my kid bake something independently, she felt the pride of ownership. Each time she offered us a Blondie, her chin lifted an inch or two with satisfaction.
This recipe comes from the indespensible How To Cook Everything app for the iPhone, which I was lucky enough to get for free (it was "Pick of the Week" at Starbucks). Otherwise, it's $4.99 at the iTunes App Store, but a 100-recipe version called How To Cook Everything Essentials is always free. (There's the book, too.)
MARK BITTMAN'S BUTTERSCOTCH BLONDIES
adapted from How To Cook Everything
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted (in the microwave at 30% power for 1 minute)
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten
Pinch of salt
1 cup flour
Optional additions: Up to 1 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut, chopped nuts, chocolate chips (any flavor), and/or chopped dried fruit. My daughter chose to add coconut, and then pressed additional coconut and chopped almonds onto the top before baking. Other ideas: dried cherries + semisweet chocolate, chopped peanuts + milk chocolate, dried cranberries + white chocolate, dried apricots + chopped amonds. I'm thinking candied ginger + pistachios would be amazing. You could even make a grown-up version with a bit of bourbon.
Preheat the oven to 350, and butter or spray an 8x8 pan (I used my ceramic Fiestaware square baker because it's dishwasher-safe).
Beat melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. (My daughter used the stand mixer, but one could also use an electric hand mixer or a whisk and a wooden spoon.) Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the salt, then gradually stir in the flour. Stir in any additions.
Pour into prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes or until the center is barely set (you've got some wiggle room here). Let cool before cutting into squares. We cut ours into 2-inch cubes to prolong the enjoyment...otherwise we would have inhaled the entire pan.
What's your favorite first recipe for kids who want to bake all by themselves?
Big thanks to Linda Candello who was with me at Starbucks and suggested I download this app, and to Kyran Pittman who sang its praises on Twitter (reminding me to actually use it). It has become my "what should I make for dinner?" standby.