Pecan Blondies from the Bakehouse

Fresh milling makes an old favorite better than ever! 

by Ari Weinzweig

Zingerman's Bakehouse pecan blondies.
Looking for a lovely treat to take to work? Send along on the first day back to school? Something sweet to snack on with afternoon coffee? A great dessert you can just bring home from the Bakehouse? Maybe these newly-made-amazing Blondies will be just the ticket! 

Even though I’m tasting as many of our products as I can nearly every day, I still miss things. Like most folks, I’d guess, I tend to gravitate towards either the foods that I think are really incredible (like the things you read about here). Or, conversely, to products with which we’ve started to experience some sort of quality challenge and may need to correct course. Which means that sometimes foods that are “in the middle of the pack” get missed—unintentionally, they can easily slip off my regular “radar” screen. Bakehouse Blondies have, I realize now, long been in that category. All of which, you will likely have already realized, is a long lead in to say that all that’s now changed—I tasted the “new” Blondies at the Bakehouse table at the Westside Farmer’s Market last Thursday out front of the Roadhouse.  They blew my mind!  

What changed? On the surface, not a thing! The recipe hasn’t really been altered at all. Lots of that Muscovado brown sugar we use so much of (see Pecan PieRoadhouse donuts, etc.), and chunks of the super tasty, lovingly sea-salted-pecan-praline, plenty of butter, fresh eggs and flour. So why did they suddenly get my attention? Same thing that’s taking so many other classic Bakehouse products to ever-higher levels of deliciousness—freshly milled wheat flour. In this case, it’s organic soft white wheat grown by Ferris Organic Farm in Eaton Rapids. Can you really taste the difference? Totally! Lovelier, livelier, fluffier . . . the flavor and texture both became even more interesting.  

What’s the background on Blondies? There’s no relation, best I can tell, to either the comic strip (started in September of 1930) or the band (whose first album came out in 1976). Here’s what the Bakehouse folks had to share:

It may surprise some to know that the first recorded recipe for ‘Brownies,’ published in the original 1896 edition of Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, was actually a molasses-based variation of what we now call a pecan blondie. Notably absent from the recipe’s list of ingredients—butter, powdered sugar, ‘Porto Rico’ molasses (a very dark molasses), an egg, bread flour, and chopped pecans—was chocolate. Food historians note that it wasn’t until the early 1900s that chocolate versions of the recipe began appearing in a number of community cookbooks in the Midwest and New England. By 1910, the amount of chocolate called for in the recipes had increased, but molasses-flavored ‘brownies’ continued to appear in cookbooks as late as 1926. Recipes for vanilla or butterscotch brownies–sometimes frosted with chocolate or studded with chocolate chips–made their debut as ‘blonde’ brownies or ‘blondies’ in the 1950s, underscoring the primacy of chocolate.

Katie Frank, who does fantastic work at ZingTrain, says the Blondies are one of the most underrated products at Zingerman’s. The marvelous Ally Martin, long-time manager at the Bakehouse, waxes wonderfully poetic about them: 

For those who’ve never enjoyed a Zingerman’s Bakehouse Blondie, let’s start out with their appearance. It looks like a golden, dense, cake-like dream. Next, break it in half, that’s when you really notice the sticky goodness of the pecan praline (made fresh at the Bakehouse) at the bottom of the brownie. Right about then, you’ll become aware of the Blondie’s heavenly aroma. Now try a bite. A big burst of butterscotch dances on your tongue, its sweetness tempered by the rich, robust flavor of Muscovado brown sugar. It’s only then you notice the toasted nuttiness of fresh pecans, & that’s when, boom! A sprinkle of sea salt joins the party. Together it’s Blondie bliss.

Buy a Blondie at the BakeshopDeliRoadhouse, or at the Bakehouse table at the Westside Farmer’s Market on Thursday afternoon!  Feeling generous of spirit and sweets?  Send some Blondies to your best friend in Santa Fe!